Listening to your Inner Voice

15th Sunday in O.T. (C); July 14, 2019

Dt 30:10-14   Ps 69 Col 1:15-20       Lk 10:25-37

Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison

            In nature the laws of physics apply everywhere—there’s no escaping them. Take the Law of Gravity. What would happen if you denied the reality of this Law? Say, you jumped out of an airplane without a parachute and you’re pummeling to Earth and you say, “Hey, there’s no gravity here at 10,000 feet (or 5,000 feet and so on” But, then you splat against the ground. You were wrong: there is a Law of Gravity, which applies to all situations and times here on Earth; there are no exceptions.

Just as there are physical laws of nature, there are also moral laws, which are also universal and inescapable. This moral law is readily shown in the way we talk. We say things like, “That’s not fair.! That not the way things ought to be.” Or, “You promised and you ought to keep your promise.” Or, “Stop bulling him; he’s not bothering anyone.” We talk that way because there is an objective moral standard that we share in common with our fellow human beings.

If, on the other hand, we assume that life was like that Guns ‘n Roses song, Welcome to the Jungle, where we all had different competing desires, we’d fight each other to get our way, but we wouldn’t say we’d be quarreling over what’s right or wrong.   Think of animals fighting over a fallen prey. We’d say they are fighting, but we wouldn’t say they were arguing over their prey.

Human beings, to be sure, fight with one another—sometimes in harsh, brutal fashion. We see that inside and outside these walls. The inhumanity we can do to one another seems to be without bounds. But, unlike animals, we just don’t fight, we quarrel. You see, ‘quarreling’ presupposes you’re arguing over some objective standards. For example, we can watch a baseball game and we can argue over an umpire’s call. We wouldn’t do that unless we knew the standards of baseball. If you’re arguing over balls and strikes, that presupposes you know that there is a strike zone and you know the rules of the game. What you’re arguing about is whether that particular pitch was a ball or a strike.

So, when we say that someone is being unfair, that presupposes that there is some standard of what fairness is. We may argue whether this particular instance was fair or not, we may offer justifications for our behavior, but were assuming that there is some standard of right and wrong that isn’t being adhered to.

O.K. , just as there are universal and inescapable laws of physics, there is a moral dimension that is natural according to who we are as human beings. There are moral laws that are universal and objective, which isn’t the same as my subjective desires.

If the moral law was just subjective and culturally conditioned and therefore morally relative, I’d insist on it, but I wouldn’t argue over it. If I prefer the Giants and you like the Dodgers, it all comes down to personal preference-and, the latter is arbitrary when push comes to shove.

But, the moral law isn’t a matter of personal preference because it is objective—it’s the natural way of how relationships ought to be—and its universal—it applies to ALL people regardless of circumstances.

So, the question that arises is where does this moral law come from? The best explanation is that there is a personal, intelligent Law-giver. The moral law is objective and universal because it doesn’t come from us, but, in a word, comes from God.

One of the great Doctors of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas spoke of the natural law. Aquinas said that natural law is a reflection of the Eternal Law, which is the mind of God. Our sense of moral obligation is the inner voice of God, echoing within us.

            Think of the implication of this truth. When you do the right thing, you are moving and living in God—you are thinking and acting according to God’s inner voice that dwells within you. The fruit of this righteousness is peace of mind. Doing what’s right aligns you in right relationship with God, others, and, indeed, Creation. Is there any better place to be?

St. John Henry Newman, writing in the 19th century explained our awareness of the moral law from a Christ-centered perspective.   He said that our conscience is “the aboriginal vicar of Christ.” I know that’s quite a mouthful, but as we break it down, we’ll see that it is a profound truth.

‘Aboriginal’ refers to the first, earliest, primordial sources. Think of the Aborigines that preceded the English in Australia. The ‘vicar of Christ’ means the representative of Christ (the vicar) is our conscience, which connects us to the moral law. When we pay attention to our conscience and strive to do what is right, that is the divine voice stirring within us, urging us to do what is right, critiquing us when we go off line, and rewarding us with peace of mind and delight that comes with doing God’s will.

