Sunday, March 3, 2019

March 3, 2019
(1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45)
We have all heard the phrase, the “Blind leading the blind.” Obviously, we know that it comes from a statement Jesus was making in reference to following the Pharisees. “Can a blind person guide a blind person?” The Pharisees, as you recall, have been called hypocrites by Jesus, because they make many rules – heavy burdens – that are too difficult to follow, hence they have no clue how to lead people properly. Reminds me of a joke ….
There was a husband standing on the bathroom scale who was caught by his wife as he was sucking in his stomach. She laughed and said, “That’s not going to help.” “Sure it will,” he replied. “It’s the only way I can see the numbers.”
Not sure why that joke came to mind, however there you have it. Maybe because the husband was blind to his weight until he sucked it up and faced reality? I personally think it is because we sometimes have to “suck it up” or inconvenience ourselves a bit in order to get better. Sometimes, that means following some rules.
There is much to this passage of Luke’s Gospel. However, let’s focus more on the ending today. Jesus is calling us to build our faith on a rock foundation. Although, some would like us to think it is in reference to Jesus telling St. Peter that he would be the rock of the Church, that is not really what he meant.
Yes, the Church was indeed meant to be a rock foundation, and for the most part, it is. It does withstand a storm now and again, but it does not fall. I do not mean necessarily one denomination, but more the Church as a whole. Even with its differences, the Church of Jesus Christ has survived. That said, we do need to heed what the Church teaches.
Just what does (or should) the Church teach? I like to think that we are meant to teach that Christ is our moral compass. It is a shame that so many are falling away from the Church as a whole. Yes, there are some scandals, but not in all places. Christ did indeed institute the Church as a gathering of brethren to learn with and from and to also support and look out for other creatures of God.
We fail miserably at this, truth be told, many times over. The old adage I can pray to God without going to church, apparently wasn’t enough in the eyes of Jesus!  Yet, as we know, there are many instances where the Church is vibrant and alive. Members are getting the nourishment they need in Word and Eucharist and going out into the world a better people – just not as many of us as are needed.
God created human beings to share in his love. God is a communion of Three Persons in love. As such, human beings are made in his image and likeness and therefore have an inherent dignity and gifts of reason and freedom, which bestows upon us the capacity to live in harmony with or to resist our Creator. Scripture and Tradition reveal to us that the first human beings misused their intellect and free will, choosing to turn from God by sinning, which can be defined as disobeying the will of God that had been made known to them. They ate the forbidden fruit and thus sought to be apart from God. Even to this day, mankind draws away from God.
God, however, did not want to leave human beings lost in their sin. From the beginning of time, mankind has rebelled, and God has tried to reunite us to him. However, God has chosen to forgive mankind and to offer a path of reunion with him through Jesus Christ. Through Christ, the new man – the new Adam – mankind which was disfigured by sin has been restored to the beauty that God intended.
Through Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection, he not only saves humankind, but also shows us how to accept the offer of salvation: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So, if one wants to know the meaning and substance of moral living, then one needs to look at Christ.
Many think of “morality” as a set of principles that leads one to right conduct. Many times there are particular sets of principles that are linked to a teacher, such as Aristotle or Socrates. Obviously, Christian Morality is just what it implies and is thus linked to Christ. Like any other teacher, Christ has rules and commandments that he shares with his disciples. Jesus even goes a step further and models this life for us.
Where we sometimes miss out is because we misunderstand that Jesus’ instruction is not simply right living or even happiness (although they are included) but rather the fullness of life experienced in the communion of divine love. We were created for God, and thus our goal should be that of being with God. We were originally in the state of divine love, but we broke away, so now we are being called back home with God.
Therefore, Christian “morality” is not so much an ethical way of life as it is a school of love. The headmaster is Jesus Christ.
Obviously, as we know, Jesus didn’t use terms like “Christian Morality,” however the principles are the same. This is where the Church comes into play. Many people become frustrated trying to understand Jesus’ words – especially his parables. We all need support in understanding his teachings, hence why Jesus established the Church. (Matthew 16:13-20)
The religious leaders of the time had hatred for Jesus precisely because he would set aside the letter of the law in order to heal someone or feed his hungry disciples. Even his Apostles struggled, even though they seemed to recognize the centrality of love in Jesus’ way of life, they wanted to know exactly how much love one had to give. (Matthew 19:27) Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which makes it clear that love does not simply satisfy the law, nor can it be measured. (Luke 10:25-37) Love is the way and the goal.
Love of God and Love of neighbor; you’ve heard me speak of these two commandments often. These two commandments are the substance and meaning of Christian ethics and morality. Jesus tells us that “there is no greater commandment than these.” (Mark 12:31) How much easier can it get? When you think about it, these are really easy. We might make it hard sometimes, but they are really easy.
