24 November 2012

Who sits on the throne of your heart?

NB.  The deacons are preaching this weekend.  Here's my Christ the King homily from 2006. . .written in a style very different from what I use these days. . .

Christ the King
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation and St. Paul’s Hospital

Who or what sits on the throne of your heart? Who or what rules your mind, your body, your soul? Who are you as a subject of the Lord’s kingdom? Who are we together in his royal service?

The Solemnity of Christ the King celebrates the arrival and the coming of the Lord—his coming and going in disgrace in the beginning and his coming and staying in glory in the end. He has been given an everlasting dominion, eternal glory, and kingship in heaven and on earth. He is firstborn of the dead, ruler of the kings of earth, and he is the faithful witness to his Father’s accomplished promise: to us who love him, he has freed us from our sin by his blood, and made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father! He is prophet, priest, and king and we share in his prophetic ministry, his priestly duty, and his kingly rule. But we do not share these offices by right or reward; we share them by inheritance. In baptism we took on the mantle of the Anointed One and gave our lives to the work of giving the Living Word our hands and feet, our strong backs and big mouths, our determination and patience, and we gave all of our foreign allegiances to the sanctifying fire of Pentecost—no alien rulers, no sacrifices to false gods, no prayers to the elemental powers, no princes before The Prince, no king in our hearts but the King of kings, the Lord or lords.

His dominion must skate through your veins, flex your muscles, and draw your breath. His rule will accomplish in you the perfection of every gift, polishing every talent and treasure, and he will bring your will to bear on the need for renunciation and sacrifice, the need for surrender to the commands of love, the righteous orders of mercy and faith. The rule of Christ the King in your heart opens your ears: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” That voice, his voice will not ask you, will not lead you to the worship of the idols of the market.

Who or what sits on the throne of your heart? Who or what rules your mind, your body, your soul? If you are not ruled from your heart by the Word Made Flesh, then you are ruled by some alien power, some foreign god. Let me name some them: there are spirits who would rule us—spirits of disobedience and arrogance; of narcissism and selfishness; of deceit and false witness; of judgment and self-righteousness; of confusion and syncreticism; of rage and violence. There are disordered passions that would rule us: lust posing as love; greed posing as desire; pride posing as self-esteem; envy posing as competition; gluttony posing as the entitlement; sloth posing as leisure; and anger posing as righteous indignation. There are fallen angels, counterfeit messengers, who would rule us with false information and corrupted wisdom: ancient seers, ascended masters, make-believe prophets, self-anointed messiahs, cults of personality, cults of scientism, cults of success w/no money down, churches of the Barbie Waistline and the Ken Pecs and Abs, and the demonic choirs of celebrities singing their own praises!

Who or what sits on the throne of your heart? Who or what rules your mind, your body, your soul?

Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you King of the Jews?” Jesus answers with a question, “Did you figure this out or did someone tell you?” Pilate says, “I’m not a Jew. Your own people gave me to you. What have you done?” Jesus responses to Pilate, but he doesn’t answer Pilate’s question. Instead he tells Pilate that he is a King, but not a king in this world or a king in the way the world thinks of kings. Jesus says, “My kingdom does not belong to this world[…]my kingdom is not here.” Frustrated, Pilate says, “So, you are a king then?!” Jesus simply says, “I was born and came into this world to testify to the truth.” And this is what he did from his debut at the Wedding at Cana up to and including this exchange with Pilate—Jesus has taught the truth of the faith, holding fast against expectation and convenience and popularity and betrayal and expediency; holding the truth of the Word so that that Word might be purely spread, pristinely heralded and heard.

There is no compromise here. No genteel dialogue btw individuals with competing but probably compatible interests. No exchange of heart-felt wishes and warm salutations. Jesus speaks the Word of Truth to Pilate. And says, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” What do those who belong to the truth hear? They hear: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.” They hear a proclamation of Christ’s rule, a declaration of his reign and sovereignty. Son of Man and Son of God. Faithful witness. Firstborn of the dead. Ruler of the kings of the earth. No election. No voting. No audience participation. No American Idol final four. Lord of lords, King of kings. Mighty God. That’s all! And that’s everything!

