27 May 2021

You are NOT your disease. . .

8th Week OT (Th)

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Dominic Priory, NOLA

Why do the disciples tell Bartimaeus to “take courage” (Θάρσει) when they call him to come to Jesus? Why would he need courage to approach Christ when he – Bartimaeus – was crying out to Jesus in the first place? It's not like he's shy about begging to be healed. Some have translated this phrase as “cheer up” or “take comfort.” But these miss the nuances of the imperative – strengthen your heart; be bold; rid yourself of fear. What does Bartimaeus have to fear in being healed of his blindness? Why would he need courage to have his sight restored? When I worked in drug/alcohol rehab with adults and teens, we often ran into a problem with recovery: the addict's entire life was defined by drugs and alcohol. What would his/her life be w/o these props? Who would they be? The same can be said for Bartimaeus. Without his blindness his entire life would radically change. What would happen to the effectiveness of his begging? How would he live? Being healed is a gift. No doubt. But it's also a direct and serious challenge to how we understand ourselves, esp. if we see ourselves fundamentally defined by our sin, our disease, our disability. Bartimaeus' healing is both physical and spiritual. By accepting Jesus' miracle, he's now in relationship with the Christ, a life-long relationship that will challenge him even more: to bear witness, to tell his story of lifelong blindness and how he came to the promise of eternal life.

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25 May 2021

Make it rain!

I'll be 57yo on May 26th, so. . .a birthday fundraiser for my province.

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23 May 2021

Live by the Spirit!

Pentecost Sunday 2021

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP


Audio File

The disciples lock themselves away, terrified of being found by the Jewish and Roman authorities. They are heretics, rebels, outcasts. They have not only defied their religious leaders by following Christ, they have also conspired to subvert the political power of the Empire. In the eyes of the Temple and the Imperium they are criminals, deserving nothing less than execution. Their savior is dead, buried, and his body is missing from his tomb. Whatever courage they may have had when Jesus was with them is long gone. So is their trust, their strength, and their desire to carry on. And just as despair begins to eat its way through their final resolve, Jesus appears to them and says, “Peace be with you.” They rejoice when he shows them the wounds on his hands and feet. And he says again, “Peace be with you.” As his peace settles on the once-frightened disciples, Jesus gives them a new identity, a new mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” The disciples become apostles, those sent to do his will: to preach his word; to teach his truth; and to accomplish good works that give all the glory to God. Jesus does all this through the breath of the Holy Spirit.

Some fifty days later, the Holy Spirit will descend again on the apostles and on those disciples gathered with them. We mark this day as the birth of the Church. Created by God the Father, Re-created by the sacrificial love of God the Son, and given new life by God the Holy Spirit, the Church bursts out onto the streets of Jerusalem, proclaiming the Good New of Jesus Christ in every tongue spoken by the pilgrims visiting the great city. The crowds were astonished and amazed. Some thought the Christians were drunk. Others thought them possessed. A few may have thought them insane. But none could deny that the Church spoke one Word in many languages, one clear message in a multitude of tongues. The Church proclaimed – so that all may know – the mighty works of God! The covenant is fulfilled. You are free. A slave to sin and death no more. Christ is risen and ascended. And the Holy Spirit is among us. The kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe the Gospel. Your inheritance as a child of God awaits you. Do not allow the Enemy to steal what the Christ died to give you. Take off the flesh and put on the armor of righteousness. Live by the Spirit. And obey the Law of Love.

How do we live by the Spirit? First, what is it to live w/o the Spirit? Paul tells us that the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies,” basically, all the things we humans love to do. These works of the flesh have something in common: they are all selfish, self-centered; obsessed with I, me, mine. They are all perversions of the appetites, disordered hungers that take control of the person and drive him/her to sin. When we indulge these disordered hungers we usurp the Holy Spirit from the throne of our hearts and replace Him with the Self. We make the flesh our Savior. And the flesh is temporary, quickly passing away. What use is a Savior that passes away as quickly as it arrives? With a Savior made of flesh, we will inherit the world, which also quickly passes away. If we will live by the Spirit, then we will put away our disordered desires, our perverted appetites, and submit ourselves to the Law of Sacrificial Love. To live by the Spirit is to participate fully in the love that the Father has for the Son and the Son for the Father. IOW, we will produce the fruits of the Spirit.

Paul tells us opposed to the sins of the flesh are the fruits of the Spirit. And they are: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Notice that each one of these fruits of the Spirit points away from Self and toward the Other. Love is sacrificial. Joy is what happens when we love. Patience defeats the need to control. Kindness always assumes the best. Generosity acknowledges that nothing is my own. Faithfulness submits doubt to trust. Gentleness subdues anger. And self-control proves reason over passion. Each of these fruits of the Spirit pulls us out of the Self and demands that we treat the Other as a person created in the image and likeness of God. And as such, offered the gift of eternal life through the repentance of sin and baptism by water and the Spirit. So, to live by the Holy Spirit, we put aside fear, anxiety, and despair. We take up sacrificial love, the works of mercy, the forgiveness of sins. We bear witness to the workings of the Spirit in our lives, and proclaim the Good News of Christ Jesus wherever we are. To live by the Spirit is to become Christ for Others. To live by the Spirit is live and die as Christ lived and died for us.

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