27 August 2020

Cold, wet, and scared -- STAY AWAKE!

21st Week OT (R)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Priory, NOLA

One of the symptoms of PTSD is persistent vigilance. Past trauma puts the body and soul on notice that at any moment something horrible can happen. Best to stay vigilant and prepared for anything. Over time the wear and tear of being constantly on alert can lead to psychosis and even heart failure. So, is Jesus asking us to risk mental instability and physical illness when he says, “Stay awake!”? No. Obviously not. But he is asking us to abide deeply and persistently in our faith. This means – at least – riding the storms of this world like unsinkable ships, confident that nothing can take us away from his love. The long pause btw the coming of the H.S. and Thursday, August 27, 2020 has been and is reason enough for some to give up waiting on his return, choosing instead to “eat and drink with drunkards” and beat the Lord's servants. And why not? If the Master isn't coming back anytime soon, why not abuse power; steal from the collection plate; step on others, climbing the church's career ladder; take advantage of the vulnerable sexually; indulge in a little extortion and blackmail; assist kings and princes in unraveling the moral fabric of the nation; or even work against the truth of the Gospel from the pulpit and altar? I mean, it's not like he's coming back anytime soon, right? Jesus says, “You do not know on which day your Lord will come.” I don't hear that as a threat or a promise. Just a statement of fact. We don't know. And knowing that we don't know is reason enough – or should be – to keep us faithful. To keep us riding these worldly storms. Cold, wet, scared; yes – but also absolutely confident that the last victory is his and ours.

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23 August 2020

Are you Christ, a Son of the living God?


21st Sunday OT

Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP


Christ asks us, “Who do [you] say that the Son of Man is?” Great question. The better question for us now though is, “Who does the Son of Man say that I am?” We have all confessed Christ Jesus as the Son of Man, the long-promised Messiah of the Prophets. But what have we – each one of us – what have we done with this profession of faith? Hearing your profession of faith and looking into the deep places of your life in holiness, Our Lord could answer any number of ways, saying, “You are an heir to the Kingdom.” Or “You are a lukewarm hanger-on.” Or “You never knew me.” Or “I don't know you.” Each of these answers has it own terrifying consequences. But we will be asked the question. From the throne of judgment on the Last Day, the Just Judge will call us forward and look into our faces. What will he see? Rebellion? Obedience? Pride? Humility? Wrath? Temperance? Will he see more of you than he sees of himself? Will he see your faith, hope, and love? Or will he see distrust, despair, and selfishness? On the Last Day, on your last day, who will the Lord say you are?

Simon Peter is established as the First Apostle. He's given the keys to heaven, made the steward of Christ, his vicar on earth. He's granted this authority by Christ b/c God has revealed to him that Jesus is the Messiah. Peter the Rock and the rock of his confession form the foundation of the Church and has remained the foundation of the Church for 2,020yrs. This same rock forms the foundation for your membership in this Church. You have professed that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. You have made this profession dozens and dozens of time, and you will make it again tonight. On the Last Day, your last day and mine, we will be asked again to profess the Lordship of Christ. Not by our words in that moment but by showing the Lord the lives we've lived until the last. What will he see? What will he hear? Will he see Philip Powell living his gifted life as Philip Powell? Or will he see me living his life, the Christ-life – imperfect but longing for holiness, striving for perfection? Will he see me loving, hoping, trusting, and forgiving; or, will he see me rebelling; running after acclaim; and seeking vengeance? Will he see the face of an unrepentant sinner; or the bright, shining face of his own reflection? If I will that Christ see his face reflected in my mine on the Last Day, I will build my life now on the rock of his Church – “[Lord,] you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

This confession of Jesus' Lordship is the first, necessary step in growing your life in holiness. We need his life in ours if we are to reflect his face on the Last Day. We can build virtuous lives on prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. We can improve everyday through good works for the poor, the marginalized, the outcast, and those who hate us. We can even become something like a secular saint by fighting for justice and peace in this world. What we can't do on these shaky foundations is become Christ with Christ. Without his divine life pulsing through ours our words and deeds may be virtuous. . .but they cannot be salvific. Without faith, hope, and love, all the other virtues are just good habits for living like a decent human being in the world. And maybe that's enough for you. It's been enough for many. But your goal, our goal is eternal life with Christ. Not just a moral life here on earth. With Simon Peter, the Rock of Christ's Church on earth, we join the saints' parade to holiness by declaring, believing, and putting into daily practice, “[Lord,] you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The Psalmist gives us one way to go from there. Pray: “Lord, your love is eternal; do not forsake the work of your hands.” This isn't a plea to God. He will not and cannot forsake us. Love is His nature. What this is is a hard reminder to us not to forsake Him. We are the work of His hands. We are creations of His truth, beauty, and goodness. As such, we are granted the possibility of being His vicars, His stewards while we live. When we declare, believe, and enact Christ's Lordship in our lives, we, with Simon Peter, become his “stand in,” his understudy – a disciple. We become imperfect Christs for the salvation of the world. And everyday, every minute of everyday becomes a chance to learn, to grow, to be perfected in him. Everyday, every minute of everyday is a chance to polish his reflection on us so that the world sees him in us, through us. The more we reflect his face – even imperfectly – the brighter and clearer and more detailed his face in us becomes. On that Last Day then, we can stand before the judgment seat and show him his face in ours. And the Lord will look into the deeper places of who you are and say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” Welcome to His wedding feast!

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