Who or what sits on the throne of your heart? Who or what rules your mind, your body, your soul?

The implication of these questions is naked: answer them honestly and know immediately the state of your spiritual life. I don’t mean to say here that you will get some sense of whether or not you are fulfilled or happy or content. Or that you will come to feel better about yourself or less stressed out or better able to cope. Jesus promised his disciples and us—all of his preachers and apostles—persecution, trial, betrayal, and death. He never promised us contentment or self-esteem in this life. This doesn’t mean that we won’t be happy here and now or that we can’t find some measure of peace. All it means is that being stressed out or unhappy or anxious or doubtful is not evidence that you are a bad Christian. All of those nagging spirits and draining demons are, however, a pretty good sign that something or someone else sits on the throne of your heart; something or someone else rules you—body, mind, spirit, all of you. What you feel is dis-ease, instability, the uneasiness that we all feel when we invite a foreign ruler, some alien king into our lives.

But know that these spirits are temporary gods, paper doll deities folded together with Elmer’s and plastic glitter. They are houses of leaves, Styrofoam rocks and magic marker paint, a fleet of cardboard ships in icy water sinking. They are the Sons of Noise and the Daughters of Wisps, passing through, clouds and rank breezes; loud, dangerous, yes; but powerless before a true king.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to his voice. Everyone who belongs to goodness sees his work. Everyone who belongs to beauty touches his face. Everyone who belongs to the Father welcomes his rule in their hearts. Everyone who belongs to the Son gives thanks for his sacrifice. Everyone who belongs to the Spirit rejoices in his gifts. And everyone, everyone who belongs to the kingdom serves One Faith, One Baptism, One Lord!

Is he lord of your heart? If not, who sits the throne and rules your life? He is the Faithful witness, the Firstborn of the dead, King of kings, Jesus Christ!

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They can no longer die. . .

St Andrew D√ľng-Lac & Companions
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Our gospel reading this morning is not about marriage and re-marriage. Let's set all that aside and go to the meat of the Sadducees' question to Jesus: isn't the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead inconsistent the Mosaic Law? Jesus answers emphatically, no. All that stuff about a woman and her dead husband's brothers is just a way of setting up a more basic challenge. To better understand this challenge, we need to know a little bit about the Sadducees. They were a religious faction among the Jews closely allied with the temple priesthood, the political aristocracy, and the Roman occupiers. As traditionalists, they accepted only the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures as authoritative. In practice, they were the ancient equivalent of modern naturalists: rejecting supernaturalism, they denied the existence of the soul, of angels, and heaven/hell. Their challenge to Jesus is an attempt to use scripture to embarrass him and discredit their theological opponents. Our Lord's response to their challenge impresses them b/c he cites Moses to support the reality of the resurrection, saying, “[God] is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 

In his response to the Sadducees, Jesus defends three fundamental Christian doctrines: 1) the immortality of the human soul; 2) the resurrection of the body; 3) and the perfection of those raised from the dead. Together these three doctrines mean that those raised will have no need for the sacraments in heaven. Jesus defends these teachings by reminding the Sadducees of Moses' encounter with God in the Burning Bush recorded in Deuteronomy. Upon hearing God's voice calling him from the bush, Moses tries to run. But the voice calls him again, saying, “I am the God of your father. . .the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses accepts this truth and calls the God of his father, “Lord.” So, if God is the God of the long-dead patriarchs and Moses' Lord, then, Jesus reasons, He—God—is the Lord of the living; therefore, the patriarchs and Moses must still be alive in some sense. Using the scriptures, Jesus is able to rebut the Sadducees' objections to the resurrection and show that they do not truly understand the scriptures they claim to revere as holy. Luke reports them saying, “Teacher, you have answered well." And he adds, “. . .they no longer dared to ask him anything.” 