The fact that Jesus is asking for wholehearted and completely selfless love, can be disconcerting, to say the least. It seems impossible to live by these two commandments. Look at our world – better yet, look at our nation in its current state – does it look like we are loving Christians? Sometimes, but at times it seems to be dissipating.
Created in the image and likeness of God, human beings have two gifts. Reason – which enables them to understand the order of things as they were created by God. Freedom – which enables them to be truly good as part of eternal life with God. Although some would rather not talk about or acknowledge it, human beings still suffer from “original sin” and are thus flawed and fallen to some degree. Our physical bodies are no longer immortal, but through the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus Christ, our souls will live on for all eternity if we but turn to him and make conscious efforts to follow him.
Even though we know these things, it does not make it any easier to act upon the good gifts which are inherently ours. Thus, we have the Church to help guide us in the way of Christ’s love and Christian morality. Even if some of its ministers fail, the Church will never fail, fore we know the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Hell and its demonic leader has no power to destroy the Church, even when it may seem like he is succeeding!
God is the source of all truth and whatever is good. We, as his creation in his image, have reason and free will and thus able discern what is true and what is good. This is sometimes referred to as “natural law,” for it shows us the way to follow so as we can practice that which is good and obtain eternal life.
The Ten Commandments provide the precepts of natural law. They teach human beings how honor God and how to properly live with our neighbor – all of fellow mankind. The beatitudes spoken by Jesus build upon these commandments. They do so by showing what a person who yields to the grace of God and imitates the life Christ must do in love.
We further believe, as Catholics, that Tradition also helps us in our choices of love. These Traditions are those handed down orally from the Apostles from their time with Christ. Not all we know of God is in the Bible, but a large portion of it is. We must trust that learned theology and oral Tradition helps us to better understand the teachings we have received.
Further we must have good intentions. As an example, let’s say that there is a young man or woman who decides they want to become a medical doctor. Now, if this person states that they must get straight A’s in the class so that he/she can better help the sick, we have a good intention. But, what if they desire straight A’s because they only desire to make a good salary? Obviously, that would be a wrong intention by itself.
Learning to love our neighbors as ourselves, is quite hard, no doubt about it. Does one really need to go through a detailed analysis of one’s actions to be sure they conform to Christ’s teachings and Christian morality? Hopefully, it will become second nature to us that this would not be necessary for each decision we make, but we should be conscious of our motives all the same.
A common reaction to “religious” laws put forth by the Church is that they appear repressive regarding the human person’s free will. Yet the public or governmental laws are seen as helpful to the common good, helping people avoid conflicts and, when used correctly, promoting freedom.
This is certainly the intent of religious laws like the Ten Commandments or the teachings of the Church. They help people from falling too far away from God. As Jesus said, law was made for man. They fulfill their purpose when they help people become freer to practice charity and justice.
For example, the teaching to attend Sunday Mass can sometimes seem a burden, but the gifts received at Mass can actually stir people to desire to be present and active and to bring gifts received to other people. If this happens, the person is no longer simply obeying a rule but participating in communion in its fullest sense.
Let me finish this with a new set of “rules.”
1) You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period of your life.
2) You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time school called “life.” Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid. Regardless, the lessons will continue.
3) There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately works.
4) A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be present to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
5) Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
6) From the premise of the “grass is always greener on the other side,” there is no better than “here.” When your “there” has become “here,” you will simply obtain another “there” that will, again, look better than “here.”
7) Others are merely mirrors of you. In most instances you cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8) What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours. Remember, God wants you to freely choose him. Not force himself upon you.
9) Your answers lie inside you. The answers to life’s questions are merely one prayer away. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10) Lastly, you will forget all of this!
Let us pray.
For freedom from self-deception; may God heal our narrowness of mind and blindness to the truth through the power of the Gospel. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace of conversion; may God stir all who are drawn to blind hate, bigotry, and violence toward a new appreciation of life and recognize the dignity of each person. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for honesty in our lives so that we can see ourselves as we are and strive to be more understanding, kind and loving with family, friends and neighbor. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for our community that it be mindful of the needs of its weakest and most vulnerable members and that it be a safe and welcoming haven of peace and care for all. We pray to the Lord.                        
In three days, on Ash Wednesday, we mark the commencement of Lent. We pray that our Lenten observances and charitable donations serve to alleviate the suffering and injustices faced by so many.  We pray to the Lord.                      
We pray for families where addictions or intemperance are causing pain and hardships that the Lord give them the patience, the energy and the spiritual support to live through their difficulties. We pray to the Lord.                        
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Gracious God, all that we have is a gift from you. May we tend and cultivate these gifts so they might bear fruit for the glory of your name. Father, we often struggle to do or say the right thing. Help us to not give up on you or the Church, but to always seek out your will through the resources of the Church that your son created. Hear our prayers and give us the joy that comes from sharing the victory Christ has won for us, for he is Lord forever and ever. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA