Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday Sermon

The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

I had a dream in which I died and waited at the Pearly Gates for admission into heaven. Another
man waited with me. Suddenly St. Peter appeared and said, “We’ve got room for only one
more. Which one of you is more humble?”

The rules of etiquette are everywhere. As an example, that's why Jay Leno, ever the model of
decorum, has offered some tips of his own for those who plan, or attend, weddings:

Politely waiting in the receiving line for 10 minutes to kiss the bride ... Good Etiquette. Kissing
the bride for 10 minutes ... Bad Etiquette. The guests place their gifts by the sign reading "Gift
Table" ... Good Etiquette. The groom places the gifts by the sign reading "Yard Sale" ... Bad
Etiquette. The bride and the groom thank Uncle Harold for his check ... Good Etiquette. They
ask Uncle Harold for two forms of ID before accepting the check ...Bad Etiquette. The bride
comes down the aisle to the organist playing "Here Comes the Bride" ... Good Etiquette. The
bride comes down the aisle to the organist playing "Lola" by the Kinks ... Bad Etiquette.

But wedding etiquette isn't the half of it. Codes of conduct exist for funerals, dinners,
receptions, cell phone use, online behavior, driving and golf ... to name just a few. Lots of
etiquette answers just make sense. For instance, who exits an elevator first? Usually the person
closest to the doors. At a funeral, you don't lean your back up against the casket, or loudly
say, "Gee, he looks better than he has in weeks."

This focus on etiquette comes to mind because in the text, at first glance, it appears that Jesus
has good manners on his mind. It would seem that Jesus is “Mr. Manners”, a masculine version
of Dear Abbey and Martha Stewart. We see him here giving seating instructions at a dinner
party. His advice helps the guests not only to avoid humiliation, but to practice humility, and in
the process, snatch some honor for themselves.

First, sit at the lowest place (farthest from the host table), he recommends, so that you
might be exalted and honored - rather than seeking the highest place and risk being moved
for someone more important. This might be read as "Don't honor yourself more than others
do" or "Let the host shower you with public admiration by leading you to a better seat."

Jesus summarizes his etiquette advice in this way, "All who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted". It's the overstuffed ego, the too-big-for-
the-britches self-image, the "I am better, I deserve it," the this-is-mine-and-I-am-going-to-take-
it attitude that rubs “Mr. Manners” the wrong way.

Remember where he is, and who he's with, when he comments. Jesus is in a crowd of

Pharisees, of good, upstanding, religious men, of saintly holy folks who jostle and elbow their
way, figuratively maybe, to the highest place possible, so that they might look good in the eyes
of men, and in their own eyes too. They do more than aspire to a seat of honor; they seize it
- because it is a place of respect, a place of power, a spot from where one makes judgments
of others, and of one's self. But if one can't correctly judge one's own place in the order of the
world, how can one be expected to properly judge others?

From Jesus' point of view, what we think about others matters less than what God thinks of us.
Further, how we think of ourselves influences how God sees us, but often in reverse. If we see
ourselves as high and mighty, God sees us as shadowy, lowly. If we see ourselves as humble
persons, chances are God's impression of us is still much the same. Humility is an elusive virtue;
it cannot be manufactured or faked. Rather, it emerges from the crucible of character. Humility
is naively unaware; the moment the robe of humility becomes self-conscious, the sash loosens,
revealing nothing but naked pride.

Jesus' advice is actually more practical: You want to be honored? This is how to do it. There
are certain behaviors, he notes, that can at the very least, give the appearance of humility.
Unfortunately, the person who seeks the obscure seat in the hope of being elevated to a
prominent one is just as proud as those who seek the best seat to begin with. Humility, then,
doesn't have anything to do with one's actual position in the world. A humble CEO is just as
holy as a humble farmer. And an egocentric, power-grabbing, selfish farmer is just as rotten as
an egotistical CEO.

There is an ancient story from the back country of Egypt in the 3rd century about a certain holy
Christian, known by all to live a saintly life. One day he was seen walking, carrying a large sack
over his shoulder. The sack had a tear in the bottom corner through which spilt grains of sand.
When asked why he allowed the sand to spill, this humble holy man replied, "Those are my sins
which trail out behind me in life." The story is meant to teach that the humble and holy are
those who are aware, not of their good deeds, but of their glaring weaknesses.