Now that we have a better sense of the argument, let's consider the relevance of Jesus' answer for us here in the 21st century. Jesus concludes his response to the Sadducees by saying, “[God] is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus is a living God for all that lives. Even after death, we are alive in the presence of the Living God. Jesus says, “[Those raised from the dead] can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God. . .” This announcement should have a singular effect on us: the dispelling of any fear of death we may have. What's to fear? We are not Sadducees who believe that death ends life. We are not modern naturalists who believe that humans are nothing more than really smart chimps. We call the God of the Patriarchs “Lord.” And as our Lord and God, He is the everlasting God of Life, this life we are living right now and the life we are hoping for after death. To fear death is to mistrust His promises of eternal life. Look to the martyrs. In the face of torture and death, they remained firm in calling Him Lord, and now they live forever in His presence. If we will be “like the angels” after death, we must work hard to live like angels before we die—striving for perfection with the help of His grace, and announcing His Good News to the four corners of the world. 

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23 November 2012

Coffee Bowl Browsing

Open season on the Church in Ireland and Down Under. . .just the beginning.

And in the E.U. among the Professional Nannies and Paper Pushers. . .

Gullible Media gets duped by propaganda pics. . .

Dissident priest booted from the Maryknolls. . .and laicized. Why does the phrase "bout time" come to mind?

What is Remnant Theology?  Pruning is necessary for flourishing.

Heh. Pretty much like everything else he's touched.

Private property rights saved the Pilgrims from starvation.

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22 November 2012

Giving Happy Thanks (Updated)

Happy Thanksgiving to all HancAquam readers!

For me today: Mass at 8.30am and then a day of reading, napping, and Glorious Solitude.

Since I can't be with my Family today and since my Religious Family celebrated Thanksgiving Tues night. . .I've decided that today will be a Desert Day for me.

God bless, Fr. Philip

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21 November 2012

A Parable for the Meantime

Presentation of the BVM
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

What is the Church to do with herself after Jesus is gone and before he returns? No one knows exactly how long he'll be gone, and it seems that his long-term plans for the Church are a bit murky. As he gets closer to Jerusalem, many begin to believe that he intends to establish his reign as a Davidic king upon arrival in the holy city. They expect him to declare his kingship, call for popular support, raise an army, and expel their foreign enemies. This is why he's hailed with cheers and palm branches when he finally enters Jerusalem. . .just one week before his execution in the city's garbage dump. Our Lord knows full well that most of those following him around do not understand his divine mission. They've failed again and again to grasp the purpose of his ministry and the consequences of following his teachings. So, he tells them a parable, a parable intended to accomplish two related tasks: 1) to clarify the nature of his inheritance as an heir to David's kingdom; and 2) to shape the nature and mission of his Church while he's gone, until his return. We might call this the Meantime Parable. What are we to do in the meantime? Invest the gold of the faith and grow our Lord's kingdom. 

The Meantime Parable is pretty straightforward; basically, Jesus is putting into parable terms what he wants his disciples to do while he is with the Father, what he wants them to accomplish before his return. Jesus gives his disciples the wisdom of his teachings (the gold coins) and instructs them to spread these teachings for the profit of souls. Some of their fellow Jews object to the Lord's future reign as king and try to undermine their efforts. Upon his return, the Lord calls his disciples and asks for an accounting of their ministry. The first two disciples have had great success and are rewarded with more responsibilities. The third disciple, however, did not invest the Lord's teachings b/c he felt that Jesus had not earned his kingship. He accuses Jesus of profiting from the hard work of generations of God-fearing believers. Our Lord calls this man “wicked servant.” Why? Because as a disciple he took God's gifts and then refused to live as a disciple. Our Lord takes back this man's gold and gives it to another disciple, saying, “. . .to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” At the Final Accounting, which disciple will you be? 

