23 June 2020

Be no wider than Christ

12th Week OT (T)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Priory, NOLA

Jesus says that the gate to the Kingdom is narrow. As an Ample Friar, I want to know why. Why can't the gate be deep and wide? For that matter, why is there a gate in the first place? Why not just take down any and all barriers to the Kingdom? If we see the gate – even metaphorically – as an obstacle outside the human heart and mind, we're likely to think that God is being stingy with his entry visas. But that can't be case b/c we know we were created and re-created for heaven. So, what is this gate? It is a measure of how we have or have not received the Father's graces. A measure of how we have or have not put those graces to work for the salvation of souls. The more and better I put on Christ, the less there is of me to squeeze through the gate. It is Christ in me that passes through. For example, the Beatitudes tell us about those who have decreased so that Christ might increase in them. They are called “Blessed” b/c they are small in the world but large with Christ. When we run after applause, prestige, and influence all in the cause of becoming god w/o God, we refuse the graces the Father freely gives us, becoming bloated with pride and envy, displacing Christ with sin. The gate to the Kingdom appears to us to be deep and wide to accommodate our spiritual girth. I mean, why wouldn't God want someone as wonderful as Me in His Kingdom!? Jesus answers, yes, that gate is indeed wide but the broad road leading to it takes you to destruction. The narrow gate is built to fit Christ, so we can be no more than him.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

22 June 2020

Careful how you measure!

12th Week OT (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Anthony's, NOLA

You're having a discussion with a friend about abortion or same-sex marriage or some other controversial topic. You note that the behavior under discussion is a sin. And your friend declares with great self-righteousness, “You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first!” Now you're wondering if you're guilty of violating Jesus' command to stop judging. What does Jesus mean here by “stop judging”? We need to distinguish btw naming a sin and finding a person guilty of sin. Naming a sin is simply what it sounds like. This behavior X is sinful. Lying is sinful. Killing is sinful. Stealing is sinful. We are saying nothing more than “abstractly considered, X is a sin.” No one has been judged guilty. No one has been condemned as a sinner. What Jesus is commanding us to stop doing is finding a particular person guilty of committing a sin. Sally lied. Bob killed. Becky stole. When we do this, we're saying – in essence – I can read the soul of another person and know /hisher intent and the circumstances of his/her behavior. I know his heart; I know her mind. That's not possible. You can only know your own intent and circumstances. This is why we say in the confessional, “I accuse myself of the following sins. . .”
To help us stop judging others as sinful, Jesus gives us a warning, “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” That should give you chills if you're prone to finding others guilty of sin. The standard you're using to find others guilty will be the standard used to judge you when the time comes. The smart to do is to stop “soul-reading” and start asking yourself daily, “How do I want to be judged on Judgment Day?”

