01 November 2014

Purgatory: the intensity of our failures

NB. I will not be preaching at Mass tomorrow. So, here's a 2012 homily for All Souls.

Feast of All Souls
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Many of the homilies that Catholics hear on the feast of All Souls leave the distinct impression that heaven is overpopulated; hell is vacate; and purgatory is just a silly medieval myth. Much will be made of Dante's overbearing influence on how we think about the nature of the afterlife, and everyone will be assured that God leaves no one behind. That last part—about God leaving no one behind—is true. He doesn't. What's left out, however, is the fact that we are perfectly capable of leaving ourselves behind, and that God will honor this choice. God won't leave us behind, but He will allow us to leave ourselves. Jesus says, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me. . .” No one who comes to Christ will be rejected by him. However, no one who chooses to reject him will be hog-tied and frog-marched into heaven against his/her will. Love can be commanded; it cannot be coerced. The saints chose Christ's love. The damned chose pride's conceit. The souls we pray for this evening chose Christ's love for themselves but did not love as he loved them. Now, they wait to be made pure as he is pure.

Following Christ is not a part-time job or a weekend hobby. It's not an experiment, a fling, or a stepping stone while seeking something better. When we choose to accept Christ's love, we also choose to love as he loves us—sacrificially, without conditions. He says that he will reject no one who comes to him. And if we choose to be part of his sacrifice, and benefit from his love, then we must also choose to freely grant that same benefit to others. In practical terms, this means that we do not get to pick and choose whom we will love nor do we get to sort through the crowd electing some for salvation and rejecting others. As faithful followers of Christ, we love indiscriminately so that those who are tempted to reject Christ might see in us the good spiritual fruits that result from coming to him and believing in him. If anyone—at the last day—rejects Christ and chooses instead to live separated from God forever, do not let it be said that they rejected Christ b/c we failed to love as Christ loves us. Failures in charity can be large and small. Large failures kill charity outright. But most of our failures to love as we ought are small, driven by petty passions or slight hurts. It's these little weaknesses, these venial lapses that keep us within reach of heaven but outside our grasp. 

All our years are spent desiring God. When we realize that it is God whom we desire most, we come to Christ. And we spend the rest of our years being pounded into perfection by trial, temptation, victory, and the sure knowledge that we are not alone. Very few leave this life having both reached for and grasped heaven's perfection. We celebrated their victories yesterday. Most of us will likely die with a small stain or two on our baptismal garment. After death, without the limits of a body, we see more perfectly Him whom we have sought all our lives; yet, b/c we are not yet stainless, we cannot join him. The difference btw seeing Love more perfectly than we ever have before and knowing how we have failed to love as we ought is what we call the “pains of purgatory,” the pain we experience as a soul perfectly loved by God but not itself perfectly loving. In purgatory, we do not experience the duration of time but rather the intensity of our failures as we freely surrender them to God. As each failure is washed clean, our desire to join Him intensifies. Rather than wait in purgatory to love as Christ loves us, come to him now and believe his Good News, accepting as your own his mission to reject no one, to leave no one behind. In both small ways and large, love as Christ loves you.

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Two More Abstracts V

 Garden of Babylon (18 x24) SOLD

 First Plague (16 x 20) RECYCLED


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31 October 2014

Three Abstracts IV

^ Shrouded

^ Monet Goes to the Beach

^ Rock Rolled Away


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30 October 2014

Four Abstracts: III

Four abstracts. . .

 ^  Pentecost


^  Dark Night of the Soul

  ^ Les fleurs du mal

^  Temple: Rough Draft

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Nothing less will see you complete. . .

30th Week OT (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA

We must continue on The Way – today, tomorrow, and the following day. We will not abandon God's house, so, following along behind the Lord, we must persevere. Hunted as he is by that fox, King Herod, Jesus stands strong in his mission and ministry. Why he is sent and what he is sent to do IS who he is, so there's no going back, no backing down, no giving up. If we are to be faithful followers of the One sent, then we too must become the why, the what, and the who of Christ's mission and ministry. And we cannot accomplish this alone, nor can we accomplish this with weak minds, frail hearts, and darkened souls. Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Draw your strength from the Lord and from his mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the Devil.” Draw strength. Put on your armor. Stand firm. And “words [will] be given [you] to open [your] mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Gospel.” Do you labor to make known the mystery of the Gospel – with boldness?

Paul uses the adverb noun parrēsia (παρρησίᾳ)* to describe the energy with which we are to make known the mystery of the Gospel. Parrēsia means plainly, openly, publicly, freely, confidently. In other words, we are not to preach and teach the Gospel obscurely, privately, reservedly, or hesitantly. The full truth, goodness, and beauty of God's Self-revelation to His children in Christ Jesus is not a precious secret to be kept locked away; it's not an occult system to be parceled out in meager bits by experts; it's not a self-help formula to be sold like detergent or beer. The full truth, goodness, and beauty of God's Self-revelation to His children in Christ Jesus is to be plainly, openly, freely – boldly – proclaimed as a service to creation, as a servant's work to anyone and everyone who will hear it. To take on this servant's work is to become the Gospel in flesh and bone, surrendering your heart, mind, and body, and becoming – for the greater glory of God! – a material vehicle of the Good News. Therefore, draw strength; put on your armor; and stand firm b/c your chosen work puts you in danger of being hunted. The tactics of the Devil are at once bold and subtle; public and private. Our escape from the hunt is found in fortitude, perseverance, courage, and excellence.

When told by the Pharisees that the fox, King Herod, is hunting him, Jesus responds with defiance, saying, in essence, “Tell Herod to mind his own business. I'm busy about my Father's work, and I'm not going anywhere until I'm done.” Notice that our Lord's response exemplifies the virtues we need to boldly proclaim the Gospel. Fortitude – his strength of purpose. Perseverance – his determination in finishing the job. Courage – against religious and secular opposition, he pushes on. And excellence – a nearly impossible job done to perfection. The boldness with which we preach and teach the Good News marks us as followers of the One sent to open wide the gates of heaven and welcome the sinner to God's mercy through repentance. When we fail to preach and teach with boldness, when we fail to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel, we confess the triumph of the Devil's tactics in silencing us. So, Paul admonishes us: “Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.” Have we done everything? Have you done everything to profess and announce boldly, confidently, publicly the freely offered mercy of God to all sinners? Nothing less than becoming the who, what, and why of the mission and ministry of Christ will see you complete. 

* I was reliably informed after Mass that this is a noun used adverbially. One of the many benefits of preaching at a seminary. . . 

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27 October 2014

Varnish & Red Paint

Mendicant Painterly Thanks goes out to M.R. for sending me some varnish and red paint from the New Artiste Wish List!

Let's pray that we don't both end up regretting this.  :-)
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26 October 2014

30th Sunday OT: audio file

Reaching Down for Higher Things: audio file for my homily on the 30th Sunday OT


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