Jesus once said not to pay so much attention to the outside of the cup - pay more attention to
the inside. It's the insides that matter to God. How we really are on the inside always comes
out, it spills out behind us.

So Jesus wasn't only observing and commenting on proper dinner-party seating arrangements
and guest behavior while dining with the Pharisees. This wasn't mere etiquette - although his
point in this regard is well taken, too. More significantly, Jesus made spiritual observations
about us. About you and me. If we, as Christians, honestly put others before ourselves, we will
be honored - not just by each other, but by God. A little humility goes a long way in heaven, and
on earth.

Humility isn't a trait that has much appeal in our postmodern world. We like to see ourselves as
a "can-do" culture -- bursting at the seams with good ideas, good intentions and good results.
Humility, on the other hand, suggests to us an aroma of helplessness. It is the quality that
admits there are things we cannot do, problems we cannot solve, forces we cannot control.
This "can-not" admission clashes terribly with our "can-do" arrogance.

Do we now have a glimmer of understanding, that when we are weak, we are made strong?
Only when we keep our true frailty directly in front of our eyes can we keep a clear vision
of ourselves and our mission. God loathes nothing more than spiritual pride and arrogance.
The inability to see over a lumping mountain of such arrogance is one of the reasons Jesus'
hometown couldn't accept his teachings or authority.

In the words of theologian Jack Deere, "Religious pride is the worst form of arrogance." When
one really studies the Gospels we discover that the sternest rebukes Jesus ever delivered were
not to the sexually impure but to the spiritually proud. Of all the sins that are most acceptable
in the church today, religious pride tops the list. Society as a whole rewards proud leaders,
laughs at arrogant humor, and looks down on those outside their religious circle. Proud people
don't really need God's supernatural revelation. Perhaps that's why there is so little of it in
some parts of the church today. Miracles and supernatural revelation are not happening as
often as they did in Old Testament times simply because, sometimes we are too proud to ask or
look for it.
"Both the Lord and the apostles repeatedly emphasized the theme that God exalts the humble
but opposes the proud. If we are ever going to hear his voice, we must embrace humility. Jesus
was humble in heart, and so are all of his intimate friends.

Humility, the sense of self-smallness, is a kind of scrubber for our souls. It takes our greatest
weaknesses, our smelliest selves, and binds them to the power of Christ. True humility scrubs
our souls and transforms our spirits into a breath of fresh air. There is no false perfume or faked
sweetness in the air surrounding a humble Christian. In a humble believer, only an atmosphere
of purity and, if we are lucky enough to detect it, the slightest whiff of the sweetness of Christ's
own Spirit are breathed out on the world.

Let me leave you with an illustration.

Violin virtuoso Joshua Bell is that rare prodigy who has matured into a world class musician
and an acclaimed interpreter of Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky. The 29-year old Bell
has always been driven, even while growing up in Bloomington, Ind. Whether it was chess,
computers, video games or the violin, Bell had a need to master the environment. In some
quarters he has already arrived at his pinnacle. Some years ago, back home in Bloomington, a

12-year old boy approached him and announced, “You’re Joshua Bell. You’re famous.”

“Well, ummm, not really,” Bell replied.

“Yes, really,” the boy insisted. “Your name is on every video game in the arcade as the highest

Greatness is measured in different ways by different people. The kingdom of heaven, too, has
its own standard of greatness; most notably, humility and servant hood.

