Last week we celebrated Mother’s Day. As we honored one parent lst week, Jesus honors His Father this week. In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks about how He is going to glorify God. That glorification is seen in how He suffered the injustice of crucifixion, but rose from the dead and beyond all who tried to silence Him. He spoke (and taught) something that in the 21st century…is absolutely, politically incorrect. Saying – do what I tell you and you will be assured of being correct, and you will find an eternity of happiness. He said: “I am the way the truth and the life”. Well…who does Jesus think He is? After all…is Pontius Pilate more the model of the 21st century…when – looking at Jesus…do we say: “What is truth?” In looking at what is going on in our nation at this point and all the debates about different issues, respect for life must be at the forefront. Whenever we compromise or deny the truth, the seeds of destruction and disunity are planted. We who have the treasure of faith are not obliged to convert those who are not in agreement with us…but we are challenged to speak up for the truth about human life. There is no candidate that is perfect on this issue as far as action is concerned. Some Catholic politicians at least pay lip service…while others are clearly supportive of abortion. I am not a one issue person, but when a basic issue is ignored there will never be peace in our hearts, our nation, and in our world. To look past the issue of abortion is to allow evil to continue to destroy children in the womb and scar the hearts, minds, and souls of all those involved. How could the German people stand by and allow 12 million people to perish in the concentration camps? How can we continue to stand by as almost 60 million children have been aborted since this practice was legalized on January 22, 1973? Evil has wreaked havoc for the past 43 years. How much longer will it prosper? Who will speak up? Politicians promise jobs, reform, lower taxes, refugee programs, and the defeat of ISIS and other evils. (They speak as if they are an omnipotent God.) But wherever innocent life is attacked or threatened and nothing is done, our national spirit deteriorates.
We are grateful to all veterans who have sacrificed their time and even their lives to defend who we are as Americans. Easter time energizes us to muster the courage to look at what is most important to our nation. When we glorify God by our lives as Jesus did, our national health and moral fiber are strengthened.
The Resurrection of Jesus has many aspects. One of them is rising above our fears, hesitancy, lethargy, apathy, and ignorance to live and speak the truth about human life. Life is a gift from God. You who are parents have blessed your children in the God-like way you created them and continue to love and nurture them. You are more fully alive with them than you would have been without them.
As Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the life…let us say: Thank you Father for the gift of life. Thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus. May my gratitude inspire and sustain me in doing everything I can to respect all people and to do all in my power to end abortion and everything else that harms, abuses, or threatens human life. Give me the courage and strength to live in your image each day.
Henri Nouwen said: “Prayer is the way to both the heart of God and the heart of the world.”How blessed, challenged, grateful, and humbled we are to live in God’s world.
Surveying the readings for this Sunday, the 29th Sunday of ordinary time, we come across 2 Timothy 3:15. Does that chapter and verse ring a bell? (If you are a person who takes pride in your Catholic faith you really need to have a bell ringing in your head when you hear 2 Timothy 3:15.) In fact, it should be a kind of alarm going off. After John 3:16, it is one of the most memorized verses in the Bible by those who like to engage in rigorist Bible debate (especially with folks of the Catholic persuasion). Did you figure it out yet? 2 Timothy 3:15 is: “All scripture is inspired by God and can be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy.”
Before I get to heart of it, I feel the need to praise the good Protestant Christians who like to memorize verses in the Bible. It’s a good and noble effort to keep the Word of God in one’s heart and mind and lips. This practice is the modern equivalent to the Jewish scribes’ tradition of wearing a little black box on their foreheads (a tephillin in Hebrew (or phylactery in Greek)). Most Catholics don’t memorize Bible verses much. Even most priests don’t. I’m pretty bad at citing chapter and verse as well. So, God bless those who do take their Bible so seriously that they memorize chapters and verses. The big problem comes with taking verses out of context, which can be a BIG problem.
So, what’s so important about 2 Timothy 3:15? It is very important to understand how it is often misused and how a simple test of logic can show a person why they are misusing it. For instance, it will be said, “Since the Bible says all scripture is inspired by God, and since you are saying Catholics believe the Pope is infallible, and the Bible never says the Pope is infallible, the Catholic position on the Pope’s infallibility is obviously non-scriptural, ergo untrue”. (I picked the matter of the Pope’s infallibility, but you can substitute many other specifically Catholic beliefs and you will get a similar response.)
