16 February 2013

Papal prophecies, etc.

As I have said. . .REPEATEDLY. . .prophecies, seers, apparitions, etc. are nonsense.

The next Pope will be The Pope.  And the next one after him until Christ returns.

Your job:  be ready for Christ's return.  Are you?

If not, head to The Box and go to confession. 

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It's a trap!

NB.  Deacons preaching this weekend.  Here's my 1st Sunday of Lent homily from 2010.  Never preached b/c I was in Rome at the time.  Comments, as always, are welcomed.
1st Sunday of Lent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
SS. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

Who knows what tempts you better than you do? You know the sights that can draw your eye; the possibilities that make your heart beat a little faster; the delights that lead you off the righteous path into the wilderness of sin. If power and prestige can't tempt you, maybe vengeance or victory can. If food, drink, sex have no inordinate appeal to you, maybe possessions or dissolute daydreams can grab you. Though what tempts each of us is calculated to appeal to an individual weakness, all of our weaknesses together share a common theme: sell eternal life for the price of a moment's indulgence; exchange enduring love for temporary affection, divine mercy for worldly pardon. Temptation is all about showing us what we can have right now if we would just let go of all that we have been given as heirs to the Kingdom. The Devil whispers, “Sign over your eternal inheritance, and I'll give you everything you desire right now.” You do know what you want, right? I mean, you can draw up a list of desires; catalog everything you need, true? If you can't, no worries. The Devil is here to help. If anyone knows what you desire better than you do, it's the Fallen Angel. He's eager to parade all of God's eternal rewards before you. The catch? Nothing he can show you is his to give. Everything he can show you comes with a price. 

We might wonder why the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the Adversary. Is there really any chance that he might surrender to temptation and fall from his Father's grace? Could the Devil win? Nope. Jesus can be tempted, but he cannot sin. If he cannot sin, what's the point of tempting him? Why does the Devil waste his time? Quite apart from the fact that it is the Devil's nature to tempt God's children to sin, it's important for us to see how temptation works, to understand what's so appealing about what the Devil has to offer and why his wares are so dangerous. The first thing we must remember about the Devil is that he is a fallen angel. Once, he was placed at the pinnacle of the Lord's angelic hierarchy. He enjoyed God's favor; lived at the foot of the Throne. He has seen what awaits us if we endure in Christ. He also knows that if we endure in Christ and find ourselves face-to-face with the Divine, his self-imposed loneliness and despair is made all the more intense. By enduring in Christ, we abandon for eternity the demonic agenda of rebellion against our Father. And Rebellion longs for nothing more than it longs for miserable company. So, the Devil's recruitment program is simple: offer us our heavenly reward to be enjoyed now; tempt us to borrow against our inheritance and party 'til it's spent. 

Think about what tempts you. Why do those particular things appeal to you? What is it about power, prestige, sex, money, vengeance, food/drink, etc. that draws your eye? Are you so corrupted, so deeply fallen that you long for these delights? Maybe so. But your corruption doesn't explain why power, prestige, sex, etc. are appealing. Our fall from grace doesn't explain the lure of greed or envy or wrath. Pride, sloth, lust, etc. are all states of a soul already surrendered to temptation. Why do these souls surrender? Remember what the Devil knows. He has seen what awaits us if we endure in Christ. Having seen our perfected reward in heaven, he can show us imperfect copies, distorted imitations. In fact, the only thing he can tempt us with is cheap knock-offs, bootlegged versions of the prizes Christ has already awarded us. The temptation to indulge in inordinate sexual desire is nothing more than an offer to fake a genuine loving relationship. The temptation is indulge wrath through vengeance is nothing more than an offer to distort true justice in charity. Everything that tempts us to sin is a godly desire perverted to serve Rebellion.

