Jesus: A Cause for Division

20th Sunday in O.T. (C); August 18, 2013

Jer 38:4-6,8-10     Ps 40     Heb 12:1-4     Lk 12:49-53

Deacon Jim McFadden; Folsom Prison

 

            In today’s first reading Jeremiah is in the middle of a national crisis, political power plays, and civic turmoil.  Jeremiah, speaking in God’s name, advocates that the people surrender to the their enemy, the Chaldeans.  The effect on the political leaders and the military was devastating.  Jeremiah’s behavior was seen as an act of treason punishable by death.  The princes seized Jeremiah and threw him into a cistern to die from starvation.  Jeremiah was compelled to speak in God’s name and the people didn’t like it.  He paid the price.

Why did the people not listen to Jeremiah?  Why did they prefer to believe in their political leaders instead?  Many years ago in his Slow Train Coming album, Bob Dylan put it this way: “It may  be the Devil or it may the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  We don’t like our Devils, our God-substitutes exposed and renounced.  We get anxious, fearful, protective, and angry.  We get very defensive so we seek comfort from those who tell us what we want to hear or seek safety from those who appeal to our fear and insecurities.

But, we are called to surrender our “whole heart, our whole soul, and whole strength” to the Lord (cf. Deut 6:4).  To believe in Jesus—to accept that he is in every way ultimate, that he is the last word, that he is God’s word, that his Spirit is God’s Spirit, is to make him the center of our existence.  Because Jesus is the Christ, he has the authority to call and to demand surrender of our heart, mind, and soul to him.  If we do so, we’ll find our truest self.  If we give ourselves to a false god, we’ll lose ourselves—we’ll never be happy.  Jesus wants us to go beyond comfortable, safe, diluted Christianity to robust obedience to  his word.  Consequently, Jesus is the source of division because he is dragging us kicking and screaming out  of our complacency and security into a life of faith, which involves trust and a willingness to venture into unknown lands.  In so doing we leave behind our protective comfort and security systems.  That’s why Jesus is the source of division because he challenges us to make an “either-or” choice.

Brothers, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Nothing else ultimately matters because Jesus  is the Way to our destiny; he is the truth of who God is and who we are; he is Life itself.  He alone ultimately matters.  Are we ready for that kind of commitment?  Are we willing to go beyond comfortable religion, where we remain the center of our lives in which we’re in control.

If we’re not, we’re simply living “cheap grace.”  Christianity without the willing surrender to the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship.  And, Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.  If we relegate Jesus and what he stands for to second place—if we put our group ahead of him, then we have already denied him and for what he stands.

People of God at Folsom Prison, if we are not genuinely committed to Jesus, then we are already paying the price for being lukewarm.  It is very difficult to be true to ourselves, if we disregard our deepest convictions and ignore the promptings of Christ through the Holy Spirit.  As our brethren at AA and NA have long ago recognized, we are not in control of our life.  Rather, we are carried along by life, and so we must make friends with its mystery, which is grounded in the One Who is God among us.

Fidelity to Jesus will exact a dear price; we’ll have to let go of those false idols that we think will give us security and happiness.  But such surrender is the only way open to us if we are to be true ourselves and to God.  Living the Gospel doesn’t create a life of pain and suffering, but fills our life with a sense of hope, reassurance that we are deeply loved, and confidence that we will realize our destiny in Christ Jesus.

Yes, the prophets spoke of God’s wrath and anger if the people didn’t honor their covenant with him, but they also spoke of faithfulness and his unconditioned love.  Brothers, Jesus is taking that relationship to another level.  We are called to be Christ-centered from which all good things will flow.  Jesus is calling us to discipleship.  What is our response?

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Christian Life is about Following Jesus!