Brothers, when we follow our conscience, we’re recognizing something real and objective, just like the Law of Gravity. When we are in touch with our conscience, which is our awareness of the moral law, we know that we are in the presence of Someone who is talking to us here and now. We know when we make moral decisions, we are doing so in the presence of Someone who is urging us on and who is disapproving in the wrong decisions we make.

All of this traipsing through this moral landscape helps us to understand our first reading, which is taken from the book of Deuteronomy. Moses, the great Law-giver, says to the people, “if only you heed the voice of the Lord, your God and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in the book of the law” (Dt 30:10c). He goes on to specify that “this command which I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you.   It is not up in the sky, that you should say, ‘Who will go up in the sky to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may carry it out (vs. 11-12). Then we hear, “No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you only have to carry it out” (v. 14).

Someone may say we don’t hear the voice of God anymore .   Nonsense! The voice of God is not up in the sky or across the sea that I have go looking for it. The voice of God is within us. What is that voice? It’s the voice of conscience. It’s the keen awareness of the moral law. It’s the voice of Someone who is commanding us, urging to be good. Conscience, the voice of God, the moral law—that’s what today’s reading from Deuteronomy is about.

What is this reading telling us? It couldn’t be simpler, brothers.

 

  • LISTEN TO IT!
  • ABIDE BY IT!
  • ATTEND TO IT!

 

Hear the Word of God. It is closer to you than you are to yourself. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Joyful Missionaries

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time; 7-7-2019

Is 66:10-14   Ps 66   Gal 6:14-18      Lk 10:1-12, 17-20

Deacon Jim McFadden

 

Brothers and sisters, a quick question: how many of you are missionary disciples? Hmmm, another question: how many of you are baptized. O.K., if you’re baptized, you’re meant to be a missionary disciple. Why?

By virtue of your baptism, you have been initiated into the Body of Christ and the People of God.   As St. Thomas Aquinas said, whoever receives Baptism, is incorporated into Christ; you are an ingredient of the loving organism of the Church, the Body of Christ. And, in so doing, you become a member of the People of God—we’re all in this together. And, together we are People on a journey.

And, what’s the journey about? To be missionary disciples! As we look at today’s Gospel, Jesus is not a Lone Ranger—he is not a lone missionary. To be sure, Jesus was anointed for a Mission, which was to bring salvation to the world and proclaim the Good News. Though Jesus is no longer with us physically, he is really present within his Church and sacramentally, especially the Eucharist. So, it is not as though the Church has a Mission, but the Mission of Christ has a Church. And, who is the Church? YOU!—you are a member of the Body of Christ and you share in Jesus’ mission, which is to proclaim a message of salvation for everyone. This task is not restricted to those who go afar, but, we too, are called to express the good and hopeful word of salvation, which the world so desperately needs to hear.

So, Jesus gathers around himself 12 Apostles. And, in addition he calls another 72, and sends them to the villages, two by two, to proclaim that “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Lk 10:9). Why? Because God has come “near to us” through Jesus; God became one of us; in Jesus God reigns in our very midst! He is present here and now and his merciful love overcomes the dysfunction, injustice, and misery of our world.

People of God, Jesus never intended to act alone. He came to bring the Love of God into the world and he wants to spread this way of living of communion and fellowship in the style of brotherhood. But, he needs help! That’s why he formed a community of disciples, which is a missionary community to proclaim and live the Good News.

But, we need to be on task. The purpose of being a Christian is not to socialize, it’s not to create a religious security blanket to protect us from the world. No, we have been anointed Priest, Prophet, and King to proclaim the Good News into a world that is becoming increasingly problematic and hostile to our Catholic faith.  Jesus minces no words about this! Our Lord says, “I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves” (v. 3) This is very clear and it’s no coincidence that the last Beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Mt 5:10).    Hostility towards Faith is always the precursor to persecution of Christians. It happened during the Roman Empire and its happening today as there have been more martyrs to our Faith in the last century than what preceded. Jesus gives us the heads-up because he knows that his Mission will always be resisted by the work of evil.