This is what Jesus teaches us in the desert. Everything the Devil uses to lure Jesus into the demonic fold already belongs to the Lord. Christ already possesses all wealth, all power, all bodily fulfillment. The only course left to the Devil is to promise to give these treasures to Jesus now. Skip the teaching and preaching, skip the miracles; skip the beatings, the ridicule, the Cross. Skip all the nasty, brutal pain and suffering and all this can be yours. Jesus answers the Devil by saying, in essence, “These are mine already. You cannot give what is not yours.” The Devil is defeated not by the force of Christ's will to endure temptation but by the fact that the fallen angel has nothing to give, nothing with which to reward those who surrender to him. All he can do is hold a filthy mirror up to the Father's heavenly treasures and promise that the murky reflections are the real thing. The Devil is crushed by truth.

Can we turn this episode in the desert into a weapon against temptation? Yes! If the Devil is only able to tempt us using fun-house mirrors to make fraudulent promises of treasure, then all we need do is carefully examine what it is that tempts us. If we can discern our temptations, we can discern what it is that we most desire from God. If I am tempted by worldly prestige, then perhaps what I most desire from God is the chance to use my gifts for His glory. If I am tempted by inordinate sexual desires, then perhaps what I most desire from God is the gift to truly love without limits. Our weapon against temptation is not willful, stoic resistance but prayerful discernment for clarity about what gifts we need to do the work we have been given to do. Certainly, we can resist temptation but even the strongest walls eventually fall when placed under siege. At what point in the battle do we come to believe that by resisting temptation we are actually refusing a divine gift? That's the greatest temptation of all! How many Christians commit adultery in the name of true love? How many Christians welcome the abuse of worldly power in the name of social justice? Have you ever surrendered to temptation so that a “greater good” might be accomplish? It's a trap. A very dangerous, very devilish trap.

You can spend these forty days of Lent mulling over your sin and seeking after mercy. That's hardly a waste of the season. But here's a challenge for you: rather than contemplating past sins, contemplate on what tempts you to sin. Watch for those times that the Devil draws you in and then contemplate on what gifts you desire most from God. The Devil will promise you a knock-off. But only the Lord can give you a genuine grace.

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No African Witch Doctor for Pope!

Mark Shea has a great post up. . .

A self-identified "TradCatholic" writes in to say, "I’ll tell you right now: If some African witch doctor becomes Pope, I’m leaving the Church."

Mark's response to this knuckleheaded outburst is far, far more charitable than anything I can muster, so go read the post.

Just as "TradCatholic" is repulsed by the possibility that our next Pope may be African, so the Perpetually Aggrieved Grievance Professionals on the left are scared to death that the next Pope might be Catholic. 

Lining up to wheeze out their '68 cliches and tie-dye slogans are the usual suspects: Kung, LCWR, NYT, "Catholics" for Choice, blahblahblah.  

What faithful Catholics need to keep in mind:  God is in charge of the Church. His servants--that's us--mess things up all the time. . .always have, always will.  But the secret to being at peace with the next conclave is that the 70-80 yrs that most of us are around is nothing when placed in the context of our Salvation History. A speck, a pittance. God is in this for the long haul. Just focus on the 70-80 yrs you've been given and give God thanks.

Let the Holy Spirit do His work.  Stay calm. . .and fast and pray and do good works!

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Get out there and evangelize!

Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Jesus makes it sound so easy, doesn't he? Spend your time among sinners b/c the righteous do not need to repent. It is no difficult thing to spend our time among sinners. We do it everyday. And—if we're honest—we're usually with them as one of them. Easy. However, spending time among sinners becomes difficult when we realize that as followers of Christ we're not spending our own time but his. We're on his clock, his dime. From the moment we're baptized, we are wholly owned—if not always operated—by Christ. Our contract with Christ contains no provisions for holidays, lunch breaks, vacations, or sick days. No overtime pay or workman's comp. Our time is his time. And he has given us one job to complete: go out there and bring sinners in here. To do that we have to go where the sinners are. There is simply no way for us to get his work done if we refuse to go out into the world and proclaim God's freely given mercy to sinners. Most of us have no trouble with the Going Out There part of the job. It's the Bringing Sinners Back Here part that causes us trouble. Why is that? Why do Catholics have difficulty with evangelizing the world? 

