Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sunday Sermon

February 3, 2013
Today we read about three of Jesus’ many parables. Yet, taken as a whole, we can see they speak of much the same thing. Our Epistle speaks of putting on imperishability or immortality. Both these readings can be read in the same light. So what is the Holy Spirit telling us through these passages? Can we see ourselves at the surface of these readings?
What we do not see on the surface of the Gospel reading is something we can discover only through research. These parables Jesus put forth were being put forth due to rival and/or problematic teachings by the Temple elders of the time. Teachings, they claimed, would bring you to the gates of heaven, but in reality would make you drop into a ditch of dirty water. Regardless of the intended application then, we can still apply these to us today. Jesus often spoke in words that can resonate in any age.
Little do we realize, sometimes, that we go through our everyday lives sometimes doing exactly what Jesus was preaching against. As followers of Christ, we sometimes forget that every waking moment of our lives can sometimes be, not only a witness to others, but an act of love for God.
As I have often stated, being Catholic is not just being someone who merely goes to church on Sunday, it is a way of life. Jesus’ parables and St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians show us that this isn’t just something your idiot pastor just came up with while stirring cookies in the kitchen.
No matter what age, life is full of distractions that try to arrest some time away from us. Jesus challenges us to break out of the molds that the world has to offer and come to a better way of living, that as St. Paul puts it, will help us to change our mortality into immortality. We have to understand, no matter young or old, that life is but a short time in the span eternity. What we do in this time span can make all the difference to our spiritual and emotional health not only now, but in our eternal health later.
Obviously, as Jesus makes clear, the blind certainly cannot lead the blind into unchartered territory. Regardless of any blind person’s skills, there are terrains that would be difficult, if not impossible for a blind person to navigate on their own. This is true in a physical sense, but Jesus implies it as a spiritual sense as well.
Jesus is not speaking of a fraternal correction done in love, but of that of a hypocrite blinded by their own sin who is interested only in exposing another’s weakness. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to imitate Him in selfless service to others. Each time we “serve” others with impure motives, it must break Jesus’ heart.
It can be something as simple as writing off a neighbor as hopeless merely because we perceive that they do not think the way we do. We can sometimes be quick to point out an error or some hurt by another caused to us, but fail to see the harm we ourselves have caused in the situation ourselves. So selfless was Jesus’ love, that His last breath on the cross was not an appeal for punishment toward those who caused his crucifixion, but a prayer of forgiveness!
Of course, we should not stop trying to help others until we have reached a state of being “completely holy”, because holiness can be elusive in some terms of the word to the point of never really achieving it, but to some degree we all fail to be “holy” most of our lives due to our nature. Further, if we all stopped helping others because we felt as though we were not perfect or holy enough, no one would help another soul. We must always carry on as good Catholic Christians in charity toward others, but in so doing, we must always leave open our hearts and minds to be examined by our Blessed Lord and allow Him to bring us to deeper repentance and healing.
The parable of the speck and the log was Jesus’ use of humor while putting forth a very valuable and important point. It sounded ridiculous, but it was a deliberate caricature. Like with the blind leading the blind, the question becomes can we see clearly enough to lead, let alone criticize someone else? What people criticize in others is frequently, though not always, what they are subconsciously aware of (or afraid of) in themselves. Psychologists refer to this as “projection”. The person knows there’s something seriously wrong with his or her own eye, so they try to avoid the problem by telling someone else there’s a tiny problem with theirs.
Jesus was attempting to point out then, as still today, that the Pharisee’s have many rules and regulations in which they were trying to fine tune obedience to the law down to the last detail, while missing the law’s major point. They were trying to make Israel holier and holier, but the point of the law and the prophets was to make Israel the light to many nations.
Jesus’ message is much like our church (denomination). We attempt to be a light to others. We want very much to bring the light of Christ into the hearts of others. We want His love to shine through to and for them. Yes, as Catholics, we acknowledge a vast amount of doctrine, dogma and Tradition that has been handed down through the ages. Not only through the Church of Rome, but even through those Catholic branches who have split off. We, as one that has split off, have tried to take Jesus’ parable to the level He was speaking.
It is our hope that those who come to us, are coming to a church that not only lives the light of Christ, but also makes Him a part of our daily lives, knowing full well we are sinners, but while we work on those things, we know that our Blessed Lord still loves us, and we are redeemed by his sacrificial love on the cross.
Jesus moves then into the parable of the fruit tree. He is trying to show all of us that we are much like the trees.  When we allow Christ into our lives, when we live our Catholic faith as a way of life, we become good trees that will bear good fruit. If we lead good lives, we bear good fruit. It really is simpler than it seems. Jesus prunes the bad branches in everyday ways. How hard is it to make sure we take a few moments to pray each day? A minute or two in the morning or before bed? Saying hello to those we would rather not even pass on the same sidewalk? Saying a prayer of thanks at each meal? A little bible reading each day? Even if all of this were combined, it would not amount to much time at all. And for what end? To be that good tree that will help build the moral and loving character as a good Catholic Christian who will bear good fruit to others.
Jesus is inviting us to a way of life so completely new that it will not only need a change of heart, but it will do just that and more. The last parable in today’s Gospel speaks just that. It is easy to see the analogy Jesus is using and how it applies to our mortal selves. Like St. Paul in the Epistle, we must put on imperishability and immortality. We must build our house on a firm foundation. Listening to Jesus’ true wisdom and not putting it into practice is like building a house without a foundation.
The slightest little bad event in life will knock a person off course and it will take days, weeks, and maybe even months to get back. But, as we apply our faith to our daily lives; as we lead a Catholic way of life, we become stronger to deal with these problems in a better light. It can be amazing sometimes, how one can discover stress that once knocked you for a loop, will no longer affect you as much as it once may have.
Living a faith-filled life and being a good Christian doesn’t mean that no harm or bad weather will come to you, but by building that foundation on solid ground, we can bounce back easier and quicker.  We all know that life has its ups and downs. The earth has its weather and it will be bad sometimes. We are human, and we have free will. Sometimes people will do wrong, and sometimes it may be toward you. But, if you keep your life based on the principles and teachings of Christ and His church, you will find the strength and wisdom to deal with the bad weather and even the bad people. Who knows; you may be the key to turning that bad person into a good one!
So, this leads us to questions. Are we willing to look for the log in our own eyes before we pronounce the speck in someone else’s? Do our plans and schemes look good on the outside but leave the heart untouched? Are we building without a foundation? Are we remembering that our life is not eternal on earth, but eternal in the kingdom of God, thus we must put on imperishability and immortality to secure our eternal victory over death? Are we making our Catholic faith a way of life, or just a religion we occasionally practice?
As we ask those questions about ourselves, we must be cautious we are not lured into traps of others, intended or otherwise, ensuring we maintain a Jesus parable approach in all we do. As good people, we want to treat others well, just as we want to be treated well. Sometimes we have to let our faith lead us, instead of our hearts, when we are faced with a less than pleasant situation or person. We must take a breath and say a quick prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead us in the situation at hand, and let your tree be pruned to bear more good fruit.
God Love You +
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.
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