08 July 2022

Shrewd Innocence

14th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP
St Albert the Great, Irving

Be shrewd. Be simple. Beware. All this week we've been getting lessons from Jesus about how to be holy, about how to survive and thrive in the world w/o being of the world. Today we tells us to be wise, to be astute. Sharp, smart like a serpent but innocent, harmless as a dove. That's quite the unique combo to pull off! So, what does innocent shrewdness look like? At the root of this disposition is agape, sacrificial love – willing the Good for the Other even unto death. IOW, properly using innocent shrewdness (or being shrewdly innocent) is just being Christ in the world. Knowing the Truth, living the Way, and expecting w/o hesitation Eternal Life. Through that lens and within that frame, we adopt the mind of Christ and become Christ even as we compose his Body as members. Because we are his mind and body, we are set aside, consecrated for a holy purpose. That holy purpose is to be an irritant to the world. Like a grain of sand in an oyster. It is also about being a witness, testifying to the mercy of God so that the oyster might produce a pearl. All this irritation and testimony makes us vulnerable to persecution, so Jesus teaches us to get out of his way when the trial begins, “Don't worry about what you will say. The Spirit of the Father will speak through you.” If this seems strange, it shouldn't. You have put on the Mind of Christ. You are a member of his Body. You participate in his Spirit. You eat and drink his body and blood. The whole point of baptism, confirmation, all the sacraments is to give you all you need to be perfected in Christ. So, when the prosecutions come and the trials begin, who else would speak for you but Christ? The trick – if there is one – is to get out of his way. Die to self. Lose your life. Hate the world. Those who are wise understand these things; those who are prudent know them. Straight and narrow are the paths of the Lord, on them the just walk while sinners stumble.

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06 July 2022

Get out of his way

St. Maria Goretti

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Albert the Great, Irving

Fall to the ground and die. Lose your life. Hate the world. Not exactly the Hallmark Card affirmations we usually associate with Christian joy. Taken together these admonitions ground a philosophy of living that directly opposes the nihilism we breath in everyday. The 21st c. American version of nihilism produces entitled, emotion-driven, therapeutic, and narcissistic individuals who cannot imagine a world w/o their unique presence. It is easily the deadliest gas we can breath over time. As followers of Christ, everything we are and do is given in witness to our humility, our total and irrevocable dependence on God. Just being human persons striving for holiness is an incomparable witness to God's mercy. We cannot do it w/o Him. So, when Christ tells us to die to self, lose our lives, and hate the world, he is revealing a truth absolutely foundational to our salvation: I cannot be saved. You cannot saved. Only we can be saved and only then by becoming Christs in Christ. I cannot be both Christ and me at the same time. You cannot be both Christ and you at the same time. But together, we can be Christ – one body, one heart, one mind.

Paul asks, Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” And then he teaches, “Whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” If we are one body and one spirit with Christ, then we will suffer and triumph as he suffered and triumphed. Both our sufferings and our triumphs occur in the world, but their effects echo in eternity. So, we bear witness to them as sacraments of love – external signs of Christ's mission and ministry to die and live again for the sake of sinners. How do we bear witness to Christ? We get out of his way. We die to Self, surrendering the need to be the Star of a life that was never ours to begin with. 

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03 July 2022

What's keeping you from the Cross?

14th Sunday OT

Fr. Philip Neri Powell OP

St. Albert the Great, Irving, TX

I have been crucified to the world and the world to me. Through the cross of Christ Jesus, I have been crucified. What is it to be crucified? In the literal sense, it means that I've been nailed to a cross, executed as a criminal. But Paul is writing to the Galatians. He is quite plainly not writing a letter while hanging from a cross. So, being crucified to the world and the world to him must be taken metaphorically. Maybe being crucified is a way of saying dead to the world or detached from the world. That's certainly part of what it means. But Paul says that it is through the cross of Christ that he and the world are crucified. So, the cross of Christ is the medium, the means through which all this crucifying is done. Not just any old cross. Not just any old execution. But that specific cross on that particular day with that exceptional body and soul. Every other crucifixion is an execution. A run-away slave. A deserter. A rebel. But this crucifixion, the one Paul takes into himself, that crucifixion is a sacrifice. The victim, the priest, and the altar are all Christ Jesus. And thus from all eternity, we are gifted with the Sacramentum caritatis.

And that is what we are here this morning to participate in – the sacrament of charity. We are here to be crucified. We are here to be crossified. To be joined to The Cross of Christ, to be transformed into victims, priests, and altars for the salvation of the world. How else can we honor our baptismal vows? How else can we follow Christ? Two thousand years after the resurrection and there is still work to be done. Not just busy work, paperwork, or make work. But the real work of bearing witness to God's freely offered mercy. The real work of preaching and teaching the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The real work of living as Christs in the world w/o becoming subject to the world. Lots of work yet to be done. And looking around us – at the Church, at the world – we can see that only a few are putting their hands to the plow. Jesus himself says that the laborers are few but the harvest is abundant. We can be both alarmed and comforted by this truth. It has always been so. The question for us this morning: am I one of the laborers working to bring in the harvest? Am I among those who will be crucified, crossified for the sake of Christ's mission? If your answer is no, or I don't know, what's keeping you from the Cross?

Maybe it's one of the Usual Suspects: fear of rejection or defeat; false humility; cowardice. Could be one of the Big Seven: wrath, maybe. Or greed. Both attach us to this temporary world. All seven lead us down into irrationality and passionate self-destruction. If I were a betting friar, I'd bet it's Pride – that original sin that lies to us, telling us that we can be god without God. That we can be Christ without the Cross. That we can labor for the harvest without sacrifice, without love, without giving glory to the Father. That the labor itself is all that counts. My work, my time, my treasure. Never once giving thanks and praise to God for the gifts He gives. As if, we are working out of what we have earned rather than received. Pride fools us into thinking and believing that the imperfect can be perfected by the imperfect. That wounds heal wounds. That sin forgives sin. That death conquers death. Only love can do these things. Only divine love can do them perfectly. And divine love hangs on The Cross. If you will be a laborer for Christ, you will be crucified. To the world, you will dead. For Christ and his Church, you will be more alive than when you were first born.     

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