I apologize for the audio problems which are ongoing from last week, but it is still possible to understand the Deacon as he explains what the cause for the spiritual aliments that beset us is and what their surest remedy is-
“We were made and designed for life. We Christians understand that [this desire] is for eternal life. Yet in the business of life we sometimes only live a shadow of a life.”
We have to have the work of perseverance and that attention, that planning and foresight to have prepared for that day when faith is work and discipleship takes effort and intention. That it won’t just happen accidentally, or just by moving with the momentum or moving along with the wind. And it is a serious project that God has in mind and that He calls us to.
We often think – and I think unfortunately – of following Christ as: “well He’s going to keep me out of hell, or get me into heaven.” When faith is so much more and the life of discipleship is so much more. When we were baptized, each of us was told, and fairly so, that we’d put on Christ and in Him we have new life. And this is the project of faith – that the life of Christ might be alive in me, and be nourished and lived each day. And that takes the whole person. Takes the whole of me.
Our country is becoming more and more divided as the days go on. Each passing day, something makes that fissure wider between us – between classes, or races, or whatever. But we can really help mend that by doing these things [the spiritual and corporal works of mercy], in the sphere – the small sphere of influence we have with those around us – that’s how we change it.
I knew two of the men who were killed this week. They were very active at St. Thomas More Parish … and they were both men who spent a great deal of time concerned about the suffering of others. A great deal of time concerned about the sorrows and hardships that came to others. As a matter – yes of justice – but also of compassion, and chose to give of their time and of their efforts and to take upon themselves some measure of another’s suffering. You see there is another way that this comes about, that good men suffer for the sake of the choices of others. If this were not a possibility there would be no compassion. There would be no such self-sacrificing love. That God permits this horrible thing for the fact that there might be this incredible and beautiful thing.
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Combined Run Time: 20:08.
“We know love by this, that Jesus Christ laid down his life for us – and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
(1 John 3:16-18)
‘There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.’ And so many times I have heard others exclaim – in honest hunger, ‘Show me Jesus!’ Yet Jesus is always about to be seen and heard. If I want to hear Jesus in the quiet of my heart, can you imagine that the business of my life could extinguish that gentle voice? Can you imagine that my anger with the injustice of the world and with wrongs done to me, that it could blind my vision to the ever-present gentle and merciful Jesus? If only we could practice gratitude. If we could practice taking the time when we can really listen.
When I was a younger man, pursuing honestly a very different sort of life, there was a girl. Let’s be honest – when I was a boy there was a girl. … There was on my part the willingness even to do things out of the ordinary. To do special things for her sake, but the real deeds of love just weren’t there. That willingness to put aside what I want, to put aside me for the sake of someone else, just wasn’t there. As much as I thought it was, or wanted it to be. When it came to actually making the choices and doing the works, it wasn’t happening. I guess I had some growing up to do, certainly. But also a lot to learn about what it really meant to use that word ‘love’ it its – in a sense deep enough to warrant that ring and a date and a ceremony and everything else that was going to follow. … The realization that, that love has consequences, and that there are choices that follow. If love is real. I’m working on it.
This girl Rita, who would become Mary Angelica, found the love of Christ. And when she found it, well there was no way she was going to let it go. In some of the testimonies they talked about her response to God’s call. I think once God first nudged the rest of the time was her chasing Him down. That there was a passion and love in her heart. That she was no reluctant bride being dragged to the altar. She was eager to live as a bride of Christ. And did so as a contemplative Poor Clair. And then at an age when most people are getting ready for … pondering retirement (she was right about 60 when she started the Eternal Word Television Network, an effort to make Christ known by whatever means possible: Little books, and talks on TV, and a television station, and then radio, and the internet). And now throughout the world as a witness again to God’s mercy.
…And what these two have in common, two things in particular. St. John Paul II and Mother Angelica. The first was their witness to redemptive suffering. Both of them suffered greatly…
This is the first thing, the second is so closely related to it and not a surprise for those who, as St. Paul says, ‘in their bodies made up for what was lacking in Christ’s.’ They were witnesses to that gift that Jesus had entrusted to the Church when He said to the Apostles, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.’ For both of them had a part in the revival of that treasured gift to the Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Both of them tirelessly preached the value of confession and the importance of that sacramental forgiveness, which God gives through the Church. They stood both by their own example and by their preaching as witnesses to the mercy of God – not as an idea, not just a concept, but as an encounter as an engagement and a lived reality.
You have to think of the exasperation of Jesus, having just laid out for them the prediction of His passion, and then they come with this. That’s got to be one of those hand on the face moments, maybe eyes raised to the Father. “You sure these were the twelve I was supposed to pick?”
They didn’t hear a word of it. They were too concerned with themselves. And so they begin their reflection upon the kingdom of God with “What do I want?” “O Jesus, we have these needs.” “O Jesus, my life is such that I think it would be best if you arranged the kingdom of God accordingly.” And it is – and we can snicker at it when we look at it in plain relief – but it is so common. We all do it. We all approach the Gospels first at least with some tinge of ‘well this should be good for me.’ Beginning from where I am and then trying to work Jesus into the picture. Even when I was in seminary there was a number of theology courses, courses on the Trinity, and on Revelation, on the Person of Jesus Christ, that sought to begin from human experience, and then we’ll work around to God. If you stick around for the whole semester He’ll get in here somewhere.
And it is important to reflect, to know – to know my own life well, for you to know your life well and to reflect well upon it. But to reflect within the light and the wisdom of God. After all He was here first. He was the one who made the first move. My life didn’t come into being in light of what I wanted, or the way I thought things ought to be arranged. But that God first gave the spark of life.
And so this reality, which we contemplate from time to time, should give us in the midst of life – strength; in the midst of struggle – courage, because it is a reminder, just as the way that Christ is present to us when we read the Scriptures, when we celebrate the Eucharist – that He dwells day and night in our tabernacle – that Jesus Christ has not abandoned us and He never will. We are precious to Him. We are His redeemed, His friends, His fellow soldiers and the battle that each one of us fights in our lives through struggles, through difficulty, through addiction – even if these things may seem small in the eyes of the world, they are big in Christ’s eyes; because and only because we matter to Him.