Sunday, June 30, 2013

For Freedom Christ Set us Free

Jesus radically surrenders to the plan of the Father.  “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.”  When the time ordained by the Father arrived, Jesus turned his face towards Jerusalem where he would offer his whole life as a sacrifice for sins.  This whole-hearted surrender to the Father is model for our personal discipleship.

We can see this dynamic of surrender in Elijah and Elisha.  Elijah was called by God to choose his successor: Elisha.  Elijah heeded the Lord’s command and threw his cloak around Elisha as a sign of taking him into his own family.  Elijah invited Elisha to a familial relationship; he didn't force him, but Elisha hesitated for a moment saying, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.”

Elijah’s invitation to Elisha is closely paralleled by Jesus.  He too extended the invitation of discipleship.  He said, “Come follow me!”  However, Jesus was met by excuses: “let me go first and bury my father” and “Let me say farewell to my family at home.”  In and of themselves, these are good and things, but not when they prevent you from following the will of God.  Jesus saw into their hearts and knew them to still be divided in their loyalties to him, so he rebukes their excuses.

As St. Paul wrote, “For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve on another through love.”  Jesus invites us to freely choose him.  This freedom isn’t for the sake of selfishness, or as St. Paul calls it, slavery to the flesh.  Freedom is for love, especially love of God.  It is when we love and give ourselves in complete service to the Father that we find ourselves most free.

In contrast to Jesus’ would-be followers, Elisha responded to Elijah’s invitation in freedom and love.  Rather than go back and put his hand to the plow, Elisha took the plow and he burned it.  He slaughtered his cattle and had them eaten, completely cutting himself off from his previous agrarian life.  This is an allegory.  Elisha didn’t give an opportunity to the flesh to corrupt his freedom.  He put sin to death by the flames of love.  He boiled the flesh and turns from his old life into a new life following Elijah as his attendant.  This is the sort of total, radical, free, and immediate commitment that Jesus is looking for in his own disciples.

The power to freely surrender to the will of the Father comes from the Holy Spirit.  Paul writes, “I say then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh.”  It is the Spirit who reminds us of all that Jesus has taught us.  It is the Spirit who bestows on us grace.  It is the Spirit who makes us children of the Father.  Finally, it is the Spirit who brings us freedom for “if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  Those who are guided by the Spirit have no need of the law because they are already filled with love.  No one needs to tell them not to steal or murder.  My brothers and sisters, this is freedom: loving totally and radically without hesitation.  This is the very love with which Jesus loved us when he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Built on the Rock

Today, we hear the continuation of yesterday’s story.  Yesterday, we heard how God promised Abram to make him a father of many nations.  He would have has many descendants as there were stars in the sky.  Abram believed God.  He had faith in Him.

In today’s readings, it’s years later.  There’s no children, so Abram and Sarai begin to doubt God’s promise.  Starting with Adam and Eve, doubting God is always the basis for disaster in the Bible.  When we don’t listen to God’s words and act on them, the floods come and wash away the foundations of our relationships.  Just look at what happened to Abram and Sarai.  Abram’s doubt leads to adultery which leads to Hagar’s pride, which leads to Sarai’s envy and her abuse of Hagar.  Without God’s word as the foundation as the foundation of their lives, their relationships crumble away.

Jesus says in the Gospel, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”  These words that Jesus refers to are the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  They begin with the beatitudes, which are promises of blessings to those who are humble, meek, mourn, hunger and thirst for righteousness, have mercy, are peacemakers, are pure of heart, and who suffer for the sake of Jesus.  These are the promises that Jesus has made to us and that we need to build our lives around.  When we live Jesus’ teaching intensely, we build our lives on solid rock.  God becomes our shelter, our shield.

God’s word needs to be our safeguard in times of temptation.  We need to remember what God has done for us.  This is part of what going to Mass is all about.  It’s not ordinary memory, but a memorial which actually makes present what we recall.  It’s a supernatural memory where the same undying love and sacrifice of Jesus’ death on the Cross is made present again, right on our altars.  When we come to Mass and let ourselves become aware of the mystery that’s happening right before us, we’re reaching out in faith and building our house on rock.

Sometimes it takes God a long time to make good on His deals, but He’s faithful.  He’s always faithful, so we don’t need to be afraid of God’s plan.  When the flood waters start rising and it looks dicey, stay the course!  Persevere!  If you are faithful to God’s word, your house is on solid ground and there’s no need to be afraid.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

For my summer assignment, I've been asked to offer reflections on Thursday mornings.  Instead of offering a reflection for this Sunday's readings, I will make a post later in the week.

Peace in Christ,

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Which of Them Will Love Him More?

