Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Are you immune to the trappings of the devil?

We are in the midst of Holy Week and today is Spy Wednesday. So noted I believe to mark the betrayal at hand of Judas the Iscariot. This week Catholics are focused on the most sacred time in our Liturgical Year. Is it no wonder that the devil is doggin us on our quest for spiritual renewal as we seek the light of Christ on Resurrection Sunday morning?
And it seems that no one is immune, from the Pope to the smallest child trying so hard to keep his Lenten sacrifices. This week I have read spiritual reflections on Peter as well as on Judas. As I am saddened and sickened by what is a horrible abuse of children, I am even more disturbed by the attacks against our Holy Father and our Church. With the bias of the mainstream media it angers me to no end the one-sided story they report and then revel in the chaos they insight. Woe to those who cause scandal in the Church with their gossip and lies. This can only be the work of the devil who rules the secular world. God Bless Archbishop Dolan and others who have spoken out against this blatant abuse of the media. I ask you to please pray for our Pope and our Church, our bishops and priests, and all those suffering in our world today. We are reminded that Peter was so human, weak and fallen with his desertion of Christ, but then lead our Church with such conviction and determination as our first Pope. The Pope is not infallible, please remember that, he is human. The Pope can declare an infallible dogma with regard to our faith and morals, but the man is not infallible. We as a Church are truly blessed to have this man as our leader, to guide us and to give us our spiritual strength to ward off attacks from the devil. There is so much more to a story than what the devil would want us to know, sadly money and power is what sells a news story and the mainstream media has lost its way when it comes to morals and truth.
Our own schools are not immune. We have lost our way as a Catholic society to fight this secular world we live in. I remember a time when there were no field trips during Lent, or no parties scheduled because of the solemnity of the season. My professor was sharing with us in class the other day, he remembered keeping silent on Good Friday from the hours of twelve noon until three o'clock then as a class they would walk to church and meet their parents for Good Friday services. One of the student teachers said she couldn't imagine keeping the kids quiet for three minutes much less for three hours. We live in a different time and we have allowed it to happen. We have lost our identity as Catholics and what behavior is expected of us during certain liturgical seasons, Lent especially.
Tonight our parish is celebrating a Traditional Latin High Mass to jump start our Triduum services. It should be beautiful and I hope our Church comes together for the celebration. Sadly it will be second to ball games, dance practice or what have you because many catholics don't see the extra Masses as counting for anything. Well for many this is true, you only get out of something what you put into it. It's difficult to fight the secular world but we keep at it. The graces recieved from the Mass are priceless but the graces are not material, they cannot be seen so for many it's just not worth it. I can only hope that for those who make the sacrifice they experience the joy and beauty of the sacred Mass. Hopefully they will be encouraged to complete the final walk with Jesus beginning with Holy Thursday's Mass of the Last Supper and the Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday as well as a Tenebrae Service Friday evening. Only after experiencing the final days with Jesus on earth can you truly appreciate the glorious significance of the Resurrection of Easter. It is this that is truly priceless.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Was it so important to know what Jesus wrote in the sand?

Have you ever wondered about the true significance of this story? We seem focused on the mundane, for instance the first comment I hear from women are "well, where was the man? It takes two to tango... blah, blah, blah" or the younger set always wants to know "what did Jesus write in the sand?"

The true lesson wasn't about the role the man played in the act of committing adultery or why we need to know what Jesus wrote and if it was significant. The lesson is about judgment. Remember, Jesus tells the woman, "Nor do I condemn you, go and sin no more." He was acknowledging her sinfulness but not condemning her. Our true judgment will come for us when we go before God at our own final judgment. The Pharisees were trying to test Jesus on the Law of Moses and the Israelites, yet Jesus turns the tables on them. He reminds us we will be measured as to how we measure. For some it will be a harsh call. For the woman's accusers it was a humbling and pointed statement with regard to their own sinfulness. What is also interesting to note is that the accusers walked off before they heard Jesus' words of admonition. They were only baiting him, they could have cared less if the woman was stoned to death for her sin or not. For them the "fun " was over, Jesus was not going to play the game.

From the guilty to the innocent. The next day's reading brings us to Susannah, innocent yet accused of adultery and brought to judgment before the King. Susannah was spared because of her faith in the One, True God. It is our faith that leads us to righteousness. By our faith is reflected that which we do and the way we live our lives. Susannah had true faith and it was reflected in her prayers and in the confidence she had that God would spare her. We don't know for sure what happened with the woman caught in adultery but we are led to believe she went away with a new found faith in the One, True Christ. The woman was probably moved more spiritually because of the compassion of Christ and knew her sinfulness than if she had been stoned for the crime she had committed against the Law of Moses and died with no remorse only resentment in her heart for what she might have seen as an injustice.