Solemnity of the Assumption/Welcome School Mass

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a,10ab    Ps 45      1Cor 15:20-27      Lk 1:39-56

Deacon Jim McFadden; St. Francis High School

 

            How appropriate that our Welcome School Mass occurs on the wonderful  celebration of the Assumption, which honors the Blessed Virgin Mary’s role in salvation history.  In Mary’s Assumption into heaven, body and soul, we contemplate what we ourselves are meant to attain:  namely, if we follow Christ the Lord, at the end of our earthly journey, we will participate fully in God’s love for eternity.  Think about it:  The love and life we participate here and now, will endure forever!

What happens to Mary is meant to happen to us: we are destined to be at-one with God in the fullness of our humanity: body and soul just like Jesus and Mary.  How did Blessed Mary realize her destiny? –her life, like every Christian, is a journey of following Someone who calls us by name and who loves us unconditionally;  it’s a journey that has a very precise destination: we come from God and we’re meant to return to God!  We are meant to join the  Communion of Saints in heaven as we become transformed into the wonder of God.   And, this future is already mapped out:  Jesus is the Way home and he has overcome the obstacles of sin and death  through his Death and Resurrection, which means full communion with God is a reality—we just have to claim it for ourselves.

Can you imagine the welcome Blessed Mary must have received when she was assumed into Heaven?  All the Choirs of Angels, all the Communion of Saints,  and, most importantly,  her beloved Son and His Father and Holy Spirit greeted Mary with joy because it was through her that God burst into the world by becoming Man.   And, that is what the Welcome Back Mass is about: we are welcoming each other back to the unique St. Francis community; moreover, we are welcoming our incoming Freshmen so that they may join us in this communal journey.

And, what is our journey about, Troubies?—it’s the same as Mary’s journey:  the reason this school exists is that it is a community where disciples are being called and saints are being formed.  Again, our Christian life is a journey of following Jesus Christ and we do it together.

Frosh, class of 2017, you are about to embark on a journey of formation in which you will have the opportunity to come to know Jesus as a friend.  As St. Ireneaus once said, the “glory of God is a human being fully alive.”  The way to become fully human is to follow Jesus, to become his disciple, and to love him and his Father and the Holy Spirit with your whole heart and soul.  If you say “yes” to this formation process, you’ll become truly happy and joyful.

What will your formation look like?  It has four components:  a spiritual life, an academic life, a life of service, and a life of community.

The foundation of our life at St. Francis is FAITH.  It starts with your personal prayer life in which you go into the Quiet and converse with God daily.  Jesus loves you and he wants to get to know you.  For that to happen you have to show up.  Your personal prayer will be complemented with the liturgical life of our school, retreats, and theology classes.

In your  educational life— which includes academics, Fine Arts, and sports—you will be challenged to pursue EXCELLENCE with focus, determination, and zeal.  You will be mentored by incredibly talented teachers, coaches, administrators, and staff—all of whom are professionally orientated to serve you.  You are blessed  with gifts and talents and if you use them to the best of your ability, you will bear fruit wonderful to behold.  We’re not talking about GPA, section titles, or getting into your dream college: we are challenging you to make holy your life as a Troubie to give glory to God.  That’s a life worth living!  That’s why we want you to excel.

By virtue of your baptism, you have been initiated into the Body of Christ, which means you live as Jesus lives.  How does he live?  He serves others; he gives his life away.  You’re called to do the same. Christian Service is not volunteerism.  If you know who you truly are—namely, someone made in the image of God who is God’s beloved daughter—you will serve others as an occasion to encounter Christ Jesus in the poor and marginalized.  If you love and serve the poor, you’ll realize your destiny which Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25.

Finally, your formation occurs within the context of a Christ-centered faith community.    At St. Francis High School,   you will cultivate friendships and sisterhood that will endure.  Your Troubie companions are your sisters in faith; treat them with love and respect.  While you can’t be friends with everyone,  you can be a sister to everyone.  Be a sister of love, compassion, and justice who stands for something: like our Blessed Mother, your life is a journey of following Jesus Christ!