God Love You +

+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church

San Diego, Ca.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sunday Sermon

August 15, 2010

Assumption of Our Lady

(Baptism of Maurice Jimmy Hernandez)
Today marks a very significant day. We are celebrating two events in time. Liturgically, we are celebrating the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; body and soul into heaven. And on this day, we shall celebrate a Baptism as well. It a great day to share. The mother of all, whom we acknowledge as the first human being to experience salvation in the form we all hope to achieve at the end of time. To share this day; to be baptized this day, is to have the Blessed Mother herself as a guardian for all time.
We all know where little Maurice came from back on the 11th of this month last year, however let’s think about the assumption for a moment; or a little longer, as we all know none of my sermons last a mere moment, especially when I have an excuse to write endlessly as I do today.
Regarding the day, year, and manner of Our Lady's death, nothing certain is known. The earliest known literary reference to the Assumption is found in the Greek work De Obitu S. Dominae. Catholic faith, however, has always derived our knowledge of the mystery from Apostolic Tradition. The dates assigned for it vary between three and fifteen years after Christ's Ascension. Two cities claim to be the place of her departure: Jerusalem and Ephesus. Both are up for debate, depending on whom you talk to or what resources one uses, though Jerusalem seems to be the most probable spot.
Today, the belief in the Assumption of Mary is universal in both the East and in the West. The Assumption is the oldest feast day of Our Lady; however we don't know for certain how it first came to be celebrated.
Its origin is lost in those days prior to when Jerusalem was restored as a sacred city, at the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine during the third century. At this point, it was some 200 years after every memory of Jesus was obliterated from the city, and the sites that were made holy by His life, death and Resurrection had become pagan temples.
After the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 336, the sacred sites began to be restored and memories of the life of Our Lord began to be celebrated by the people of Jerusalem. It was around this time that the "Memory of Mary" was being celebrated. Later it was to become our feast of the Assumption.
One of the traditions about Jesus’ mother centered around what was believed to be the "Tomb of Mary," close to Mount Zion, where the early Christian community had lived. On the hill itself was the "Place of Dormition," the spot of Mary's "falling asleep"; or where she had died. Though, all of this is speculation, as there is no reliable information in existence to prove this tradition right or wrong. However, our faith in Church and Apostolic Tradition allows us to continue…..
In the seventh century, it began to be celebrated in Rome under the title of the Dormitio or "Falling Asleep" of the Mother of God. Soon the name was changed to the "Assumption of Mary," since there was more to the feast than only that of her dying. It also proclaimed that she had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven.
That belief was ancient, dating back to the Apostles themselves. What was clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the purported site of her death. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. Today, the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary stands on the spot.
At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem, St. Juvenal, to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that "Mary had died in the presence of the Apostles; but her tomb, when opened later upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.
In the eighth century, St. John Damascene was known for giving sermons at the holy places in Jerusalem. At the “Tomb of Mary”, he expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: "Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . ." he says.
The Assumption completes God's work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God's crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity.
In 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church in these words: "The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven." Thus culminating what was already believed.
The Son that Mary bore, as we all know, is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry, went to the River Jordan to see his cousin, John, born of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth. When Jesus met John, he asked him to baptize him. John questioned this. “Why should the Son of God come to me and asked to be Baptized? I am not even worthy to untie his sandels! It is I who should be Baptized by him!” Jesus simply tells John to let be so for now.
Jesus is obviously making a statement by his actions. He is clearly stating that he wants us to be Baptized as well. In a long and hard theology known as “Original Sin”, the Apostles and thus the Church, took Jesus’ actions to mean that we should get “jump started” into our life of salvation by being Baptized. It creates a fresh start and a wonderful memory. Though, infants usually do not remember the moment, the parents do.
As humans, we need moments of memory and times to look forward to, even if we have a slightly twisted way of going about it sometimes. As an example there is, T.G.I.F. Thank God It’s Friday. People have been offering this secular prayer of thanksgiving for years, and the phrase has become so popular that it’s attached to a restaurant chain, T.G.I. Friday’s.
This phrase is based on the belief that people are happier on Friday, the end of the work week. Would you respond enthusiastically to a restaurant that tried to lure you with the words “Give Me More Mondays”? Probably not. People talk about their “Monday morning blues,” and they hum the tune “Rainy Days and Mondays.” Mondays are supposed to bring you down.
But what if they don’t? Recent research has uncovered that people are not much happier on Fridays than they are on Mondays. They really aren’t. Fact is, our moods do not change very dramatically over the course of the week. But we remember Fridays as happy days because of the meaning and emotions we attach to Fridays. Friday is when we’re liberated from the chores of the work week. It’s when we turn from business to pleasure. It’s when the door to the weekend is thrown wide open. Not that weekends have the value they once had.
These are the meanings and emotions we attach to Friday. Friday has connotative and emotional significance and it affects and shapes our memory of how we actually felt on a particular Friday. Because we believe that Fridays are happy days, we remember them as happy days. Except for maybe those superstitious days known as Friday the 13th.