For this reason we can’t be attached to our comfort and security systems. We don’t have the option of thinking, “You know, it’s really not convenient for me to be a missionary disciple. I’ve got other priorities—forging a career, raising a family, planning for retirement, etc.   Let someone else do it.” How would Jesus address this excuse-making? He wouldn’t coddle it; indeed, he says “carry neither purse nor bag nor sandals” (cf. v. 4) for the missionary journey.

Well, if I can’t rely on “my purse, bag, or sandal, what can I rely on? As members of Jesus’ mystical Body, we place our reliance solely on the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ. That means I abandon every motive of personal advantage—what’s in it for me? If I do this for Jesus, what am I going to get out of it? It means that my career is secondary to my Baptismal commitment. To be sure I need to work in order to live, but I don’t live in order to work. I live to do the will of our heavenly Father and his will is crystal clear: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Lk 9:35). That means that my life is no longer about me, but is about Jesus. He is in control of my life, which means I have to let go of the hunger for worldly power. Instead, I humbly make myself an instrument of the salvation carried out by Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.

People of God, A Christian’s mission is a wonderful, grace-filled calling, which is intended for everyone. As prefaced earlier, if you’re baptized, you’re called to be a missionary disciple. It’s a mission of service in which no one is excluded. It requires a great deal of gratitude and generosity on our part and can only be realized if we keep our gaze on Jesus and invoke his help of mercy and sanctifying grace.

What’s the fruit of being a missionary disciple? When the disciples, sent out by Jesus, they “returned with joy” (v. 17). When we carry out Jesus’ Mission, when we strive to do the Father’s will, our hearts will be filled with joy because we will be intentionally dwelling within God’s very Being—we will be sharing in his divine life. How can that not bring us joy! And, with grateful hearts, why wouldn’t we want to share this Good News with others so that they, too, may experience God’s consolation, his tender mercy, his unconditional love?

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit, once said that “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” This is the key if our Mission is going to be fruitful: to feel God’s consolation and to pass it on to others!   Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to be a witness that Jesus is Risen! Do not be afraid because he is the Lord of consolation, he is the Lord of tenderness. And, Jesus walks with you! Jesus is within you! Jesus is among us! And, his presence must energize us to act to “Comfort, comfort my people” (Is 40:1). And, this is what a missionary disciple does.   We must share a genuine “I-and-Thou” relationship with Jesus, who consoles us and then we go to console others. This is the Mission of the Church. Yes, people need to hear these words, but most of all they need to see you bearing witness, of “walking the talk.”   They need us to bear witness to the mercy and tenderness of the Lord Jesus, which warms the heart, rekindles hope, and attracts people towards what is Good.   What a joy to bring God’s consolation to others! Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sacrament that Feeds Us

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Cycle C; June 23, 2019

Gen 14:18-20   Ps 110   1 Cor 11:23-26   Lk 9:11-17

Deacon Jim McFadden

 

During the Easter season, a major concern in the Sunday Scripture readings was how the movement begun by Jesus of Nazareth would continue after his death, resurrection, and ascension. Since he is no longer with us physically, how can our relationship be sustained? These readings show that we can have an ongoing personal relationship with the Risen Christ that is intimate, mutual, unitive, and life-giving. From that relationship flows the possibilities of knowing and loving God and one another in new and more profound ways. Being in relationship with Jesus, we will become Kingdom people. We will listen to and cooperate with the movement of the Holy Spirit. We will radiate the peace of Jesus. We will work for fellowship and solidarity within the Church and the human family.

A major and indispensable element of this process is the Eucharist, which is the outward sign of the ongoing presence of God and the Risen Christ among us. The Eucharist is THE sacrament of ongoing Christian life. That’s why the conciliar fathers of Vatican II taught us that the Eucharist is the “Source and summit of the Church life” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 10). The liturgy of the Word and Eucharist is where we are renewed in our faith in the triune God, which empowers us to live out our evangelical duty to spread the Good News and to baptize all nations. In the Eucharist, we participate in God’s love in a very intimate way as a community, which spurs us to share this love with others. The Eucharist draws the People of God “into the compelling love of Christ” (SC 10), which sets us on fire with this Trinitarian love. So, it is good and appropriate that Holy Mother the Church brings us back to reflect upon this inexhaustible mystery because the Eucharist is Christ who is Really Present. The Church comes from the Eucharist; so, we’re being wise when we yearly reflect on this sacrament of ongoing Christian life.