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->

21 June 2020

Fear nothing

12th Sunday (OT)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Diocese of Alexandria
Fear protects us. Fear makes us sensible animals when we are in danger. Our bodies are threatened by injury, disease, and death with every breath we draw, with every step we take. Being afraid—being cautious, careful—is one way God gives us to defend ourselves against recklessness, attack, disease, and accident. When faced with the probability of bodily harm, we run or we fight. Either way, we hope to survive. And if we survive, we count ourselves extraordinarily skilled, or maybe just plain lucky. Regardless, we’re alive to confront the next possibility of injury or death. Fear protects us. Fear makes us sensible animals. But we’re not here to be sensible animals. At least, we’re not here only to be sensible animals. We have to consider as well that gift from God which makes us most like Him: our being as it was created and is recreated in His likeness and image. Given the divine end programmed into us at our creation, we are much, much more than sacks of flesh and blood and bone. We are enfleshed souls with a purpose, rational animals with a single goal. Fear blocks our best efforts at achieving that goal. Fear makes us weak in light of our mission. Ultimately, fear is spiritual death. It kills our best chance—our only chance!—of coming to God. Therefore, Jesus says to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known…Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” He adds rather ominously: “…whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” Fear tempts us to deny Christ; fear pushes us to reject God’s providence.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, preaches on the origins of death, arguing that sin and death entered into creation with the disobedience of our first father and mother, Adam and Eve. Believing that they could achieve heaven on their own, our first parents took on an awareness of good and evil that our heavenly Father wished to deny them. In other words, by disobeying God they chose death as their immediate goal, throwing away the original justice they enjoyed from God in Eden. Paul writes, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men…death reigned from Adam to Moses…after the pattern of the trespass of Adam.” 
What is this pattern of trespass? Patterns repeat. Like houses built from the same blueprint, our trespasses against God look the same. Over and over—like our first father—we run after that which we think, we feel is best for us. And over and over again—like all of our ancestors in faith—we fall on our faces, suffering the consequences and wondering what went wrong. Most of the time, we act because we fear inaction; we makes decisions because we fear indecision. In deciding and acting outside the will of the Father for us, we deny His rule and both the natural and supernatural results are always disastrous. This is why Jesus tells the Twelve: “…do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” 
Because we are loved by Love Himself, we have been given a gift to use against death. Adam lost our original justice in disobedience, but our Father has restored that justice in Christ. Paul writes: “For if by the transgression of [Adam] the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” Knowing this truth and his mission to save us from sin and death, Jesus says, “Fear no one.” What is there to fear? In every instance that we might find ourselves confronted by injury, disease, or death, God is with us; His Christ reigns. Jesus, using an absurd example, teaches the Twelve: “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without our Father’s knowledge…So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” And yet, we fear. We worry. We wring our hands and nurse our ulcers with dread. For the spiritual animal, fear is death.

But surely we must worry! We have responsibilities. We’ve made promises. Signed contracts. Sworn allegiances. Besides, Australia is burning. Food is becoming more expensive. Marriage and the family are under attack. Christians are being arrested for teaching the faith. Children are suing parents. Disease is rampant. Whole continents are starving. There are civil wars, invasions, terrorist attacks, looting and rioting. All sorts of creatures – including humans – are being born deformed because of global environment pollution. We continue to believe that killing our children is the answer is overpopulation and the best way to remove inconvenient human obstacles to middle-class prosperity. We have to worry! We do? Really, we have to be worried? Has worry increased food production? Cleaned up our water supply? Stopped the killing of millions of babies? No. No amount of anxiety or fear will bring to light that which is concealed in darkness. We can wring our hands and cry until the Second Coming and nothing will change for the better. Does this sound defeatist? Quietist? Maybe. But that’s hardly the point.

Paul writes, “…the gift is not like the transgression,” meaning the gift of Christ’s life for our eternal salvation is not like the deadly transgression of Adam. Adam sinned and we all die. Christ died and we all live. Does this mean that we will be spared hunger, thirst, disease, war, natural disaster? No, it doesn’t. Does this mean that we can live comfortably in our gated communities out of harm’s reach, quietly consuming, blissfully ignorant? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that we are focused on a goal beyond the contingencies of this life, a goal that from the other end of history provides us with the meaning of our creation and charges us with acting boldly now to do what we can to right the wrongs of our sins. We will not end hunger. But we must feed the hungry. We will not end war. But we must make peace. We will not cure every disease. But we must care for those who suffer. Our job now is to face the tasks of righteous living without fear, to do everything we can in charity to speak the truth, shed His light, proclaim the healing Word, and to die knowing that we every word we have spoken, every decision we have made, everything we have done has been an acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord. Our gift to a tragically sinful world is Christ’s gift to his tragically sinful Church: words and deed that speak to the love of a Father well-beyond our worries and fear, the mercy of a God who will bring all things into His kingdom, and make right every wrong. So, do not be afraid, each one of us is worth more to our Father than the whole of creation itself.

Follow HancAquam or Subscribe ----->