First, let's think about what it means to evangelize. That word—evangelize—gives us pause b/c it sounds Protestant. Evangelist. Evangelical. That's Baptist; that's fundamentalist. We get images of hair-sprayed tent preachers waving a Bible around, hollering about damnation and those idol-worshiping, fish-eatin' Cathlicks. Or the slick used-car salesmen on TV, selling Jesus for a small love donation. These are distortions. Our modern English word “evangel” derives from the Greek. Take the “eu” and add “angelos” and you get “good news messenger.” We refer to the four gospel writers as the Four Evangelists, the four Messengers of the Good News. Every baptized Christian is an evangelist, a person re-born into Christ for the sole purpose of proclaiming in word and deed that the Word became flesh and died and rose again so that sinners might live. We cannot allow uncomfortable cultural stereotypes and our personal distaste for making public our “private faith” to dissuade us for doing the job we've been hired to do. Personal piety, private prayer, the interior life of holiness are all vital to a Catholic's progress toward perfection. But in the world, out there, there is no substitute for calling sinners to repentance. 

So, what are we talking about here? Street preaching? Door-to-door leafleting? According to our gifts, we are called to bring the Good News to the world. For the lay faithful, this means being Christ where you work, play, and live. It means following Christ into your ordinary, everyday life and doing what he did right there in the middle of what you're doing at that moment. You will find yourself among sinners. What does Christ do with sinners? He eats and drinks with them. Not to signal his approval of their disobedience, nor to offer them political cover for their public face. Jesus sits in public with the filthiest of the unclean—traitorous tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers—so that he can be for them a living sign of his Father's mercy, and so that he can call them to repentance. We don't have to holler and wag fingers at sinners. We just have to live as Christ lived. We just have to spend our time as his time and stand against the seemingly overwhelming pressure to submit to this world's temptations. Go out there and live your life as Christ lived his, drawing everyone away from the sinners' feast and into the banquet hall of the Lord. 

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14 February 2013

I can be god without God

Thursday after Ash Wednesday 2013
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Yesterday, we wore ashes as a sign of repentance and humility, a sign of our joy in the promise of an eternal life that comes after a mortal life lived in loving service. Today, we take another step toward Jerusalem and our Easter morning by denying ourselves and taking up the Cross. And tomorrow and the next, if we will to continue on pilgrimage, we will deny ourselves and lift that Cross again, one more time and again and again. Daily denying self, daily bearing the Cross. If you will follow Christ, you must sacrifice Self on a cross. This is the unambiguous truth that Jesus teaches his disciples. What is not so clear about this truth is how we go about taking these necessary steps. We can want to deny self and take up the Cross. We might even know what it means to deny self and take up the Cross. But how do we will these steps and complete them? Let's start with two less practical questions: 1) do you want to follow Christ?; and 2) do you know what it means to follow him? As imperfect creatures made by Perfect Love, we are drawn to the perfection that Christ's death and resurrection made possible for us. To want to follow Christ is to surrender oneself to the desire for spiritual perfection that he offers. We deny self and carry the Cross when we renounce in word and deed anything or anyone who obscures or obstructs that desire. 

Do you want to follow Christ? Do you know what it means to follow him? If you want to follow Christ, are you prepared for the consequences of taking up his Cross as your own? Giving your life in service to others for his sake is only the beginning. Dying on his Cross for the love of others is not the end. Before you can come close to sacrificing yourself in love, you will be challenged by greed to save yourself so that you might accomplish worthier deeds. You will be harangued by envy to compare your life to others and find yourself wanting. You will be scolded by pride to forget this following Christ business and get back to the business of making yourself indispensable at work and at home. You will be tempted by lust, gluttony, and wrath to indulge your passions b/c you have the right to express yourself freely w/o consequences. And lastly, sloth will whisper to you that all your sacrifices will bring you no joy, so why bother? All of these dark spirits will be set upon you as obstacles, obstructions. All of them will attempt to cloud your desire for spiritual perfection in Christ, and all of them will be victorious if you cling to Self and allow its survival instincts to rule you. Thus, Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” 