A bride says that her wedding day was the happiest day of her life. In fact, it was incredibly stressful, but the meaning of marriage turns it into a happy memory. A man says that the birth of his first child was a pure joy. Truth is, it was absolute misery to watch his wife suffer through labor, but the meaning of childbirth makes the memory a positive one, even if he does pass out at the sight of the blood. An adult convert to Christianity says that his baptism was wonderful. The reality is that it was wet, cold and uncomfortable, but the meaning of the sacrament makes it deeply moving to him. Just ask any infant that has been terrorized by their parents forcing them to go to the nasty Priest who douses them with cold water. Let’s get rid of that nasty Original Sin. Spaaalashhh! No wonder some of the infants cry like the boy Damien in the movie the Omen. This insight can help us to better understand the significance of what happened to Jesus in the Jordan River. We have a special day in the Church year, the Sunday after Epiphany, called “Baptism of the Lord,” and it gives us an opportunity to remember this event and reflect on its impact. It’s a perfect example of how meaning shapes memory. So just what do we remember about the day? John the baptizer appears in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People from the city of Jerusalem and all Judea flock to him, and are baptized in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. After years of living with a filthy buildup of sin and unrighteousness, the people of the region are relieved to be washed clean and made right with God. What a wonderful cesspool of sin the Jordan must have been when John was finished! This feels very good to them. John’s providing a much-needed spiritual service, and you wouldn’t be surprised to hear the people saying, T.G.F.J. — Thank God For John. But then John switches gears and reveals that he’s not simply in the purification business. He proclaims, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me … I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”. So, quite obviously, he is proclaiming a new life to come. Let’s face it, here’s John the Baptist, not so neat, not so clean, with a wild appearance, demonstrating the spirit of inclusiveness to all the sinners coming to him (except for maybe Herrod and his harlot second wife, so the story goes). At one time John might even have been called a hippie. John might find himself today as one who’s standing on the outside looking on, or in, at the great event available to everyone but him. But in this story, here is this wild-looking guy that God chooses to baptize his Son, Jesus Christ. John is included and doing something wonderful. What a gift to the sinners looking on! I can imagine them saying, “Hey, he’s one of us … look at what he’s doing ... maybe there is hope for us.”
When we look at the actual events that occurred at the Jordan, we see a variety of emotions. There’s gratitude for the gift of forgiveness. Surprise and shock at the sight of the baptizer’s camel’s hair clothing and diet of locusts and wild honey. Certainly some confusion about the identity of the powerful one who’s coming after John. So the actual experience of John’s ministry is a jumble of emotions, not a carefully crafted stained-glass picture of pure joy and happiness that we think of it. All of this changes when Jesus comes on the scene, because meaning has a powerful effect on memory. Mark tells us that Jesus comes from Nazareth of Galilee and is baptized by John in the Jordan, and just as he is coming up out of the water, he sees the heavens torn apart and the Holy Spirit descends on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven says, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with whom I am well pleased”. If that happens today while we Baptize Maurice, we are all in trouble! This is the meaning of baptism: Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved. The mix of feelings up to this point — gratitude for cleansing, surprise at the baptizer’s clothing, confusion about the identity of the powerful one — are suddenly pushed aside. In their place, a new emotion emerges: joy. When Jesus is baptized, we are filled to overflowing with a feeling of joy that God has revealed his Son, announced his love and proclaimed just how pleased he is with Jesus.
The meaning of baptism is that God accepts Jesus as his Son, and the happiness we feel over this acceptance shapes our entire memory of baptism. Gone is the mix of emotions that were felt by the people at the Jordan River, replaced by deep joy that Jesus is God’s Son, the Beloved. Jesus is now, for us, the Word of God in human form; the Way, the Truth and the Life. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. After witnessing his baptism, we don’t have to wonder any longer about who Jesus is. We know his true identity. The very same is true for us, as we remember our own baptism. In this sacrament, we are connected to the body of Christ; the universal community of Christians that’s nothing less than the flesh-and-blood physical presence of Jesus in the world today. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” asks the apostle Paul. “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his”. In this sacrament, we become children of God, no less loved and accepted than Jesus Christ himself. This is the meaning of baptism: Baptism connects us to the body of Christ. It enables us to die and rise with Jesus. It makes us dead to sin and alive to God. It gives us new and everlasting life, and a freshly minted identity as children of a loving Lord. It marks our soul as belonging to God. It’s an experience that shapes our memory forever. We make a mistake, however, if we believe that baptism is always the beginning of a lifetime of perfect bliss. Think about what happens immediately after the baptism of Jesus; Mark tells us that the Spirit immediately drives Jesus “out into the wilderness,” where he is tempted by Satan for 40 days. Then his Galilean ministry begins, and Jesus comes face to face with a man with an unclean spirit, a woman with a fever, a steady stream of people who are sick or possessed by demons, and Chief Priests challenging his ministry and trying to have him killed. So there’s no rest for the freshly baptized. Pastor Joy McDonald Coltvet discovered this for herself when she led a group of youths on an immersion trip to Mexico. A number of times through the first days there, different young people came to her and confessed how overwhelmed they felt. Said one student, “I feel like I’m drowning.” This student was experiencing the flood of the world’s pain — and that’s not a bad thing. That’s why it’s called an “immersion” trip. Coltvet says that it’s when we feel like we’re drowning; overwhelmed by the flood of the world’s anguish, pain and loss; that “we are reminded that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.” Then we realize that “baptism is daily dying and being raised to new life.” Then we discover that we are “raised up, gasping for air, and the breath of God fills us.” When we feel like we’re drowning in the world’s pain, we are raised up, and the breath of God fills us. That’s not just a memory of baptism, it is a memory shaped by meaning. Like birth, baptism means life. It’s done once, yet it is for all of our life. ...We need to discover ways to communicate baptismal living. More than anything else, baptism marks our birth as Christians. It involves a process that is every bit as wet and messy as the physical birth that brought us into this world, but it is also every bit as permanent. Through baptism, we are identified as children of God who are both loved and lovable, chosen by the Lord to be his people in the world. “The truth, even though I cannot feel it right now,” wrote Cardinal Henri Nouwen, “is that I am the chosen child of God, precious in God’s eyes, called the Beloved from all eternity and held safe in an everlasting embrace.” The chosen child of God. This is not just Jesus … it is each one of us. Precious. Beloved. Safe in an everlasting embrace. Our true identity. Make this your memory of baptism.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sunday Sermon

