06 February 2013

That no one may be deprived

St. Paul Miki & Companions
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Our Lord leaves his hometown amazed by the lack of faith among his neighbors. They doubt his claim to be the Messiah; they doubt his power to heal; they doubt his prophetic wisdom. Their doubt leaves Jesus amazed and their town bereft of miracles. When doubt amounts to nothing more than a willful refusal to believe for the sake of not believing, it amounts to a sin. Not all doubting is sinful; in fact, a healthy skepticism is often an excellent ally in our growth toward perfect holiness. What distinguishes Sinful Doubt from Healthy Doubt is the intent of the doubter; that is, how you answer the question “Why are you doubting?” is vital. The people of Nazareth doubt Jesus for no other reason than that he is a hometown boy. They know his mama and daddy. They remember him as a kid. And now here he is acting like a prophet sent from God Almighty! Their obstinate pride obstructs their belief, and they suffer for it. Had they set aside their contempt for familiarity and taken the time to listen and observe, they would've heard the Father's wisdom and witnessed His holy power. Had they disciplined their hearts and minds to seeking out the truth, they would've flourished in miracles. 

Nowadays, the practice of any sort of discipline would be miraculous in itself. We live a culture where opinion is fact; illusion is reality; and the news is stage-managed by partisan spin-doctors. Seeking out the truth among the ruins of our postmodern landscape takes more than just a steely discipline; it requires a willingness to be martyred for the sake of the search. It requires a heroic struggle against that most basic of human vices: pride. That dark, primal instinct to think of oneself as entirely self-sufficient, entirely autonomous, and liberated from both God and man. Searching for the truth—and its siblings, goodness and beauty—is a humble discipline; or more precisely, the discipline of humility. That bright, alien virtue of thinking of oneself as entirely dependent, wholly needful of divine assistance and the companionship of others. Being disciplined by humility in the search for truth is a dangerous adventure, especially when the truth one seeks points to Christ. Just ask any Christian martyr, any witness to the mercy of God who's bled as a testimony to that truth. As the ruins of our culture are ground to dust, who among us will embrace the discipline of humility and give witness to the truth that Christ died to reveal? 

The Nazarenes doubt their native son and fail to receive the revelation he came to give them. They defend their ignorance with pride, and so, their miracles are given to those who humble themselves and ask for the truth. Maybe they see the consequences of knowing Christ. Maybe they understand that humility in the service of divine love means committing oneself to the spread and nurturing of that love. And maybe they suspected that spreading and nurturing divine love among the prideful would result in violence and death. Hebrews admonishes them and us, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. . .Endure your trials as 'discipline'. . .” In our struggles against the sins of personal and cultural pride, have we resisted to the point of shedding blood, our blood? Have we stood up for truth, Christ's truth, and bled to share his revelation of God's mercy to sinners? Have we shed pride, arrogance, ignorance, and shame and testified to the truth of God's unconditional offer of forgiveness? Have we endured the trials that come with following Christ, gladly receiving his discipline and sharing the lesson? If not, hear again the admonishment from Hebrews, “See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God. . .” 

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you! I was grabbed by the line from Hebrews, "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood," when I read the readings today, just after reading about St. Paul Miki and Co. And your homily continued the reflection/meditation I had already begun.

    Appreciated the distinction you made btwn Sinful Doubt and Healthy Doubt...and then making the connection with discipline. The 2nd paragraph rocked, even as I searched my heart for the stated ideals and found myself deeply lacking. And then I liked how you put the human element into para. 3, into the possible thoughts of the Nazarenes and then tying that right back to "us". And the questions, again showing me how flawed I still am, but pushing me, encouraging me to endure. Not really loving the final sentence as an ending, but it worked.

    Overall, I really liked this one, though reading it before 6am brought on a temporary, melancholy mood.