Denying self and taking up the Cross does not mean hating yourself as a person, or hating your body for its weaknesses. Denying self means placing yourself first and last under God's love for you and then loving in turn as He loves you. It means surrendering yourself to His love and then living daily always and everywhere conscious that you are capable of love only b/c He loves you first. We fast, abstain, pray, and give alms during Lent as a way of practicing sacrificial love, as a way of making real our willingness to let divine love use us—body and soul—to spread out into the world, offering consolation and comfort to all those who roil in anxiety and defeat. When we do this—allow divine love control of our lives—we offer a irresistible challenge to the Self's survival instincts. And the seven darkest spirits rise up to point out the imminent death of Self. All the temptations we suffer are motivated by a single, ancient desire: I can be god w/o God's help. I, I, I. Self. Self must die on the cross of sacrificial love—given up in service to others—if you will to achieve spiritual perfection. That path, The Way, is open to us b/c Christ goes before us, clearing the dark spirits that obscure and obstruct our steps. Surrender to Christ, give yourself up to him, and then live in love as he loves you. 

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13 February 2013

Just dirt on your face unless. . .

Ash Wednesday 2013
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Church, NOLA

We are reminded of our mortality, that we will all die one day: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Do we need this reminder? Not really. If you have ever been sick, hungry, thirsty, or sleepy, you know that you are mortal. We are reminded of our mortality so that our hearts and minds are drawn from mortality to immortality. There is no point in being reminded that we are going to die if we are not also reminded of the possibility of eternal life, a possibility threatened by persistent disobedience, by sin: our choice to step away from God. So, hear Him say to you, “Return to me with your whole heart with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.” Return to Him with almsgiving, fasting, and prayer. Practice generosity b/c nothing you have and nothing you are is truly yours. Practice surrendering b/c you are wholly dependent on His loving-care. And pray, always pray b/c nothing given to you in grace is a gift until you receive it with gratitude. Wear ashes today as a sign of your repentance. Or wash them off in humility as you fast. Whatever you chose to do with the ashes, repent and return to the Lord with a contrite and humble heart. Without true repentance and humility, without joy, these ashes are just dirt smeared on your forehead. 

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12 February 2013

A Message from the Ash Wednesday Grinch. . .

Please Note:

Ash Wednesday is NOT a holy day of obligation.

If you can't make it to Mass. . .it's no big deal.  

You are NOT required to get ashes smeared on you. 

Yes, it is an excellent way to begin your Lenten penances. . .but it is NOT a holy day of obligation.

Ashes may be smeared by a bishop, priest, deacon, or lay person. You do NOT need Father to smear ashes on you.  

Also, Thursday is NOT Ash Wednesday, so please don't ask to be smeared with ashes on Thursday.

That is all.  Oh, I almost forgot:  "Humbug."

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Vid of me

Here's a video of me today. . .Grouchy then Whiney then Sleepy. . .


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11 February 2013

As many as touched the tassels

5th Week OT (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

How many did Jesus heal that day by the sea? “. . .as many as touched [the tassel of his cloak] were healed.” Was that three or thirty or three thousand? We don't know; we can't know. It's really not important—the precise number. What's important is that as many as approached Jesus were healed. One or a million and one were restored to health. They touched the tassel of his cloak and found themselves renewed. No doubt they were thrilled to be healthy again, or maybe for the first time in their lives. We can imagine their gratitude, their joy. But how did they understand their newly restored health? Not just “what did they feel?” but what did they think had happened to them? When you are healed—by God, by medicine—what do you think has happened to you? Do you think that you are healthy again b/c your body has been repaired? Or do you think in terms of the spiritual health of your whole person? Body and soul. We don't know how many were healed that day, but as many as Jesus healed thought about their righteousness. How do we know? They reached for the tassels of his cloak, the sign of Christ's faithfulness to the Father. 