August 1, 2010

The Ninth Sunday after Trinity
Susan has a secret sin. Susan is a good Ohio woman who, in her late 20s, began to take her faith seriously - compulsively so. Yet the more she practiced her faith, the more she questioned the efficacy of her efforts. Her doubts came daily, nagging her relentlessly and causing her constant pain. "I'd kept it a secret from my children, from my parents and from my husband," she admitted.
For Susan, sin is everywhere. And she is the first among sinners. The one who most needs to confess ... again ... and again ... and again. She figured she was the only one who had this condition; viewing the world through a sharp and precise moral prism, seeing sin in every situation, and magnifying transgressions whenever they surfaced. But she is not alone. In fact, there are tens of thousands of people, possibly hundreds of thousands of people, who suffer from this very thing. Clinical psychologists have given her obsession a name. They call it the "scrupulosity obsession," or the "doubting disease." Scrupulosity, Susan learned, is an obsessive-compulsive disorder, one that straddles two worlds; the clinical, fact-based world of medicine and the mystical, faith-based world of religion. It can be treated with medication, as well as with counseling and spiritual guidance. There is even a newsletter called "Scrupulous Anonymous". Scrupulous Anonymous is a Roman Catholic monthly newsletter published by the Liguori Mission, associated with the Redemptorist Order, founded by Saint Alphonsus Liguori. The newsletter focuses on individuals who need help in dealing with scrupulosity. Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church suffered from "scruples" and feelings of religious guilt in his own life, and developed techniques for helping people with the same condition. Its editor, the Rev. Thomas Santa, describes scrupulosity as "a tender conscience" - a condition in which everything becomes a sin, to the point that you're almost paralyzed.

