Monthly Archives: March 2013

Why Good Friday? Offer it Up….

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St. Padre Pio once said something that I find beautiful to the point of tears:  “The angels are jealous of us for one reason only; they are not able to suffer for God. Only through suffering can a soul say with certainty; ‘My God, You see I do love you!’”

The first reading prophesies about Jesus that “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.”  He is called “a man of suffering, accustomed to sickness.”  It continues that “we thought of him as afflicted by God and smitten.”  Jesus Christ never married.  Never had children.  That made him strange within his culture already.  He was doomed to be misunderstood and even abandoned by his friends, not to mentioned rejected, falsely accused, mocked and crucified by the very people to whom he was sent—the people that he loved the most.  The prologue to the Gospel of John eloquently brings out this tragic point:  “He came to his own, and his own did not accept him.”

 

I could go on and on, but there is no need.  Let me ask you a simple question:  Does this sound to you like a man who is blessed by God?  Does the picture I just painted sound like the favorite and only son of the Most High God, who is a tender Father?  Mocked, lonely, accustomed to infirmity, afflicted, ridiculed, and finally killed?

And yet Jesus IS the one who is most blessed and most loved.  But he appears to us today as one who is cursed and abandoned by God.  I have to admit that this bothers me a little.  Because at least on the surface, it doesn’t make much sense.  It doesn’t compute.  And yet this is our faith.  This is what happened.  We open our Sacred Scriptures and find that this is, in fact, the case.  We can either accept it or reject it.  But is there some knowledge, some inspiration, that might make it easier to accept?

Do we not accuse God sometimes of not giving us more gifts or “blessing” us more when we truly try to pray and sacrifice for him?  Maybe YOU don’t.  Let’s talk about me.  I do. 

Let’s actually consult Jesus himself concerning what it means to be blessed or happy.  What does he say about it?  Remember the beatitudes?  Blessed are the sorrowful, for they shall one day be comforted.  Blessed are the pure, for they shall see God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for theirs is the kingdom of heaven….  Jesus gives us a list of things that are incredibly difficult to do:  to be pure, just, persecuted, sorrowful…and calls them HAPPY.  BLESSED.  It seems that Jesus was giving us a “heads up” on what it means to be blessed.  When Jesus first announced to his disciples that he was going to be falsely accused and crucified, Peter pulled him aside and told him that he wasn’t thinking right.  “You are the master, the teacher, the Son of God.  You are the Blessed One.  Of course this will not happen to you.”  And Jesus rebuked him and called him, “Satan.”  And then said, “You are thinking as man thinks, not as God thinks.”  (Matt 16:23)  Who has the right to tell us what it means to be happy and blessed?  Who is the one who created the heavens and earth with a word?  I think we had better bow our necks to God and take his definitions to heart rather than make up our own.  Maybe our definition of someone who is blessed by God needs a bit of a makeover.  Jesus doesn’t look very blessed, does he?  Stop for a moment and think.  Ever felt a fairly great amount of suffering in your own heart, or observed it in another, and made the judgment that God was not blessing or that he did not care 

Look at Jesus on Good Friday and then reconsider if this is true.  The most loved son of the universe is exactly the one who is the most punished and afflicted.  Today is worth us rethinking what happiness means, what blessing means, and what suffering means.

The difference between God’s definition of someone who is blessed and man’s hinges primarily on two things:

1)   God is thinking of the long view.  He is thinking about being happy eternally with him in heaven.  We think of the world and the now, even though in comparison with heaven it is like a drop in a bucket.  The Devil offers us the following deal:  I will give you what you want now and it may make you happy for a few days, weeks or even years, but ultimately it will poison you and drag you down to my kingdom forever.  God offers THIS deal:  I ask you to give me your suffering and your service now, I will console you in your sacrifice, and then I will give you eternal happiness for all eternity after you have suffered a little while

2)   This leads us to the second major difference of how God defines happiness and how human beings do.  God views happiness as helping others.  We often view it as helping ourselves.

