Saturday, August 29, 2015

Be Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only, For One Who Does Justice Will Live in the Presence of the Lord.

Reflection upon the Scripture readings for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Be doers of the word
and not hearers only,
for one who does justice
will live in the presence of the Lord.

Today's Psalm is worth pondering in full.

Psalm 15:

Lord, who shall be admitted to your tent
and dwell on your holy mountain?

2 He who walks without fault;
he who acts with justice
and speaks the truth from his heart;
3 he who does not slander with his tongue;

He who does no wrong to his brother,
who casts no slur on his neighbor,
4 who holds the godless in disdain,
but honors those who fear the Lord;

he who keeps his pledge, come what may;
5 who takes no interest on a loan
and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a man will stand firm forever.

Here we see that if we truly dwell with God, we will be changed and will be holy as Christ is Holy.

Be doers of the word
and not hearers only,
for one who does justice
will live in the presence of the Lord.

The Second Reading from James is clear: "He willed to give us

birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits

of his creatures. Humbly welcome the word that has been

planted in you and is able to save your souls. Be doers of the

Word and not hearers only."  

(Jas 1:17-27)

Be doers of the word
and not hearers only,
for one who does justice
will live in the presence of the Lord.

This shows that the grace of God comes to dwell within us, not simply to hover above us, or make us "appear" righteous, but truly transforms us, refashioning us into the image of Jesus Christ.

Be doers of the word
and not hearers only,
for one who does justice
will live in the presence of the Lord.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the
Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their
affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world."

(Jas 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27)

This is an important line as well.

TOO MANY well-meaning Christians claim that they are NOT religious, but only spiritual.

Well, religion is mentioned in scripture here and it is a
good thing, especially in how we treat the most vulnerable.

How orphaned can one be when he or she is unwanted in the womb of his or her own mother?!

The same goes for widows and widowers, the elderly, and indeed all persons.

Be doers of the word
and not hearers only,
for one who does justice
will live in the presence of the Lord.

Finally, the Gospel of Mark shows that "Nothing that
enters one from outside can defile that person; but the
things that come out from within are what defile."

Mark 7:1-23

In other words, it is not the outward appearance that
transforms the person, but rather the inward conversion,
the inner transformation, propelled by the Grace of God,
the Love of Christ, and the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Be doers of the word
and not hearers only,
for one who does justice
will live in the presence of the Lord.

Deacon John William McMullen
29 August 2015

* I welcome comments.

If you use my material in your own homilies or other writings or blogs, kindly reference my work.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Lord, to whom else shall we go?

Twenty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B    23 August 2015

Here are the Scripture readings for the day
Twenty-First Sunday readings Year B

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother
and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh….”

It would seem that these are some of the oldest words of wisdom in all of human literature. Who among us has not been affected by a son or daughter or sibling leaving the homestead and moving on to start a new life in marriage?

And yes, there will be sorrow when either we choose to follow the Lord where he calls or those we love choose to follow the Lord where he calls them:

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
those whose spirit is crushed He will save.”

This leaving forth will require us to say to those around us: “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” It is countercultural to follow the Lord.

And, yes, it is countercultural and sometimes even counter intuitive to follow the Lord into the depths of marriage, even the difficult days of desperation and heartache. Yet St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is clear:  Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ…. …So also husbands should love their wives as their own bodies…..

This teaching of Christ, dying to self, is particularly felt and experienced in marriage. Even Paul himself refers to it as a mystery, indeed as the mystery of our faith, the dying to self as the two become one flesh. Let’s face it: marriage is hard work, and so is parenting. It is so often a series of dyings and risings.

Paul said “this is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.”

In our world today, with the tragedy of Tinder, Ashley Madison, hook-up culture, and rampant pornography, is it any wonder why marriage is so threatened? (* see links below)

St. Paul’s teaching on the holiness of Matrimony in his day was as countercultural as it is today.

And Jesus’ teaching today on the necessity of receiving his Body and Blood is just difficult, as is evidenced by the crowd’s response:  “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”

Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this,
he said to them, “Does this shock you?”….

Jesus words in today’s gospel challenge and shock us today just as they did his first century hearers.

In our times, too many people have compromised on the meaning of both Holy Matrimony and the Holy Eucharist.

For too many “Christians” marriage can mean whatever we decide it means, such as a symbol of a union between two persons, but one than can easily be dissolved, and one where children are considered either an option or simply one more consumer good among others.

And as for the Eucharist, many Catholics no longer believe that the Bread and wine are transformed into the very Body and Blood our Christ, but is merely a symbol, a nice token of a bygone era.

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. 
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day. 
For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him” (John 6:53-56).

By the way, Jesus did not change the meaning of his words on the Eucharist. He did not say, “Come back, I was speaking symbolically.” He asked "Does this shock you?"

As a result of Jesus’ teaching [on the Eucharist], many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” 

Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

When Christ asks each of us today:
“Does this shock you?
Do you also want to leave?” 
How will we respond?

[see the hook-up culture  tinder-hook-up-culture-end-of-dating  and
Russell Brand (yes) on the destructiveness of pornography Russell Brand on the effects of Pornography (short version)   or the longer version: *caution, scenes from Fifty Shades of Grey, longer version ]
Amazingly, both Vanity Fair and Russell Brand are truly insightful on their critique of contemporary culture. Fascinating.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Is God Real?

God is real.

What does that mean? " Him we live and move and have our being," the Greek poet Aratus wrote. 

Aristotle pointed out that since all things are alive and in motion, then there had to be a first source of life and a first mover, the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause. Though there were many Greek gods, Aristotle argued that there has to truly only be one prime mover who is unmoved, who is the the source of all motion and life. Nothing can bring itself into being; all things are contingent. 

Therefore, there had to be Something before all other things came into existence. The Big Bang theory would indicate that at one time (for the lack of a phrase) there was no time, yet from the moment when everything came into being, that is the beginning of time. Granted, this is a deistic stance that admits of God, but not necessarily that God (or the gods) care anything for the human race, or any of the created order. That would have to be revealed by this unknown God, the great unmoved mover. So much for Athens.

Meanwhile, in the land of Canaan about 1925 BCE there was a man named Abraham who believed there could only be one God. His story and the story of his ancestors reveal that this One God began to reveal Himself to their people. For the People of Israel, this God was very real for He continued to save them and care for them. One of the poets of Israel wrote: "O Lord... it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother's knew my soul, my body held no secret from you when I was being fashioned in secret and molded in the depths..." (Psalm 139.13-16) and elsewhere: "O Lord, when I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? (Psalm 8.4-5) [to be continued...]