Friday, March 29, 2013

Handed Over To Sinners

Good Friday!

I've always struggled with this term.  How is the death of Jesus good?  If He is my Lord and I love Him with all my heart then how can I rejoice in His death?  Even though I recognize the necessity of His death in order to gain life for me, how can I be happy?  How can I call it good?

The fact is it is objectively good even if it doesn't seem so.  The love of our Lord poured out on a cross for sinners is good.  The opportunity to be delivered from sin and inherit eternal life is good.

This Good Friday I am seeing  these events juxtaposed with current events.  Our country is divided over issues of abortion and gay marriage as well as many others.  I must confess to becoming angry with those who want to promote such things.  But why am I angry?  Is it because my Lord is blasphemed?  Possibly.  Or is it because such things are actually bad for the people involved?  Maybe.  Or is it because so much of the world does not see things as I do?  Probably!

It's at this point that I am asking myself how would Jesus respond to these things if He were still here in the flesh?  I cannot see Him spewing the vitriol that has become characteristic of those with a more conservative bent.  Neither can I see Him espousing these changes.

The Church, as the body of Christ, has a responsibility to say and do those things that Jesus says and does.  It is necessary to speak and work in favor of the Good.  Abortion is the killing of infants.  That is not good.  No possible perceived good can outweigh the intentional taking of innocent human life.  Gay marriage is a misnomer.  Marriage was created by God as a means of naturally propagating the race.  Homosexual relations have no way of doing that.  Furthermore, God has not created people to define themselves by their sexual practices- of whatever nature they may be.  We are much more than that.  We are created in the image and likeness of God.  That means that we have reason and will to choose the Good even if it conflicts with our natural desires.  So the Church is right to stand for marriage as God created it and to oppose anything else that attempts to classify itself as marriage.

But what if the world won't listen?  Then what?

Do we resort to "attacks" to get our point across?  Will the ends justify the means?  Can we claim to stand in the name of Christ when we no longer follow in the actions of Christ?  Good Friday brings perspective to this problem.

In the words of St. Peter, "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly," (1 Peter 2:21-23).  Jesus was handed over to sinners.  Clearly they were in the wrong and He was right.  But rather than contend for what should be, He remained silent and did not insist on defending His own rights or insuring that His point is made.  He humbles Himself and demonstrates His love.  Was it received?  It does not appear so- at least not in the immediate context.  But His way of love won out in the end.  For the Roman Empire that crucified Him no longer exists, but the Church of Jesus Christ remains.  People all over the world have been impacted by His life, death, and resurrection.  He gains disciples daily over 2,000 years later.  Yes, His way of love triumphs over all other ways.

What do I learn from this?  That our current world is lost and torn by its own insatiable desires.  I have a responsibility to do all I can to point them to our Savior.  But if they will not listen then I must silently allow myself to be misunderstood, maligned, or worst of all, completely ignored.  In this way I walk with my Lord in the way of  His cross and choose love over the need to be seen as right.

This is not easy.  In fact, this, like everything in the Christian life, is impossible.  But as I draw near to the Lord I allow Him to live His life through me and He makes the impossible possible.  And I draw near to Him, among other ways, by patiently enduring trials as He did.  
Today, Good Friday, I hope I will succeed in taking a few more steps along the way of the cross with my Lord.  I hope I will persevere under the weight of a cross and allow a crucifixion like His.  By His help I know that my hope will be realized.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Troublemaker

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Matthew 2:3 

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Epiphany.   This was Christmas before there was Christmas.  In the early days of the Church, and still today in the Eastern Tradition, this was the great feast proclaiming Jesus' appearing (epiphany) in the world.  Today in the West we primarily focus on His appearing to the world in the persons of the magi who represent the Gentile world.  

While the story is familiar, something caught my attention as I was reading the Gospel for tomorrow's Mass.  St. Matthew records that Herod was troubled at hearing of the birth of our Lord.   Not only was he troubled, but so was "all Jerusalem".  Does that mean that if the king is not happy no one's happy?  Perhaps.  Or does it mean that Herod and the movers and shakers of society with him were equally disturbed at this news?  I'm inclined to believe the latter.  It's the same today.  Whenever the cultural elites hear the mention of His Name they are troubled.  This is the troublemaker.  All such troublemakers must be silenced.

This appears to be the agenda of our President.  The mandate of the HHS has more to do with silencing the Catholic Church than providing affordable health care for every American.  Who doesn't know that the Catholic Church stands staunchly against abortion, artificial contraception, and everything else that opposes life?  If the President is successful at getting the Church to either compromise or bow out of all public services then he will have essentially silenced them.  They may go on worshiping as they please within their churches, but they will no longer have a voice in the public sector- and that's exactly what the Herods of the world are after.  

It is incumbent upon all Christians that we show Christ clearly to the world.  The Epiphany is not just a day, or a celebration, but a lifestyle.  Jesus appears to the world through His people.  Despite the forces that work against us, we, relying completely on the Lord and His mighty power, are to continue living and ministering in the name of the Lord such that His message will never be silenced.  Penalize us, ostracize us, torture, or kill us they may but the Lord and His Church will always prevail.  It has always been so and it always will be.  

I have heard before that when our Lord came the first time He had to stand before Pilate, but when He comes again Pilate will stand before Him.  The same can be said of Herod and all who imitate him in every age.  

Our Lord's coming is troubling to those who love darkness.  May it not be so among us.   Rather, let us rejoice in His coming and embrace His presence. 

A most Blessed Epiphany to all!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What's New In The New Year?

For a few years now I've been pondering something.  Why is it people get all excited about a new year?  Is it just because they think that it's a great opportunity to start over and continue with successes while putting failures behind to try again?  Perhaps.  Maybe it's just that I'm a natural born pessimist but I think to myself that, while I'm thankful for a new year and all the potential that comes with it, I realize that none of us can predict what will happen this year.  How do we know if 2013 will be a good year or a bad one?

I'm sure there are some who are thinking (perhaps rightly) that I am just being too sour.  They're much more optimistic and just know good things are in store for this year.  Perhaps they're right.  I'd like to think so. 

Let me say that I am not intending to go the other way as if it's a sure thing that we're in for it this year.  I don't mean to say that. In fact, I'm thankful for a new year and enjoying it so far.  It's just that I know none of us knows the future.  Really good things, really bad things, or a host of things in between could be coming our way.

So with a dose of what I like to call realism (as opposed to pessimism) I think we should come into this year, as any year (or any day, week, or month for that matter) with a sense of optimism and expectation, but also with a realistic sense that anything could happen.  And with that in mind, we find ourselves in need of continuing to grow in faith in the Lord.  Only He knows the future and is perfectly equipped to handle it. 

In closing let us consider these words from St. James: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and get gain'; whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Whoever knows what is right to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin," (James 4:13-17).

So here's hoping 2013 is a great year.  But regardless, let us continue to walk by faith and not by sight.