God takes the long view—the view that sees heaven, and the true view of love—that view that looks to the good of the other, not myself.  This is a hard view to take.  It is hard because we have to see God’s view with the eyes of the Spirit.  Our flesh nails us to this world and its pleasures.  Our flesh, our instinct, our dreams our desires demand that I get MINE and I get it NOW.  The flesh is powerful—sometimes attacking us with desires that seem like they are more than we can bear.  That’s because they ARE more than we can bear.  That is why we need a God like Jesus to help us bear them.

Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,

our sufferings that he endured,

while we thought of him as stricken,

as one smitten by God and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our offenses,

crushed for our sins;

upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,

by his stripes we were healed.

We had all gone astray like sheep,

each following his own way;

but the LORD laid upon him

the guilt of us all.

I have two grandmothers.  One of them was French, and the other one was Sicilian.  It was my Sicilian grandmother who almost ruined for me that precious Catholic phrase, “Offer it up.”  Sometimes this attitude can be abused, particularly when we are being sarcastic and basically telling somebody when we say this that life is pain and they should really shuttup about it.  There is a TREMENDOUS difference between the phrase “offer it up” and “Suck it up.”  (AND I WISH MY FATHER WERE HERE BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE HIM TO LEARN THIS PARTICULAR LESSION). 

But offering it up is what Jesus did.  God actually gave him the BLESSING of being able to take the penalty of someone else’s sins and place it on his back—and then he crushed that penalty with his suffering.  Is there anyone in this church who DOESN’T love someone so much—a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend or family member—that we would not make the prayer to God, “God, please do not hurt them.  Let the penalty fall on ME.  Let me stand between them and hell.  Let ME take your wrath.  Please God, even kill me—just don’t harm them.”  Hopefully everyone in church can say they love someone that much.  If we, in our sins, can love that much, does it not make sense that this is exactly what Jesus told God the Father about the whole human race?  And that BECAUSE Jesus did this, God highly exalted him and gave him a name above every other name?  And so that what looked awful, cursed, crushed and afflicted is actually the happiest most blessed event that has ever taken place?

And because we are baptized in Christ’s body and because we receive his body in the Eucharist, WE ARE GIVEN THE SAME POWER THAT HE WAS GIVEN TO BEAR THE PENALTY OF SOMEONE ELSE’S SINS FOR THOSE WE LOVE, AND EVEN THOSE WE HATE. 

Some theologians have called this great power, this great privilege of Christians to bear the sufferings of others for the sake of love by the name of REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING.  It is this suffering—this thing that looks like a curse but is really a blessing—that Saint Paul refers to when he writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”  (Col 1:24)  This is the real meaning of “offering it up.”  And it is this knowledge that should actually change the way that we look at the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and the view of our own suffering as well. 

Could it be possible that our sufferings are not really so bad when we look at it this way?  Could it be possible that my wounds might actually heal another, and that if we wipe away the blood and the bruises we might actually find Heaven underneath?  Have you ever been on a long hike up a mountain that was extremely difficult and been elated by the time you reached the summit?  The reason why we are so elated is because it cost us so much effort to get there.  Had there been no effort, our hearts are no so much impressed by the destination when it is finally reached.  That reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Coach Vince Lombardi when he says, “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

There is doubt that much of our suffering we create for ourselves.  We sin and then we receive the penalty of our sinfulness in our bodies.  But there is also a great deal of heartbreak that cannot be helped.  There is a difference between the crosses that we build in our own private, selfish workshop and those that the Lord chooses for us.  He helps carry the ones he gives us, and allow us to break under the ones we decide to carry on our own. 

BUT ALL OF IT CAN BE OFFERED.

No tear need be wasted.  No wound need be dealt that you can’t mark your own blood on the forehead of someone you love so that the Destroyer might pass over them.  You need suffer not a single heartbreak that you can’t ask Jesus, “Take my broken heart, please, and be pleased to use the pieces to put someone else’s back together.”  That is a prayer that because of what happened on Good Friday, NEVER goes unheard or unanswered.

May God give us the strength to make that prayer.  For those who make that prayer, everlasting glory awaits.  And that is very, very good news indeed. 

 

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A Penance Service Homily — Welcome, Traitors!

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Based on the following gospel:

READING:  John 13: 1, 21-30; 36-38—John 14:1-4

Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.  When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.  One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.”  So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?”  Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.”  So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.  Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.  Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast“; or, that he should give something to the poor.  So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.  Then he said, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.’” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.”  Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you nowI will lay down my life for you.”  Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.  Then Jesus continued, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way where I am going.”

 

None of us like to think of ourselves as a betrayer.  But in a way, aren’t we all?

We have Judas, of course.  Likely one of the greatest villians of literature and art for the past 2,000 years.  The one who sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver, and who actually pointed out Jesus to the sword-and-club wielding authorities with a kiss.  Imagine that.  A kiss.  He didn’t even have the guts to simply shout out, “There he is!  That’s Jesus!”  He was two-faced to the very end.

But that is not the only betrayer that we have in the gospel passage today.  Jesus told Peter, “Amen I say to you, the cock will not crow three times before you deny me three times.”  You could stretch it and translate this as “The cock will not crow before you BETRAY me three times.”  He may have not led to the betrayal that broke Jesus’s body, but he sure as anything broke Jesus’s heart. 

And then there were the disciples that fell asleep twice during his agony, knowing that Jesus was distraught and in prayer.  Betrayal. 

And what about the crowds of palm Sunday?  The same group who shouted “Hosanna to the son of David!” was the same crowd that screamed “Crucify Him” less than one week later.  Betrayal.

What does it really mean to betray?  In the Gospel of john, the Greek verb that is used is paradidomai.  It can mean to arrest, to betray, and perhaps more literally, to hand over.   But that is what we do when we betray a friend.  We hand over the friend and trade that friend for something else—whatever that might be.  We hand him or her over for another relationship, a selfish pleasure, an addiction, pride, laziness—choose your poison.  A betrayal is a betrayal.  We sell out a friend for something else, and if a friendship is a true friendship, it deserves to be priceless—never to be sold out, never to be betrayed, never to be handed over. 

But that is what we do to Jesus every time we sin.  We sell him out.  We hand him over so that we can hold onto something else.  The key question for a penance service is, “WHAT DO I HAND JESUS OVER FOR?”  What is that thing?  That idea?  That person?  That behavior?  That resentment?  That fear?  That drug?  What do I sell out the most priceless relationship in the universe for?  This is a very good question.  For confession, it is THE question.

But the good news is that Jesus knows that it is in our nature to betray.  He knew Judas would betray him, and predicted it.  He knew that Peter would betray him, and predicted it.  Do you know that the only essential difference between Judas, the betrayer, and Peter, the first pope of the church, is that in the end Peter came back to Jesus and reconciled with him and Judas sat in his distrust, shame and despair and ultimately killed himself? 

Do you realize that Jesus hung between two thieves—two betrayers—and the only difference is that one mocked Jesus and demanded to be saved and one of them accepted his cross and begged for mercy?  The bad thief did not deny that Jesus was the Savior.  He was just full of rage about his circumstances, and trying to wriggle out of them no matter what.  So you say that you have faith in God and believe that he is the Savior?  My response is, “SO WHAT?”  Satan believes in Jesus and knows full well who He is, and it isn’t helping him very much.  But Satan wants the plan HIS WAY.  He wants the world to be his, without the cross, without the effort, without repentance, without bending the knee.  And this is the attitude that leads to hell.

So what’s the difference?  How can I be saved?  How can I not betray?  Well, I have already indicated part of the answer.  Like Peter, we continually return to the Lord despite our betrayals.  Because we WILL fall. But there is a difference between falling ON the road and wandering OFF the road altogether.  Like the good thief, we accept the crosses of our state in life and whisper no matter how much it hurts, “Remember me, Lord, when you come into your kingdom.” 

Even St. John, the beloved disciple, the only apostle who stayed with Jesus at the foot of the cross, fell asleep when Jesus needed him in the agony in the garden.  But here is the difference—HE WAS AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS.  He didn’t understand, he was full of grief, he felt lost, but he knew that Jesus was the Savior and that he promised a kingdom.  And so he held onto that—no matter what, he held onto that and refused to let that go.  He would not betray THAT precious gift.  He would not betray it.

Do you know what I find comforting?

Despite the fact that Jesus KNEW that all his apostles would betray him in different ways, he still tells them at the end of this gospel, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled.  I am going to heaven to prepare a place for you anyway.”  Wow.  Some of the most comforting words ever spoken by Jesus—and spoken right in the middle of his best friends betraying him.  What comforting words for us, my fellow traitors.  Because if you weren’t a traitor, you wouldn’t be here this evening.  If that bothers your pride—good.  Maybe your pride needs to be bothered. 

This is a house for traitors, tax collectors, and sinners.  The sick and the lost.  A hospital.  A rehabilitation center.  The healthy do not need a doctor.  The sick do.  And thank God for that.  And that is exactly why we are here.  To thank God for that. 

For though we hand him over time and again, he will take us back.  And even if we fall asleep, he goes to prepare a place for us so that we can be where he is. 

Never tire of picking up your cross and following him.

Never tire of returning to him after every fall.

Because if you do, my friends, a kingdom awaits us where the heart is mended, and there are no tears.

So let’s all help each other there.

 

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Talk Canceled

Due to bad flu, my lecture series this evening has been canceled.  I will resume it after Easter regularly.

But at least, HABEMUS PAPAM!  God bless Francis I!

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What Does it Mean to Be Reconciled to God?

In the second reading from 2 Corinthians 5, there is one word that rises easily as its theme and key concept:  and that word is reconciliation – 5 times as a matter of fact.

 

  1. We are told that God has reconciled us to himself in Christ
  2. That God has given the apostles the ministry of reconciliation
  3. That God reconciled the world to himself in Christ
  4. Again, repeating that the ministry of reconciliation is entrusted to apostles
  5. Finally, Paul begs through Jesus Christ that we be reconciled to God.

 

Just exactly what is going on here?  What are we to make of this?  Why is this word, reconciliation so important?  What might this mean for our spiritual lives?  I think that pursuing the meaning of this word reconciliation might be a meditation worth pursuing.

 

Since the inspired text of this book is Greek, we should make certain of the Greek word that we are talking about here.  The Greek word at issue here is katalasso, which means to change, exchange or reconcile.   Kata means to draw to an exact point and alasso means “to change,” so if you put those two words together it means to take at least two separate things and bring them to the same exact point together.  We have an expression for what this roughly might mean:  “to put things on the same page.”  In ancient Greece katalasso was originally used for the exchange of coins from one kind to another.  So when applied to people, katalasso came to mean the following:  when two persons are reconciled (katalasso) they exchange enmity for friendship.  What was once apart has been brought together to the same part and harmonized. 

 

With this in mind, let us remind ourselves again what St. Paul repeats not twice, but five times:  essentially, that the whole ministry of the apostles is to reconcile (katalasso) God and man, and that the entire point of Jesus Christ’s ministry is to reconcile us and the world to God. 

 

But here is the problem:  If it is true that the whole mission of Christ is to bring together the world and God, and the whole mission of the church is to bring together the world and God, then the following is also true:  if you think that you and God are just fine with each other and you are already together, then you don’t have much of a need for Jesus or for the church, do you?

 

Let me put it a little more simply:  if you think that you and God are already reconciled, then you won’t think that you need Jesus or the church to do it for you, right?  I am reminded of a married couple that I knew not long ago.  They had been married a number of years.  They only rarely declared open warfare against one another.  They mostly lived separate lives in the same house.  They rarely held hands, or talked about deep issues, or those other thousand things that close couples often do together.  Once I suggested that they go see a counselor to RECONCILE them, and they were offended.  Why were they offended?  HOW DARE I SUGGEST THAT THEY WERE A TROUBLED COUPLE?  They seemed to think that they were doing just fine for the simple reason that they weren’t openly attacking one another.  This couple was gravely mistaken.  They were really not on the same page.  They were really NOT reconciled.  But they didn’t even know it.  But it wasn’t entirely their fault.  Why?  Because They didn’t know how close they could be.  They had forgotten what friendship and reconciliation even felt like.

 

And I wonder if this is not a parable for our entire world, our entire church.  We might not be openly fighting with God.  We might not be openly evil or wicked.  But are we really FRIENDS?  Have we forgotten what it feels like to really, truly be close to our God?  Could we be like that couple?

 

My suggestion to this couple was essentially that they had drifted so far apart that they were no capable to fix the situation on their own.  They had lost their way.  How can two people who are lost help each other find the way back home?  Maybe they’ll find it by accident, but not likely.  What they need is someone who knows the way to show them. 

 

Jesus does not only show us the way, he IS the way.  The church exists to reveal the way to entire human race.  But the world seems to be full of people who think that they are just find, and that they do not need help with being reconciled back to God.

 

Being reconciled to God is not a one-time thing, it is a constant thing.  Every day I must prostrate myself before the Lord and ask him to cover my sins, speak a good word for me to the Father, please forget my thousands of transgressions.  Every day.  There are a lot of people who seem to think that they have no sin.  Do you love the lord your god with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; do you forgive your enemies?  Do you love your neighbor as yourself, and constantly lay your life down for your friends?  Do you love everyone as Jesus loved them?  Because all of these things are commandments, not suggestions, and I for one fail miserably at them fairly regularly.  And so I need Christ and his church to reconcile me to God.

 

Have you ever read the life of a saint?  One thing that strikes me about many saints is how sinful many of them think they are.  After all, they are saints, but they will often go on and on about how miserable and wicked they are.  I finally figured out the reason for this, and I will explain it in an image. 

 

God is like the sun.  After all, one of the most common images for him is light.  Well, the closer you draw to the light, the more you can see.  I think that these saints are so close to the light that they see every speck of stain and sin on their bodies, and so they think that they are dirty.  And then most of the world, who is far from God, is covered in mud and filth but sitting in the dark—and when you are sitting in the dark, I guess you can look at yourself and say, “I AM CLEAN.”  It can be hard to draw close to God because we begin to see how stained we are.  But he will dress us in white robes if we let him.  He will make us new again.

 

My favorite line in the Parable of the prodigal son is this one:  “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”  WHILE HE WAS STILL A LONG WAY OFF.  How could the father really know that was his son from a long way off unless the Father was basically sitting on the porch WAITING for his son to come home the entire time?  And not only was he waiting, but once the Father saw even a hint of his son he covered miles of distance to run to him and embrace him.  Jesus told us this parable to give us a glimpse of the heart of the Father.  We have a Father desperately waiting for us to be reconciled to him.  Be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and the sacraments of the church.  You may not be enemies with God, but are you really friends? 

 

As the parable illustrates, the Father will wait patiently as long as it takes and spring into action to cover the distance that remains between us – but he needs to see us coming home first.

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Suffering and the Will of God, 3rd Sunday Lent Homily

In today’s gospel, Jesus himself makes an incredibly significant statement about the nature of suffering and tragedy.  Hopefully you picked up on it, but I will remind you about it. 

 

At the beginning of the gospel, a group of people come to tell Jesus about a certain group of Galileans “who blood Pilate mixed with some of their sacrifices.”  There seems to be little historical reference to the event that Luke mentions.  But from other historical evidence, this probably refers to a rebellious group of Galileans who refused to pay taxes to Caesar, and so one day when this group went to offer sacrifice in the temple, Pilate had them killed.  So St. Luke says it rather poetically, that “their blood was mixed with the blood of their sacrifices.” 

 

If an event like this happened to us; oh, let’s say something like a tornado, flood, or hurricane – some of us might start thinking that maybe God was angry with us.  Maybe somehow we deserved it, or at least somebody did.  Maybe God planned it that way.  After all, he’s supposed to be in charge of everything, right?  Well yes, but we need to be very careful how we throw those statements around.

 

Jesus says very specifically:  “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means!”

 

Jesus even gives another example.  He refers to a tower that fell on 18 people in Siloam and killed them.  He asks further, do you think that those people were more guilty than everybody else in Jerusalem.  Again, Jesus responds, absolutely not.