How are you tempted by the Enemy to be the Wicked Servant? Let's first remember why the Lord calls the unsuccessful disciple “wicked.” Note well: it's not b/c the man is a horrible, unrepentant sinner. He's “wicked” b/c he knows that living as a disciple means growing the wealth of the kingdom, investing all that he's been given by God. It's the only task the Lord gives his servants while he's gone. Despite knowing the Lord's will, the Wicked Servant hides his faith b/c he doubts its value in the marketplace. Are you tempted to hide your faith, to squander Christ's investment in you? The Enemy will whisper to you: All that faith stuff is just primitive superstition. It makes people uncomfortable. Sounds weird to modern ears. You're going to look like an idiot and people will think you're hateful. Wrap it up and keep it behind the walls of the chapel. Live like a normal person when folks are watching. Besides, everyone has their own equally valuable ideas about God so why is yours special? The Wicked Servant listens to the Enemy and all he has is given to another. Christ invested his life for ours. When he comes again to account for his investments, we will be given more or what we have will be taken away. What kind of servant are you? 

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19 November 2012

Do the works you did at first

33rd Week OT (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Something is wrong with the church in Ephesus. And many things are nearly perfect. John is given a message to deliver to the Ephesians. What's nearly perfect? “I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked. . .” And what's wrong? “Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first.” The Church in Ephesus—probably the most important local church at the time, certainly the largest—was nurtured by Paul for three years and bequeathed to Timothy. When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he found a group of believers there who had been baptized by John the Baptist but had not yet received the Holy Spirit. So, he made Ephesus his headquarters while he evangelized the region. The Lord, recognizing a zealous faith among the Ephesians, instructs John to say to them, “. . . you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary.” They are hard-workers, determined believers. But they've lost something vital. They've lost compassion. “Realize how far you have fallen,” the Lord warns, “Repent, and do the works you did at first.” 

Though you may be a parishioner in NOLA, are you also a member of the Church of Ephesus? Chances are we all know a Christian like the ones in Ephesus. Hard-worker for the Church, a real work horse when there are things that need to be done. A solid soul who brooks no-nonsense or monkey-business with the faith. Fearless in defending the Church; fierce when presented by lay or clerical corruption; able to sniff out a religious phoney in seconds and is not shy about saying so. This Christian's diligence, industry, and zealous determination make him/her a target for the less rigorous souls in the family and a real pain-in-the-rear for anyone outside the family who dares speaks against us. We can all see that he/she frequently suffers for the sake of Christ. But there may be a problem. The Lord sends this message: “You have lost the love you had at first.” Diligence in defending the orthodox faith; zeal in confronting sin; hard-work, rigorous moral standards. . .all of these are worthless unless they are done with the “love you had at first.” The love that first seduced you into repentance and keeps you enthralled to follow the Narrow Way. All of the virtues of the Ephesians are one step away from becoming damning vices. The wall btw saving virtue and damning vice is compassion. 

Twice the blind man cries out to Jesus for compassion, “Son of David, have pity on me!” Jesus calls to the man, “What would you have me do for you?” The man pleads, “Lord, please let me see.” Jesus not only heals his blindness, he also confirms the man's faith and his salvation, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.” To understand this miraculous event, we have to hear it on two levels simultaneously: the physical and the spiritual. The man's dead eyes are renewed so that they function as they ought. And his spiritual ignorance—his darkness in sin and death—is enlightened by his faith in Christ. This is his first encounter with God's loving-kindness, His compassion. If the newly healed man hopes to continue along the Narrow Way to eternal life, he will place this first encounter with the Christ at the center of his being, making it the source and summit of everything word and deed he says and does for the rest of his life. If he will avoid the fault of the Ephesians, he will make all his works until his last exactly like his first: love God, cry out for His compassion, and receive it with thanksgiving! 
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18 November 2012