But let us allow ourselves to be lead by human reason as well as Divine Revelation and put this type of Bible logic to the test. We must compare, “All scripture is inspired of God” with other matters of truth. For instance, I can say, “All cars are good forms of transportation” or “All McDonald’s serve great French Fries”. This is certainly true. But, what if I said: “Yes, all cars are good forms of transportation so therefore you must agree an airplane is not a good form of transportation.” Or, “Yes, all McDonald’s serve great French fries, so therefore you must agree that Wendy’s never serves good French fries.” The silliness of this kind of reasoning is obvious, right? It is obvious, unless you really despise air travel or eating at Wendy’s. But this is the logic behind the denial on the part of so many non-Catholics of many Catholic teachings. They say in effect: “Everything in the Bible is true, therefore, nothing the Pope says can be true.” Or, “Everything in the Bible is inspired by God, so therefore nothing the Pope says can be inspired by God.” Silly, No? Yes…or Yes?
This week’s parable is so familiar that it has given an expression to the English language. To say that a certain person is a “Good Samaritan” is to say that he or she helps people in need. (Here in South Dakota, some will think of senior assisted living and housing.)
The Samaritan who stopped and helped the man who had fallen in with the robbers was also, in a broader sense, a “good neighbor.” Surprisingly the bad guy was a Levite, a leader of the Jews while the good guy was “one of those people”…a foreigner! The Jews and the Samaritans mixed like oil and water. Some of the early Fathers of the Church put another spin on the story. They saw in the gentleman, who we refer to as the Good Samaritan, the image of Jesus Christ Himself. (A person Who is the very definition of an alien – moving from one world into our world.) In other words, they thought that the most unlikely person represents for us the most likely person to help. And help us God the Son certainly did. The human race had really been messed up by sin. Sin had stripped us of our dignity as human beings. It had robbed us from the grace of God the Father. It has beaten us up so badly that we were all like the victim in the parable, left half dead. The Christ lifted us up not on a donkey, but on His own shoulders. He brought us into the Catholic Church so that we could be cared for until He returns in glory on the day of resurrection. And so we know that the Lord will remain with His Church until the end of this world.
Through the ministry of the Church in Baptism Jesus heals the wounds of our sins, restores for us a life of grace, and gives us the dignity that is ours as children of God. In Confirmation God the Son strengthens that life of grace within us through the coming of God the Holy Spirit. Jesus confirms our identity as children of God and heirs of heaven. Our Lord comes to us in His Church through word and through the sacraments. He gives us the Sacred Scriptures. And He gives us His Own Body and Blood in the Eucharist as our nourishment.
Jesus proved Himself to be a good neighbor, more than just someone who lives in our proximity. He has made us part of His Mystical Body, the Church. In Him, only, can we continue in our life of grace. In this week’s second reading we see the Christ as the Head of the Body. As we continue on our journey that is this life, sin will continue to stalk us, waiting for an unguarded moment when it can attack us in our weakness. But we need never be alone in our struggle. It is important that we embrace the lesson of the responsorial psalm: “Turn to the Lord in your need and you will live.” When we turn to the Lord we will realize that He is neither too mysterious nor too remote for us. Jesus, the Christ, is more than our foreigner neighbor. He is our Good Samaritan.
The Readings this Sunday are ones of hope in the midst of difficulty. Our First Reading from Jeremiah speaks to the People of God about their life after their Babylonian exile. In the midst of all their suffering, Jeremiah offers a ray of hope. Despite their faith in God being challenged at the deepest level he foretells of God gathering His people and transforming them from their wretchedness, sickness and despair into a new creation.
In our Gospel, this transforming power of God is shown to the blind beggar Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is not going to be shut up by the crowds. They see only this annoying beggar and want to save Jesus the hassle of dealing with him. Bartimaeus shouts for all his worth so that Jesus hears him and calls him forward. The people are astounded. This man is the lowest on the pecking order of society and yet Jesus wants to speak to him! Bartimaeus has heard of Jesus and he is not going to let this moment pass, he has faith that his life can be changed by an encounter with Jesus. Jesus’ words to him are; “What do you want me to do for you?” How we would all love to hear those words addressed to ourselves by Jesus. Bartimaeus asks to be able to see. That is something we need to ask for too, not because we are physically blind but we need to be able to see the truth of our situation in life.