 

Here is the Son of God himself telling us that accidents happen.  What happens to you is not necessarily the “will of God.”  God set this world in motion with certain natural laws, and special laws when it comes to free beings like human beings and angels.  If certain beings are free, that means that they are free to mess things up as well.  A mechanic is free to botch up an engine that ends up killing someone.  A politician is free to make bad laws that hurt innocent people so that he can line his pockets.  A parent is free to ignore or abuse his or her own child and wreck his or her entire life.  A person is free to drink too much and run a family of four off the road.  We are free to do these things.  Are these things God’s fault?  Can we say that these things are God’s will?  No, we cannot.  Jesus says exactly this in the gospel today.

 

There are more wills that exist than just God.  God created billions of free wills.  That’s why it’s so important that we try to line our will up with only will that is a perfect will.

 

But what about natural disasters, you might ask?  Nobody can really cause them.  Human mistakes can’t cause them?  So maybe they are God’s will?  Again, we need to remember that Jesus says that accidents happen.  But let me try to make a point about natural disasters.  I want to remind you of something that God said in the very beginning when Adam and Eve messed everything up for the rest of us.

 

“Because you ate of the tree that I told you not to eat, cursed be the ground because of you, and you will toil on it all the days of your life.  It will bear forth thorns and thistles for you…”  (paraphrase)

 

There is an amazing thing going on in this statement.  God is actually telling Adam that because of his sin, it is going to change the very earth.  Before, the earth was perfect.  Now, it’s going to have thorns.  Working it is going to be much harder.  His work is going to make him tired.  Sin has sunk into his very body, making him weaker.  Could it be possible that natural disasters are actually a result of the sins of everybody across the world sinking into the ground and rising to the heavens, messing up the very earth?  It’s worth thinking about.  Y’all, this is far worse than the pollution that environmentalists talk about.  This is real pollution—pollution that can cause tidal waves, hurricanes, tornadoes and all sorts of other accidents that have no conscience and really don’t care what they damage.  And that is why bad things can happen to good people, and that is not necessarily “God’s will” that many of these bad things happen.  He’s given us a world to take care of and many of us have failed to do so.  And because many of us have dropped the ball, the innocent people that we could have helped suffer. 

 

But let’s get back to the gospel.  Jesus makes a point about suffering that is related directly to what we do and what God’s will is for us:  he says TWICE, “You can be sure that if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did.”  In other words, bad things may happen to us and it may or may not be our fault or God’s fault, but we can be absolutely certain that if we do not turn from our evil way back to God, DISASTER WILL OCCUR.  The ultimate disaster, of course, is actually losing our souls.  Jesus is not just making a threat.  He is telling us that we can be CERTAIN that this will happen unless we take repentence seriously.

 

Jesus connects this point directly with the parable about the fig tree.  There is a landowner who goes to the fig tree for three years looking for fruit but finds none, and wants to cut it down.  The gardener begs the landowner to allow him to cultivate it one more year and if the landowner finds no fruit on it, then he can cut it down.  The landowner is the father.  The gardener is Jesus.  How do we know that?  Recall that when Mary Magdalene sees Jesus in the garden after the Ressurection, who does she mistake him as?  The gardener.  And Jesus also tells us that he prunes any branches that do not bear fruit.  Who prunes branches.  A gardender.

 

And what fruit must we bear?  Galatians says, “”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

 

The fruit that we are supposed to do is ultimately anything that we do while connected to the vine, which is Jesus himself.  Christian life can be hard.  It can be full of accidents, suffering, and the difficulty of repentance.  But this is how try to grow our little Eden in a fallen world.  Haven’t you ever tried to garden?  Do you know what happens to a garden when it is left to itself without cultivation?—it turns into a wildnerness or a jungle.  THE NATURAL STATE OF OUR SOULS IS ONE OF CHAOS AND JUNGLE WITHOUT DAILY CULTIVATION OF THE GARDEN OF OUR SOULS.    

 

Who knows what sort of fruit we are supposed to bear?  But how connected to the vine are we?  How are our Lenten observances?  What does our daily prayer life look like?  How do we treat our brothers and sisters?  Do I attend mass at least once a week and go to confession when I need to?  This is to be connected to the vine; and as for the fruit – well, that’s supposed to be a surprise between you and God.  And Aren’t you ready for a surprise?  I know I am…. 

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