Not so long ago in my college days, I wanted to be a person who prayed every day, who read their Bible every day, who had a meaningful, fulfilling, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ but I couldn't do it.  I would try, but after a few days it would peter out and I would forget about all my good intentions for a month.  Then I would try again, but never would it last until I went and confessed my sin.  By this I mean my darkest sins.  The ones I kept secret because I didn't want anyone else to know how evil I could be.  I went to confession once or twice a year, but I had never confessed these sins.

Once I confessed my sin all that changed.  Like David, I heard the voice of a prophet in my life tell me that there are some sins in my life which, committed freely, willingly, and knowingly, had shredded my relationship with Jesus.  When I heard that voice, I was given a great gift of fear the Lord.  Not fear of the punishments of hell, but that fear and sorrow one feels when you realize that you have wounded someone you love deeply.  I knew that there was only one way to fix that relationship; like David, I had to confess that I had sinned against the Lord, and I had to apologize.

The Good News is that those who confess more sins, will love more.  Jesus says it plainly, “the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  In contrast, to the ones who believe in God’s power to forgive and confess the whole debt of their transgressions, much love will be given.  Jesus will take their stony hearts of sin and give them fleshy hearts, full of love.

That’s what St. Paul means by “justification.”  To be justified means to be one of God’s children who are identified by their faith and their love.  When you go to Confession, you enter into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because you are grafted into His body.  You become one of His Children, and He pours His life into you.  Note what St. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.”  When, by the sacrament of Confession, you are re-established in Christ’s body, you will have divine life in you
.  That means that you will have the power to love God in response to His love for you.

I have seen this exchange of sin for love happen in my own life and in many others.  I tell you, God can do the same thing in your life.  Go to confession and make your peace with God.  Go often and be forgiven much.  Then you will see the fruits in your own life.  You will become more merciful.  You won’t be weighed down by your guilt any more, instead, you will be free to love whenever and wherever you want.  Your heart will be filled with a joy that casts away all fear because the transcendent and High King of Heaven surrounded by His choirs of angels has emptied Himself, took the form of a slave, and personally loved you.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

To Confer with Cephas

In the second reading today, Paul makes a bold point that he did not receive revelation from the Apostles but directly from God.  Protestants will sometimes attempt to use these verses to show that Paul was independent of the Apostles and that the Church doesn't need a human being as an authoritative voice.  They will point to where Paul says, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel preached by me is not of human origin.  For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”  Protestants will conclude that authority has nothing to do with human beings, but comes directly from God.  As we will see, this not Paul’s understanding of authority in the Church.

Paul, a human being, considers himself to be an authority in the Church.  He opens his letter by citing his authority, “Paul, an apostle not from human beings nor through a human being but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead, and all the brothers who are with me” (Gal 1:1).  The Protestants are right that Paul’s authority comes from God, but this authority is expressed through the Church, that is, through human beings.  Paul reminds the Galatians that he is an apostle (someone with authority), and he adds to his authority by mentioning that he is writing in union with other brothers.  Paul is bringing to bear the authority of a whole community against the Galatians who have been distorting the Gospel.  Paul recognizes that he is an authority and that his authority comes from God.  Paul believes that human beings can express God’s authority.

In the mind of St. Paul, the authoritative Gospel is verified by the consensus of the Apostles. After establishing that his authority comes directly from God, Paul goes on to describe how, after three years, he went up to confer with St. Peter in Jerusalem.  Why go to Jerusalem if Paul had received revelation directly from the Lord?  There must have something Paul could not do on his own.  God had made all the Apostles, like Paul, authoritative witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Paul’s teaching must be in unity with the other Apostles for it to be authentic.  This is why Paul mentions his visits to Jerusalem to the Galatians.  The other Apostles agreed with Paul’s teaching and did not have him add anything.  Their consensus of faith is an authoritative verification for the Galatians that Paul teaching is the true Gospel.

This authority has been passed down through the laying on of hands. Paul reminds Timothy that by the laying on of hands, Paul gave him the spirit of power and that he has no need to be ashamed when testifying to our Lord (2 Tim 1:6).  Through the sacrament of ordination, the Apostles shared the Spirit given to them for the sake of the Church.  There are many scriptural references to this sacrament (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Tim 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim 1:6).  It is the same gift of the Spirit that animated the Apostles which now animates the Bishops of today.  Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit had spoken through the Apostles authoritatively in the council of Jerusalem, the Spirit continues to speak authoritatively to the Church through human beings who have received the gift from the imposition of hands when they gather together in order to confer with one another and express their consensus faith.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Praised be our Lord Jesus Christ!

Dear readers,

I've been quite busy the past week!  My family celebrated my brother's graduation last Saturday.  On Sunday I was off to my diocesan brother David's ordination to the order of deacons, and then I promptly moved to Superior where I have begun my summer assignment.  I just got internet access today and I hope to begin posting again this weekend!

Peace and joy in Christ,