Sunday, February 17, 2019

“He who wants to win the world for Christ must have the courage to come in conflict with it.”

“The church must suffer for speaking the truth, for pointing out sin, for uprooting sin. No one wants to have a sore spot touched, and therefore a society with so many sores twitches when someone has the courage to touch it and say: “You have to treat that. You have to get rid of that. Believe in Christ. Be converted.” ― Oscar A. Romero, The Violence of Love

Gospel Text: (LK 6:17, 20-26)
Jesus came down with the twelve
and stood on a stretch of level ground
with a great crowd of his disciples
and a large number of the people
from all Judea and Jerusalem
and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon.
And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”

Whether we are choosing the higher good or avoiding sin, our journey often requires that we climb uphill and swim against the current. Vigilance and courage are needed.  The counsel of the wicked may be all around us, coming from media, popular culture, and even from our friends who have lost their way.  Going along may gain us approval and acceptance, but it leads to perdition, not blessing.  The company of the insolent can be consoling or even entertaining for a time, but it drains away joy and gratitude required for faithful living. (Examine the grievance culture that seems to be ascending in our society and you will witness the paucity of joy and gratitude, but ample fruits of envy, vengeance, bitterness, and destruction.) 

Today’s gospel might sound perplexing, but it makes perfect sense when placed in this context:  we must discern by reference to fidelity to eternal truths, not immediate consequences. External signs like prosperity and accolades that we prefer may instead be warning signs on the road to perdition. Suffering, frustration, and derision from others may instead be signs of blessing when they are the consequence of holding on to the truth. The power to do evil and afflict the righteous is temporary; justice will come because Jesus, himself, will return to bring it.  Today’s Gospel is reinforced by Paul’s teaching that tells us to hold on to the deeper truth that our Lord’s resurrection and triumph over death, sin, and evil, which means we will triumph, too.

Who or what do we trust to sustain us?  To whom do we go for counsel and advice?  Are we willing to experience distress and loss because we choose to hold on to truths that are unpopular?  Can joy and blessedness come in the midst of trials, which mean more than the fleeting delights of our waywardness?  These are important questions for us to ponder.  Pray that this truth of the resurrection will become more real to us, and that we will have the wisdom and courage to embrace it more fully, no matter where it leads. We know that He who leads us is faithful.  Thanks be to God.    

Friday, February 15, 2019

“In each of us, two natures are at war – the good and the evil. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. But in our own hands lies the power to choose – what we want most to be we are.”

The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.  -  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: (1918 –  2008: was a Russian novelist, historian, and short story writer.)

Scripture Text: (Genesis 3:1-8)
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the LORD God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
“Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?”
The woman answered the serpent:
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman:
“You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.

When they heard the sound of the LORD God moving about in the garden
at the breezy time of the day,
the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God
among the trees of the garden.

How cunning the enemy can be as he convinces us that we can be like gods. Satan (the serpent) was cunning in the days of our first parents, he’s been cunning in every generation since and he is cunning in our day as well. We should reflectively imagine how a small amount of doubt can totally cloud our judgment and drive us into poor decisions. It is definitely one of Satan’s favorite tools.

It is the same for us today, our sin is just as tempting, it is just as real and it is just as harmful. Human nature has not changed much through all the millennia of our existence and the pattern of sin is the same. First there is the temptation, that one thing that catches our eye, a handsome man, a beautiful women, a shiny object, an irresistible urge, then there is the doubt or justification that it can’t really be all the bad, surely I can enjoy this one little thing, just this one little time. I can be my own god even if for just an instant. Why do I need the Church, I can reason for myself, I’m not a bad person, I don’t need a Bishop, Priest or Deacon to tell me how I should live, act or die.  Then there is the act, we submit to the temptation just as Eve does and we find ourselves naked, exposed for all to see and we run and hide.

It is a vicious cycle that will only end when we listen to Christ, anyone that has been part of the 12 step tradition will tell you that they could not break free of their addiction until they submitted to God, “help me Lord I cannot do this on my own.” We must draw closer to God, trust in His embrace and allow ourselves to be opened, allow Christ to open our ears and remove our speech impediment so that we may speak and hear with clarity drowning out the clatter of the evil one.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

“Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.”

“What was the first rule of our dear Savior's life? You know it was to do his Father's will. Well, then, the first purpose of our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner he wills; and thirdly, to do it because it is his will. We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”  -- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: (1774 – 1821: was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church (September 14, 1975). She established the first Catholic girls' school.

Gospel Text: (MK 7:14-23)
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.”

When he got home away from the crowd
his disciples questioned him about the parable.
He said to them,
“Are even you likewise without understanding?
Do you not realize that everything
that goes into a person from outside cannot defile,
since it enters not the heart but the stomach
and passes out into the latrine?”
(Thus he declared all foods clean.)
“But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.
From within the man, from his heart,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Jesus speaks at length, and quite unflatteringly, about what comes from “within the man, from his heart”. He mentions thirteen evils, though one gets the impression that He easily could have continued. He is describing the fallen human heart, which does not have the law of God within. Jesus wants us to realize our utter need for grace.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

“Those who live as though God sets the rules are not going by their own rules. That is the self-sacrifice, or selflessness, that peace more often than not requires….”

“God gave us free agency, and then gave us the commandments to keep us free.” ― Cecil B. DeMille: (1881 – 1959: was an American filmmaker)

Gospel Text: (MK 7:1-13)
When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem
gathered around Jesus,
they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals
with unclean, that is, unwashed, hands.
(For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews,
do not eat without carefully washing their hands,
keeping the tradition of the elders.
And on coming from the marketplace
they do not eat without purifying themselves.
And there are many other things that they have traditionally observed,
the purification of cups and jugs and kettles and beds.)
So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him,
"Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders
but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?"
He responded,
"Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites,
as it is written:

This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines human precepts.

You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."
He went on to say,
"How well you have set aside the commandment of God
in order to uphold your tradition!
For Moses said,
Honor your father and your mother,
and Whoever curses father or mother shall die.
Yet you say,
'If someone says to father or mother,
"Any support you might have had from me is qorban"'
(meaning, dedicated to God),
you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother.
You nullify the word of God
in favor of your tradition that you have handed on.
And you do many such things."

In many cultures there are many traditions which go against God's commandment by giving importance to useless things. As Christians we should speak out against such practices and traditions. Christians should reject superstitious beliefs, erroneous customs, discriminatory attitudes towards women and disadvantaged groups, and adoration of idols.

Christ stresses that God's ways are much simpler and are based on his commandment of love of God and neighbor.

So therefore, let us do just that - Love God and Neighbor