Sunday, March 6, 2011

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,'
will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the
one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord,
did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not
drive out demons in your name? Did we not do
mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare
to them solemnly, 'I never knew you. Depart
from me, you evildoers.' Everyone who listens
to these words of mine and acts on them will be
like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds
blew and buffeted the house. But it did not
collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And
everyone who listens to these words of mine but
does not act on them will be like a fool who
built his house on sand. The rain fell, the
floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted
the house. And it collapsed and was completely

Matt. 7:21-27

This is another difficult Gospel, perhaps because we're approaching the Lenten season and the Church wants to challenge us with some words that will be difficult to hear. There are plenty of times when we hear in the Bible that believing in Christ and proclaiming him Lord is how we will be saved. Still, elsewhere it is made clear that our actions are also important to that salvation. Here we could say that Christ goes even further, dismissing not only faith without works but also works without faith. We can work all we want, feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but if we don't also cultivate a love of God and a relationship with Him then it will all be for nothing.

Christians don't have the monopoly on charitable acts, in fact even atheists are often aware of the need to give to those less fortunate. Jesus says elsewhere that those who do good for those they love are no better than pagans, that even they know how to take care of their own. Society is already well aware of the "we are all neighbors" narrative, and many in the world do good works for those in need. What we must seek is the thing that sets us apart from the rest, the thing that we can have that they don't, which is love. It is easy to help others when you feel obligated, or when you get a good feeling out of it, and indeed many in the world who would never think of worshiping God have this down to a science. The truly difficult thing is to turn "help" into service, to act not because you feel obligated or because you get something out of it but rather because you couldn't imagine any other reaction to the needs of your brothers and sisters in Christ. To serve is difficult, because you can't just stop doing it when you're not "feeling" it or when you have something else you'd rather do. We are called to love all humanity, and to put the needs of others above our own. Only then can we truly act like children of our Father in Heaven, and only then will Jesus know us. Works are important, but faith is essential.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"No one can serve two masters. He will
either hate one and love the other, or be
devoted to one and despise the other. You
cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I
tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat (or drink), or about
your body, what you will wear. Is not life
more than food and the body more than
clothing? Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather
nothing into barns, yet your heavenly
Father feeds them. Are not you more
important than they? Can any of you by
worrying add a single moment to your life-
span? Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin. But I tell you
that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them. If God so
clothes the grass of the field, which
grows today and is thrown into the oven
tomorrow, will he not much more provide
for you, O you of little faith? So do not
worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or
'What are we to drink?' or 'What are we
to wear?' All these things the pagans
seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you
need them all. But seek first the kingdom
(of God) and his righteousness, and all
these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will
take care of itself. Sufficient for a day
is its own evil."
Matt. 6:24-34

This reading goes along well with the Gospel from last Sunday, in that this reading provides the method by which we can fulfill the command from the last one. If we renounce our claim to the things that literally and figuratively surround us, then we can begin to understand how to "turn the other cheek" and respond peacefully to insult and injury. We protect our possessions because we do not think that we can survive without them. We spend our money on insurance and security systems because we think that they make us safe, and yet we forget that we could be dead in the morning and our hold on our possessions would vanish with our dying breath. This isn't to say that possessions aren't useful or that we shouldn't have them, but rather that we shouldn't allow ourselves to become obsessed with them to the point where we give over our happiness to them and make them idols. This brings us back to the beginning of the reading, where Jesus says that we must choose between God and Mammon. When we focus too much on keeping what we have then we turn it into an idol and forget about our worship of God. What we must do is put our possessions into our own service while remembering that they are not important and that we can do without them. Only then will we be willing to embrace the radical peace that God leads us to without consideration of what must be left behind.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"You have heard that it was said, 'An
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
But I say to you, offer no resistance
to one who is evil. When someone strikes
you on (your) right cheek, turn the
other one to him as well. If anyone
wants to go to law with you over your
tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service
for one mile, go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you, and do
not turn your back on one who wants to
borrow. You have heard that it was said,
'You shall love your neighbor and hate
your enemy.' But I say to you, love
your enemies, and pray for those who
persecute you, that you may be children
of your heavenly Father, for he makes
his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and
the unjust. For if you love those who
love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that? Do not the
pagans do the same? So be perfect, just
s your heavenly Father is perfect."
Matthew 5:38-48