At first glance, Paul's letter to the Colossians might seem like an invitation to scrupulosity. "Put to death," he commands, "whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient".
But Paul is not finished. "But now you must get rid of all such things - anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.

Get rid of all such things, he thunders. Strip yourself of all such sleazy sins and polluting practices. Begin to live an authentic Christian life, removing from yourself all the trappings of your old life; which for Paul himself included being "a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence".

These Scriptures seem to play right into the scrupulosity that so many sufferers are struggling to escape. Don't do this, don’t do that. Watch out: the wrath of God is coming. If truth be told, Paul may be suffering himself from a touch of the doubting disease. He readily admits that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the foremost". The "foremost" of sinners. The tiptop transgressor. The baddest of the bad…….. That's serious sinfulness. So, what does this mean for us? Are we to focus constantly on fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive language and lies? Are we to live a life of constant introspection, relentlessly obsessing over every one of our motivations, thoughts, words and deeds? Is Christian living nothing more than avoiding a list of negatives? Not at all! Here's a true story that explains why: A Virginia man was scrupulous about always wearing his wedding ring. In fact, in 15 years of marriage he had never taken it off. Never. Not once. It was a personal obsession. One day he was out walking his dog; a big, lovable, squirrel-chasing mutt. The man stopped to talk with a neighbor, and as they chatted he let the dog's leash hang loosely on his left hand. All of a sudden, the dog spotted a squirrel and took off like a bullet. The leash caught on the man's wedding ring and broke his finger. The finger swelled up around the wedding ring, and when the man arrived at the hospital emergency room the doctor announced that he would have to cut off the ring. "Oh, no!" protested the man. "I have NEVER removed my wedding ring. Never. You can't cut it off." "Then you'll lose your finger," said the doctor, quite matter-of-factly. Suddenly, the man saw with crystal clarity what was truly important. It wasn't a perfect record of always wearing a wedding ring, day and night, consistently and flawlessly for the whole of his marriage. No, what mattered was a vital, loving and faithful relationship with his wife. And 10 healthy fingers, if possible. Off came the ring. Paul challenges us with the words: "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God". Set your minds not on the temptations of this world, but on the joy of life with Christ, a life in which we are free to enjoy boundless compassion, kindness, love, peace and gratitude. We can do this because we have been given a new and abundant life that is safe and secure and hidden with Christ in God. Those who are "in Christ" have "died" to this world - died to what Paul calls "the elemental spirits of the universe". Paul is trying to teach us to focus on Christ, not on earthly entanglements, to grow in him, not in the passions of this world. If we do, then the dismaying and debilitating distractions of this world will slip away. What matters is not a perfectly flawless record of avoiding sin, but instead a vital, loving and faithful relationship with Jesus. We can be confident that those whose lives are hidden in Christ will quite naturally show signs of new and abundant life, and the patterns of the old and sinful life will quietly die away. No one, not God, not Paul, not our families, wants us to suffer from scrupulosity. God does not want us to become paralyzed by fear of doing or saying something blasphemous or sinful. Instead, he wants us to enjoy the glorious freedom of the children of God - freedom to live in the boundless Christian love that "binds everything together in perfect harmony". We need to understand that we are dealing with a God who loves, not a God who is out to get us. Scrupulosity sufferers are dealing with the fear of God, not the love of God. Fear makes us harshly judgmental of ourselves and others. Love helps us to see everyone - ourselves included - as a sinful soul for whom Christ died. Fear points our attention inward, driving us to examine our own motives and actions excessively. Love pulls our attention outward, inspiring us to take part in a mission to a hurting world. Fear leads us to obsess over fine points of morality. Love helps us to see that we are never going to be perfect, but that we will always be forgiven. Fear drives us to worry constantly about the future. Love liberates us to trust that God has a plan and a purpose for us, and will always be close beside us. Bottom line: God is loving, merciful and trustworthy. So let's set our minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Our old selves have died. Now, let’s our earthly obsessions do the same. What's left is a life that is hidden with Christ in God, just waiting for us to discover it.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.