29 June 2017

Are you a Parlor Christian?

Ss. Peter and Paul
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

In his homily for this solemnity, Pope Francis asks us to consider this question: are we parlor Christians or apostles on the go? That phrase – “parlor Christians” – makes me smile b/c I remember my grandmother's parlor. Pristine; immaculately decorated with bric-a-brac, hand-painted ceramics, family pictures in heavy frames. I remember the sofa with its tiny embroidered floral patterns and oddly shaped pillows. What I remember most vividly, however, is the box of candy she kept on the coffee table. Candy forever out of my reach b/c the parlor was forbidden to five-year old's with grubby hands and feet. When Pope Francis asks us if we are “parlor Christians” or “apostles on the go,” I imagine that box of candy – tempting, just within reach – protected by the sanctity of the parlor's cleanliness, its holiness, if you will. That parlor was so set apart from the rest of my grandmother's house that it seemed another world, another time entirely. It was a sanctuary, a museum of sorts that trapped a treasure in uselessness. Are you a parlor Christian or an apostle on the go?

What is a “parlor Christian”? Parlor Christians are those who see God's graces as treasures to be hoarded and put on display, protected from grubby hands and feet, kept far away from the work-a-day world of sinning and forgiving. Like that room in grandma's house that serves no real, living purpose, parlor Christians are set-away, forbidding, almost lifeless in their determination to remain untouched by living in the goodness of creation. Guarding a treasure rather than using it, they worship the idea of holiness rather than allowing the Divine Treasure to make them truly holy in the world, for the world. Pope Francis – needless to say! – urges us to be apostles on the go. Like Peter and Paul, apostles for the establishment and spread of the Good News. Like Peter and Paul, witnesses unto death for the truth of the Gospel, bearing testimony in our words and deeds to the freely offered mercy of the Father to sinners. Like Peter and Paul, apostles who get dirty when we work, tired when we play. But who always rely entirely on the treasured graces abundantly poured by our Father Who never ceases to send us out again and again – fully equipped, well-rested, and ready to speak His word of truth.


Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

25 June 2017

Fear No One

12th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

“Fear no one,” Jesus says. Fear is an enemy of faith, a first-cousin to anxiety and one step away from despair. He's not talking about the sort of fear we experience when the movie-monster jumps out from behind the cellar door. Or when we're startled by a loud noise. He's talking about that sort of fear that paralyzes, the sort of fear that prevents us from doing what is true, good, and beautiful b/c we cannot see beyond our words or actions. We don't know what's going to happen to us if we speak up or take action in our pursuit of the truth. We know we should speak the truth, but speaking the truth might get us fired, or unfriended, or cause a stink. Acting to bring about the good might stir up trouble or offend someone. Jesus is reminding his disciples and us that we are obligated to speak the truth and work diligently to bring about the good. It's not enough to think true thoughts and imagine good works. As followers of Christ we are heralds – like John the Baptist – heralds of the Good News in this world. When the truth must be spoken and the good done, “fear no one. . .What [Christ says] to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.” Fear is a paralyzing silence that no follower of Christ can tolerate.

As I've said, fear is an enemy of faith, a first-cousin to anxiety and one step away from despair. Those who lie for power, do evil for their own good, and destroy what is beautiful depend on the paralyzing silence of those who have seen and heard the truth. What better way for evil to flourish than for Christians to stand silent, surrendering their faith to fear and giving their persecutors the satisfaction of seeing the Good News of Jesus Christ die on our lips? Our Lord tells us to fear no one NOT b/c he's going to strike them down for opposing us. Not b/c he's going to deny them the occasional victory. But b/c – in the end – the Father's will rules all. In the end, and the beginning and the middle, the cross wins. Divine love, Christ's sacrifice wins. We do not need to fear those who oppose the Gospel b/c the Gospel has already won. We do need to bear constant and consistent witness to the Gospel b/c its good news is fresh daily, and not everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear has seen and heard it. And not only that – but the principal beneficiary of bearing witness to the Good News is the witness him or herself. What better conditions the muscles of faith than lifting the Gospel up for all to see and hear?

Look for a moment at Jeremiah. When his friends betray him and seek to destroy him, he bears witness to the Lord's help, “. . .the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph. In their failure they will be put to utter shame, to lasting, unforgettable confusion.” Now, Jeremiah may be boasting a bit here, but we cannot accuse him of faithlessness or fearfulness. He trusts the Lord absolutely and is unashamed to proclaim it! Can you and I say the same? When presented with an opportunity – public or private – to speak the truth of the faith to others, do we fulfill our baptismal vows, or do we sit in paralyzed silence, afraid that we might offend or cause trouble? If we choose silence, why? In that moment, who or what causes our silence? Whoever or whatever causes us to fail is more important to us than our faith in Christ Jesus. Here we listen again to our Lord say, “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” 
Fear no one, and speak the truth. Without squeamishness, without waffling or equivocation, speak the truth. In-fashion, out-of-fashion, trendy or not, speak the truth. Whatever the consequences, when called upon to do so, regardless of the circumstances, speak the truth of the Good News. There is nothing and no one – in this world – to fear. The Enemy thrives on our silence and inactivity. When we are complacent, he is working hardest. When we have given up, he is just getting started. If you think your words and deeds are useless against the world, remember for whom you speak – the one whose victory on the cross brought eternal life from death by the forgiveness of sin. “What [Christ says] to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->