These are difficult words to hear, even more difficult to follow. Who among us can actually say that we've done these things? We are accustomed to defending ourselves against attack, and most of us would say that self-defense is justified. Still, we cannot deny that Christ seems to be pointing us in a different direction. I think that this passage points to a movement toward total dependence upon God, toward an end to concern about safety and security. People in modern society, even those who are religious, are always looking toward securing themselves and their families against loss and destruction. Think about all the different kinds of insurance that exist, all the products that we buy that are designed to protect us from threats both natural and man-made. We pray to God for blessings, and yet our lives seem designed around the idea that we're alone and can't rely on His aid in times of trouble. Perhaps it's just human nature to live like this, to rely on ourselves and on those things that we can see and touch rather than putting our hope in that which is beyond our grasp and understanding. Still, this is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do in today's Gospel reading. The only way that we can live up to this calling is through the grace of God, because we certainly won't do it on our own.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Again you have heard that it was
said to your ancestors, 'Do not
take a false oath, but make good
to the Lord all that you vow.' But
I say to you, do not swear at all;
not by heaven, for it is God's
throne; nor by the earth, for it
is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem,
for it is the city of the great
King. Do not swear by your head,
for you cannot make a single hair
white or black. Let your 'Yes' mean
'Yes,' and your 'No' mean 'No.'
Anything more is from the evil one."
Matt. 5:33-37

Our modern society is built around the idea that a person's word is not to be trusted. Everything that we do requires a signature, a password, or some other assurance that we aren't pretending to be someone we're not or trying to do something that we shouldn't. How much better would our world be if every Christian took these words from the Gospel of Matthew to heart? Certainly it could serve as an opportunity for evangelization in a world that has forgotten how to trust. We always hear from non-believers about how they love Jesus but don't believe that the faithful actually live out his message. Can we deny that there are many cases in which their accusations are well-founded, that much of the time we do indeed fail to live as followers of Christ? If we actually listened to Christ and embraced honesty in our lives, perhaps those who ignore Jesus would see him in us and find the grace to accept him.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard
on high of lamentation, of mourning, and
weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children,
and refusing to be comforted for them,
because they are not.

Jeremiah 31:15

If anybody actually reads this, I'm sorry that I haven't been posting lately. It's been a tough winter, and I really haven't had the time or the energy to think much less put my thoughts down. I decided that the thing I would start back up with would be a though about yesterday's anniversary of Roe v. Wade, especially in light of what has happened recently in my neck of the woods that has cast some light on what actually goes on at the clinics that provide abortions throughout our country.

I'm sure that people throughout the world, not just in the Philadelphia area, have been hearing about this. I remember when this guy's office was raided back at the beginning of last year, the details then weren't as clear as they are now but it was known that horrible things were going on in that clinic. Now, of course, we know all the gruesome specifics. This "doctor" is charged with killing one woman and seven children, and that's just the deaths that can be documented. God only knows how many other women and born children died because of the conditions there, not to mention how many viable unborn children were killed and whose deaths will never be remembered because of the horrible mentality that exists in this country about the value of unborn life.

This man's practice was particularly horrible because he was known to take cases where the woman was far along in her pregnancy, cases where the child may very well be born alive in the course of the abortion. Still, he is not the only so-called physician who takes such late-term cases and the conditions that exist at regular abortion clinics are no doubt just as horrible. When you deny the humanity of one child it becomes easy to then deny the humanity of all children, and then even further to deny the humanity of pregnant women and indeed of all people. As far as Gosnell seemed to be concerned, the children he murdered were just lumps of cells and the women he neglected were only worth the amount of money they put in his pockets. Closing ourselves off to compassion for one human life risks destroying our compassion for all life, and that is certainly what we have here. That this was one clinic does not mean that the abuses seen there aren't present elsewhere, certainly they are not universal but they are probably more widespread than the media will ever let us think about.

On this weekend where we remember when the U.S. Supreme Court made conditional the very right to life, perhaps we should look at this case and think about how 38 years under the shadow of abortion has made our society colder and less concerned about humanity. Perhaps we should think about how many people in our country will ignore this story, or worse yet try to justify his actions. We should definitely pray for the women who are making these decisions, that they may not be coerced into destroying their children's lives and that they will accept the grace of God to say "yes" to life both for their children and for themselves. It is 38 years later and things in our country have only gotten worse over time, we need to pray that God will steer us back on a path of peace and love that will heal the wounds that have been created and bring us back to life.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


When John heard in prison of the works of
the Messiah, he sent his disciples to him with
this question, "Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?" Jesus said to
them in reply, "Go and tell John what you hear
and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame
walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the
dead are raised, and the poor have the good
news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the
one who takes no offense at me."

Matthew 11:2-6

Sunday, December 5, 2010


But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit
of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom
and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of
strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the
LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay
shall he decide, But he shall judge the poor with
justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his
mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall
slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around
his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the
leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and
the young lion shall browse together, with a little
child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be
neighbors, together their young shall rest; the
lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall
play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his
hand on the adder's lair. There shall be no harm
or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth
shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as
water covers the sea. On that day, The root of
Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The
Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall
be glorious.

Isaiah 11:1-10