If we pay close attention, woman will play a major role in the coming readings of the Gospel. It will be the women who watch and wait for Jesus during his Passion as well as on Resurrection Morning in the garden. It will be the women who get the "news" first, it will be the women who will keep the faith. Watch and wait for it...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Will God always forgive us?

Today at Mass we heard the parable of the Prodigal Son. It has always been a classical favorite for the teaching of forgiveness. It is used in our children's catechism textbooks as the bible reference for the teaching on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. For me it is the first reference I have to God the Father as loving and forgiving as opposed to the God who wiped out the whole earth with a flood or burned Sodom and Gomorrah for the wretchedness of mankind. This parable speaks volumes about who God is as a father to us, yet the history of the flood and those two doomed cities reminds us of the power of God and his presence in creation.

The Prodigal Son is about so much more than returning to God and seeking forgiveness. God gave us an incredible gift in our intelligence. He trusts us to use our intellect for the good of all mankind. We are given this higher intelligence to make choices that are in alignment with what God wants for us. Ironic that when we speak of beings with higher intelligence we usually refer to aliens from outer space...just sayin'.

It's comforting to know that if we mess up because we have chosen that which goes against the will of God we can come back and seek forgiveness. We know God will forgive and with His grace grow in wisdom and knowledge. God wants us to choose for the good, He wants our choice to be a loving choice. We are all prodigal sons and daughters. As we learn from our sinfulness, hopefully we see the wisdom of God and we come to know what is the good, our good as well as the good for others.

As the father in the parable allowed the son to make his choice, God allows us to make our choices. It is up to us to think about what the consequences of those choices will be. Too often we don't see beyond the immediate gratification of our wants, we don't look at the big picture of who the choice affects. We are too influenced by "if it feels good, do it" mentality. Sometimes there will be difficult choices that bring pain. The father most probably felt pain knowing it wasn't going to end pretty for the son, but he let him go anyway. God experienced much pain giving up His only Son for the sinfulness of others, yet He did it out of love for us, His children of Creation. This could be the perfect example of "divine tough love". No parent wants to see their child hurting or in pain, yet there will be times a parent has to let the child learn by experiencing the pain. It's how we grow, it's called life.

We as parents can then be there to welcome those children home, to love them, comfort them and feel for them. What a gift we will give them, to help them build character and to watch them as they move along the journey God has called them to.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Who do we know who to listen to?

We are in the second week of Lent and I hope everyone is keeping to their Lenten promises and growing in faith and perseverence. It is during Lent we hear some of the most familiar gospel stories as well as our most favorites. It could be they are favorites because they are so familiar.
This past weekend we heard the gospel story of the Transfiguration. I always thought it was Jesus showing the disciples his wondrous glory and revealing to them who he really is, God in the flesh, come down to give them hope and salvation. It just seemed so obvious, didn't it? And yes that is what the story is about, but it reveals so much to us about who we are and the promises for us as created by God. It speaks to what glory awaits us in heaven, if only we would listen and keep God's commandments.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed along side Moses and Elijah. He could have easily been glorified alone on that mountain top and God could still speak the words, "This is my beloved Son, listen to him." But the figures of Moses and Elijah are significant. Jesus is the new Moses, the keeper of the new covenantal Law, the true Keeper of the Law for He is the Word of God, Incarnate. Remember Moses' face shone so bright the people could not look upon him, he had to cover his face. Elijah was a prophet and now Jesus is revealed with Elijah present. The Israelites believed Elijah would appear before the coming of the Lord, this was significant for them. The Law and the Prophets were being fulfilled in Christ Jesus. Jesus in His glory was showing us what promises awaited us if we would but listen.
In another reading this week, we hear about the rich man and the beggar at his doorstep. The rich man dies and goes to the nether world, while the beggar dies and goes to lie in the arms of Abraham. The rich man is revealed the beggar man's fate and ask Abraham to send someone to his brothers to warn them of the consequences of their unholy actions. But Abraham reveals to him that he had prophets in his lifetime and they too have prophets to show them the way. It is a choice we make to listen and to follow God's Laws.
This is what Lent does for us. It is an opportunity to change our ways, to listen to the Word of God, to follow the teaching that has been given to us, and to make our hearts new. We have prophets all round us, beginning with our Pope and bishops and priests to lead and teach us about living a life in Christ. By our Baptism we are called to be prophets to one another, to serve others in their faith as well as their works. Are we listening to those prophets around us, are we open to the change of heart God is calling us to?