In the Book of Numbers, we read Moses' instructions to God's people, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments. . .” Now, this isn't just a fashion statement. Moses has a particular use in mind for these tassels: “When you use these tassels, the sight of the cord will remind you of all the commandments of the Lord and you will do them, without prostituting yourself going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes.”* As visible signs of the Law, the tassels serve to keep God's people ever mindful of the covenant, ever mindful of the obligations and promises made btw God and Abraham. That covenant establishes the basis for a multi-generational relationship that directs divine favor to Israel, guaranteeing prosperity to Abraham and his descendents as long as the covenant is honored. Jesus wears the tassels—he's a rabbi, after all—to honor the covenant, to show his obedience to his Father's Word. As many as he healed that day were healed by their faith in the Word; for them, the Word made flesh, walking among them. 

As I was writing this homily, Fr. Marty knocked on my door to tell me that CNN was reporting that Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will resign at the end of this month. Citing his failing health and the demands of the papal office, he feels that the Church needs a younger, more energetic man to sit in the Chair of Peter. Papal resignations are not unprecedented, there have been several in 2,000 yrs. However, BXVI is the first pope to resign in 600 yrs, the most recent being Pope Gregory XII who resigned in 1415 to end the Western Schism. If you feel yourself growing anxious at this news, you are not alone. Every faithful Catholic in the world is a little bit jittery right now. Changes in the Church—especially with the papal office—always come with some degree of worry. Just remember: the pope—whoever he happens to be next month—guides the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. Our trust, our faith, and our hope rests with Christ, the eternal High Priest. He wore the Mosaic tassels to show his fidelity to the Father's covenant with Israel. He healed as many as touched those tassels. How much more are we renewed and restored by touching his body and blood? 

*Num 15.38-40

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BXVI to resign the papal office

Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will resign the papacy on Feb 28th.

"For this reason [failing health], and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is," he added. 

This is H.U.G.E., folks.

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10 February 2013

Um, there may be a problem with our coffee. . .

No need to panic. . .breathe, breathe, breathe. . .don't panic, don't panic. . .

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Guatemala's president declared a national emergency Friday over the spread of coffee rust, saying the fungus that has hit other Central American countries is affecting 70 percent of this nation's crop.


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Go out into the Deep!

5th Sunday OT 2013
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church/Our Lady of the Rosary

When it comes to doing His will, God pays careful attention to our faithfulness, our strength, our perseverance. He smiles on our hope, our humility, and our willingness to sacrifice for others in love. These He nurtures toward excellence and rewards with perfecting graces. When we fall short of being faithful, strong, hopeful, or humble, He hears our petitions for assistance and help will arrive. However, when we try to excuse our failures, or justify our unwillingness to serve, or claim some sort of debilitating brokenness, we get the booming chirping of celestial crickets. Nothing. Or, if we are being particularly stubborn, we get the kind of help that Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter get. We get all of our excuses handled by divine intervention, and our mission as apostles grows in proportion to the intervention required to fix us. Our Lord says to his Church, “Put out into the deep!” Do we obey and plead for his help? Or do we wail excuses? Are we fearful and plead helplessness? Or are we faithful? Jesus says to Simon Peter, and to us, “Do not be afraid.” Leave everything and follow him. 

Our readings this morning/evening bear witness to three biblical legends: Isaiah, Paul, and Simon Peter. All three find themselves confronted by the glory of the Lord; all three hear His call to service; and all three serve up pitiful excuses for their initial failure to receive God's commission. Isaiah, upon seeing the glory of God, wails and whines in fear of death b/c no sinful man may see God and live. Paul reminds the Corinthians that he was “born abnormally” as an apostle and is not fit to be an apostle b/c he persecuted the Church. And Simon Peter fails to believe that Jesus will be able to help him with the catch. When he pulls up his full-to-bursting nets, he falls at Christ's feet, wailing, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Each of these men starts out as a pitiful sinner—a coward, an enemy of the Church, and a weary unbeliever. However, having wailed their excuses, God takes all that they are and graces them with all that they need to become a prophet, a preacher, and an apostle. The Lord wills that they “put out into the deep” of this world and fish for souls. He fixes their brokenness and multiplies the gravity of their mission in proportion to the blessings they require. Each one is astonished by the Lord's generosity. And in gratitude receives his godly commission. 

