19 May 2020

Insanely guilty?

6th Week of Easter(T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Priory, NOLA

If Nietzsche were to serve as the Church's defense attorney at the Last Judgment, he would argue that we be found “not guilty by reason of insanity.” He had no love for the Church, finding us to be “irrational, self-deceived, repressed, and arrogant...” He had even less use for Christian morality, describing it as “pettily reactionary and positively fatal to life…” Before the bench of the judge of this world, we have an Advocate, an intercessor, one who pleas on our behalf. Nietzsche would argue our insanity and ask that we be found not guilty because of it; our true Advocate knows we are guilty and makes no excuses. Our true Advocate knows our crimes better than we do because he became those very crimes for us. He can do more than merely show evidence of our sins, he can give personal testimony to them. He became sin for us, so that sin might be put to death and we might have eternal life. He knows we are guilty and loves us anyway. He loves us all the way to his cross, and he is with us as we approach ours. The Good News is that we never again have to be anything or anyone less than Christ. We are free. And we are free because we have been freed by the mercy of the One Who sits in judgment.

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17 May 2020

Infecting the World

Audio File

6th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP

The spirit of this world cannot accept the Truth b/c it does not see or know the Father. The worldly spirit does not see or know the Father b/c it rejected His Christ. Those who belong to the world are orphans. They have no mother or father. No home. No place to be at peace. They call this world their home, but the world is home to no one. It lives and moves, serving its own agenda, eating alive anyone who makes it their god. You see, the world isn't a person or a place; it's a spirit, the living principle of rebellion and disease, the anti-Christ – the opposite of Christ. For us, Christ lived and died in love so that we might be made heirs to the Father's kingdom in the Spirit, so that we might dwell in the Spirit of Truth and find eternal life. The world offers false promises, and baits us with the temptation of becoming gods without God. Christ frees us from sin and death, making us orphans of the world but not orphans in the world. When we abide in the Spirit of Truth, dwelling fully in the love of the Father and Son for one another, we come to know the freedom of the children of God. That freedom compels us – in word and deed – to bear witness to Christ and his works.

Now, we might be tempted to rest on our laurels and just wait out the end of the world. We might be tempted to sit pretty atop our pillar of righteousness and watch the world burn. We could say to the world, “We got ours. If you want yours. . .come to us.” This attitude is a recipe for pride. Christ did not command us to find our salvation in him and then sit back and wait for others to make their way to us hat-in-hand. His command – “Go out to all the world” – is unambiguous and final. There is no rest for us if we will be obedient to our Lord and remain in his love. Divine Love is diffusive by nature; that is, what Love is spreads around to all as a matter of Who Love Is. Our salvation through Christ is not a secret. It's not a treasure to be hoarded. It's not a priceless commodity to be dribbled out only to the truly deserving. We are left in this world as children of the Father so that we might be the living lights of His boundless mercy and love. We are not here to survive. We're here to thrive – to thrive as vocal, active, unrelenting witnesses to the power of the Father's offer of forgiveness to all sinners. Anyone who hears should hear. Anyone who sees should see. Our job is make sure that those who are of this world see and hear – from us – all that they need to come to the Christ.

Through the centuries, as followers of Christ, we have come up with dozens of ways of teaching and preaching the Gospel. We invented universities. Hospitals. Hospices. Orphanages. Schools. Religious orders. Catholic priests, religious, and laymen built the foundations of modern science and medicine. The 16th century Dominican friars of Salamanca laid the legal groundwork for what we call “universal human rights.” The ways and means we've invented to bear witness to Christ stand under western civilization and give it its bearing toward God. We've accomplished this by being orphans of the world, that is, by submitting ourselves to the spirit of Truth and denying the world our citizenship. This is no easy thing. We know: the world is very much with us. These past three months of epidemic and economic collapse prove this beyond any doubt. However, touched and twisted as we are by the world, our lives are not centered in the world. We are pilgrims making our way through, stopping only occasionally to do the good we are gifted to do. How should we see ourselves as those who have bowed to the Spirit of Truth in Christ?

I'll suggest an image: viruses. We've been flooded with news about viruses lately. One in particular. Whether we've been to med school or not, we've all become amateur experts in virology and epidemiology. Can we see ourselves as viruses in the world? Christian viruses infecting the spirit of the world with the truth of the Gospel? The world certainly treats the Church like a virus at times. Attempts to immunize itself against our influence. Vaccinate itself against our witness. Even isolate itself to prevent further infection. But like all viruses, we are resilient. We keep our basic DNA and adapt to the new defenses. We just keep coming back to testify to the mighty power of God to accomplish great things for His glory. We keep infecting the culture with our works of mercy; with our acts of charity; our unflagging hope in the resurrection; and our absolute trust in the providence of God. The Spirit of Truth who animates our lives in love never tires of revealing the face of the Father to us, and we must never tire of sharing this revelation with the world. So, I'll ask: who have you infected with the virus of Christ? Who have you brought to the field-hospital of the Lord?

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