The Scripture readings for Corpus Christi reminds us what Jesus did at the Last Supper had a rich history that would shape an ongoing Christian life. The reading from Genesis 14 recalls the earliest history of God’s people. Abraham, the Father of our Faith, is met by an intriguing and mysterious figure, Melchizedek after a military victory. He is described as the King of Salem and priest of God most high.

There’s a lot packed into that brief description. In Hebrew ‘Melchizedek’ means ‘king of righteousness.’ ‘Mel(e)k’ is king and ‘sedek’ is justice. So, he is a just king, a righteous king. But, more than that, he’s the king of Salem, which is the derivative of ‘shalom’ or peace. Salem was also seen as the forerunner of Jerusalem—the city of peace. So, this figure is the righteous king of peace, who’s also the ruler of Jerusalem, the religious epicenter of Judaism.

Furthermore, we learn that he is a priest of God, which means he performs sacrifice, which is what priests do. And, this particular sacrifice he makes involves bread and wine. ….Hmmm, does this sound like anybody we know? A righteous king, the ruler of Jerusalem, the Prince of Peace, a priest performing a sacrifice involving bread and wine. That’s why the Church has found Melchizedek so intriguing because he is prefiguring the Eucharist.

Let’s turn to the other two readings. The reading from first Corinthians provides the earliest description of Jesus’ Last Supper and the Church’s liturgical celebration. We hear “that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way also the cup, after supper saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:23b-25).

What is Jesus actually doing the night before he died? He just didn’t gather his friends for a final meal. He did that, but Paul is telling us that that Jesus performed a priestly sacrifice and he did it using the same elements that Melchizedek used: bread and wine.

The institution of the Eucharist carries on the Passover, which took place within the context of the Exodus Experience: the movement from oppression to liberation. Similarly, Jesus’ death and resurrection is a movement from the oppression of sin and death to the freedom of eternal life. When Jesus says, “This is my blood” the sacrificial language is very clear. As priest and righteous king, Jesus is presenting himself as the true and definitive sacrifice. The Old Testament rites were never fully complete, so they had to engage regularly in purification rituals for the forgiveness of sins, but when Jesus’ Blood is “poured out for many,” the sacrifice is definitive: through his death the prophesy of the new and eternal covenant is fulfilled and complete.

When we participate in the Eucharist we are not ritually reenacting the Last Supper at Mass for our purification. Jesus did that; we are redeemed! Amen! We participate in the same sacrifice and receive the benefits of his unconditioned love and self-giving so that we can become givers of self and love unconditionally.

            Now, let’s take a quick glance of Luke’s gospel, which is his version of the feeding of 5,000. The way Luke tells the story links Jesus’ actions with the Last Supper and the early Church’s celebration of the Eucharist. Notice the role the Apostles have in this story. They are the ones through whom the crowd experience the life-giving bounty of Jesus. They distributed the food and, most likely collected what was left over into twelve baskets. I think what Luke was showing us is that Jesus provides for his people through the agency of the Church. There is an affirming adage from the Patristic era (2nd—5th centuries): “The Church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the Church.” Luke’s account and this patristic insight further suggests the intimate and reciprocal relationship between the Eucharist body of the Lord and his ecclesial body.

St. Leo the Great recalled that “our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ aspires to nothing other than to become what we receive” (Sermo 12, De Passione 3,7, PL 54). Brothers and sisters, we must become the Eucharist if we are going to

follow Jesus!

Every day, may we draw from the Body and Blood of our Lord—that free, pure love which makes us worthy disciples of Christ and witnesses to the joy of his resurrection. That is why the Eucharist is the Sacrament of ongoing Christian life! Amen.