Christ says to his Church, “Put out into the deep!” Do we obey and ask for his help? Or do we wail excuses? We could, like Isaiah, spend copious amounts of time and energy nursing our sins, crying over our failures, and raising these up to God as excuses for our inability to go out into the world as apostles for the Good News. How can we bear witness to God's mercy when we ourselves are so dirty with sin? Or, we could, like Paul, see ourselves as “abnormally born,” that is, brought into the family of God from another church or another faith, and then claim that our unusual entrance into Christ's body disqualifies us from being proper preachers of the Gospel. I wasn't raised in the Church, what can I do for the faith? Or, we could, like Simon Peter, live as weary unbelievers, ever doubtful of Christ's power, and then ashamed of our unbelief when he shows us what he can do. I denied Christ too many times, I'm unworthy of serving him as an apostle! We could refuse, deny, demur, disbelieve, and beat ourselves up. But Christ says, “Do not be afraid! Leave everything and follow me.” Leave doubt, leave self, leave sin, leave the past. Leave it all and follow me. 

Isaiah leaves his history of sin behind when the seraphim purges his mouth with the ember from God's altar. Paul leaves his history of vengeful persecution of the Church behind when Christ appears to him on the Damascus Road. Simon Peter leaves his long and stubborn history of faithlessness and betrayal behind when he is consumed in the fire of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Isaiah hears the Lord ask, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Purged of his sin, Isaiah shouts like a schoolboy, “Here I am, send me!” Paul sheds the scales from his eyes and receives his commission to bring the Good News to the Gentiles, confessing, “. . .by the grace of God I am what I am.” And Simon Peter, upon seeing the haul in his nets, confesses his unbelief, and receives from Christ himself an encouraged heart that will grow large enough to receive the love of the Holy Spirit. Each abandoned his history of disobedience; each leaves behind every obstacle, every trial, every excuse; and each follows the Lord in His will to become prophetic and preaching legends for God's people. They put out into the deep, and brought to the Lord a great haul of souls. 

Time and physical distance are no measures for Christ. His words to Peter on the boat are spoken directly to us, each one of us: “Put out into the deep. . .do not be afraid.” As this world grows older and its spiritual and moral foundations become more and more fragile, our hold on things true, good, and beautiful seems to grow more and more precarious. We don't need to recite the litany of sins our culture of death revels in. It's the same list Isaiah, Paul, and Peter knew so well. It's the same list that ancient Israel and Judah knew. It's the same list the serpent wrote in the Garden and the same list men have been carrying around for millennia. That list tells us how to degrade and destroy the dignity of the human person, the image and likeness of God that each one us shares in, the imago Dei that makes us perfectable in Christ. It is the mission of the Enemy to tempt us into racial suicide, to kill ourselves as the human race by separating ourselves—one soul at a time—from our inheritance in the Kingdom. The Deep that we are commanded to evangelize is at once both the individual human heart and the whole human community. And lurking in that Deepness is both Eden's serpent and Christ's cross, both the voice of rebellion against God and the instrument of sacrifice for God. Christ says, “Do not be afraid.” 

Whether we find the serpent or the cross or both dwelling in the Deep, we must not be afraid. The serpent was defeated the moment he chose to rebel. Sin and death were crushed from eternity before the first human walked upright. So, we can meet the serpent without fear. We can also meet the cross without fear b/c it is through the cross that the serpent is defeated. When we put out into the Deep of the human heart and the human community, there is nothing there for us to fear. Our job is a simple one: fish. Cast nets with service, humility, mercy, and joy. Bait our hooks with all the gifts we have been given to use for the greater glory of God. Leave behind bitterness, resentment, jealousy, and wrath. Follow Christ in strength, persistence, faithfulness, gladness, and sacrifice. Leave behind worry, doubt, fear, and hostility. Follow Christ in thanksgiving, rejoicing, praise, and courage. Now is not the time for cowardice. Now is not the time for waffling or compromise. We have our orders: put out into the deep! Risk, challenge, venture out. Hold fast to Peter's boat and cast your net wide and deep. Isaiah, Paul, and Peter made their excuses before God. He smiled and made them into prophets and preachers. So, go ahead: make your excuses. And watch God do His marvelous work through you. 

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