Archive for the ‘by Msgr. Charles Pope’ Category

If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Red highlights are my doing.

More Parish Closings Nationwide – What Are We to Learn and Do?

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

It was recently announced that a substantial number of Catholic parishes will be closing in Connecticut. This is just the latest in a national trend that is likely to affect the diocese where you live, especially in the north. I’d like to offer some rather quick thoughts and then ponder what I think is the root cause for our decline.

  1. Bishops don’t close parishes, people do. While it may be juridically true that bishops formally certify or give recognition to the opening, closing, and merging of parishes, it is ultimately God’s people who create or withdraw the need for a parish. The hard truth is that Catholics are contracepting and aborting in large numbers, thus depleting our ranks. Further, in most urban areas of the northeast, barely 15% of Catholics attend Mass regularly. In comparison, during the first half of the 20th century, when many of the parishes being closed today were being built, nearly 85% of Catholics attended Mass regularly. It is unrealistic for Catholics to expect that parishes should not be closed in significant numbers when there is so little attendance and concomitant support.
  2. Some point out that large numbers of Catholics have left the Northeast and headed south and west. That helps to explain why many parishes in the south and southwest are growing (even booming), but it does not mean that the overall population of the Northeast has dropped dramatically. To some degree, there has been a failure to evangelize, but the deepest wounds are in the decline of Mass attendance and our failure to hand on the faith. We are currently burying the last generation to be taught that Sunday Mass was an obligation to be met under pain of mortal sin.
  3. There is shared responsibility. It is easy to be angry at bishops and priests when parishes must be closed. Years of poor catechesis, a lack of effective preaching, and poorly celebrated liturgies have taken their toll and the clergy bear the first responsibility in this. However, dissent and division among the faithful and a drifting from the practice of the faith are also big factors. Many priest who do preach firmly and insist on clear doctrine are made to pay dearly.
  4. At the end of day, the clergy cannot take full responsibility for the problem, nor can they address it alone. Why? Because shepherds don’t have sheep, sheep have sheep. Evangelization cannot be just a problem for the rectory; it is ultimately a family problem. Parents and grandparents must do more to summon their children home and witness the power of the liturgy and sacraments to transform.
  5. Many blame the liturgy for the low attendance. While the liturgy as commonly celebrated today can seem bland and uninspiring, and much modern Church music “banal” (as the Pope recently remarked), the proposed solutions are bewildering in number and even where implemented attract only small numbers. For example, some have cheered the reintroduction of the Traditional Latin Mass, a form of the Mass that I happen to love. However, I don’t know of a single diocese in this country in which the number of Catholics attending that form accounts for more than 1% of all Mass attendees. Thus, the problem seems deeper than the external forms.
  6. The heart of the problem is an overall malaise. There is little urgency; few seem to feel the need for the faith, the Church, the sacraments, or the Word of God. In my opinion, a steady diet of universalism (the unbiblical notion that all or the vast majority of people will be saved, no matter what) inside the Church, and a steady diet of pluralism and relativism outside the Church have played the largest role in the problem. There’s no real problem seen, no hurry, no need for what we offer. At best we are just one product on the shelf of a boutique dedicated to the non-essential niceties that people dabble in if they have the time. The common view in our culture is that religion is a nice little way of accessorizing your life, but otherwise, who cares?

Given what I think is the root cause, how should we begin to stop the steady erosion of the practice of Catholic faith? I would agree with Dr. Ralph Martin that the first step must be to revive a more biblical vision of urgency regarding salvation. Just because many people—even among the clergy—say that there isn’t a problem doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.

Jesus was far more sober in assessing the situation. He devoted many parables and warnings to our need to attend to the salvation He offers. There are the sheep and the goats, those on the right and those on the left, the wise virgins and the foolish ones, those ready for the master’s return and those who are not, those who will hear, “Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” and those who will hear, “Depart from me. I know you not.” Jesus noted that the road to damnation was wide and many were on it, and “only a few” were on the narrow road to salvation (Matt 7:13-14).

But just try to tell any of this to most people today and see what kind of response you get. My sense is that urgency is at an all-time low. Yet biblically, directly from Jesus Himself, it is clear that the likelihood of being saved is greatly reduced when one does not repent regularly and walk in the faith actively, including a heavy dose of Scripture and frequent reception of the sacraments.

Yet few people speak this way today. Many dismiss such speech as “fear-based” argument. The fact is, however, that some things should be feared, including our tendency to be hard-hearted and hard-headed, to prefer passing things and error to eternal truths. Running about in a panic is not helpful; we need sober acceptance of our vital need for the sacraments, the proclaimed Word, holy fellowship, and the transformative power of the liturgy.

Until this sober appreciation is recovered by many and demonstrated by the few of us who remain, the steady erosion seems likely to continue. Church closings may be “coming soon to a neighborhood near you.” It is sad to lose buildings, many of them works of art, but it is even sadder to ponder the human loss that the empty buildings represent.

Read Full Post »

If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Are You Smarter than a Sheep?

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is traditionally called Good Shepherd Sunday, for the readings focus on how our risen Lord Jesus is our shepherd, who leads us to eternal life. Of course the flip side is that we are sheep. We sometimes miss the humor of the Lord calling us sheep. He could have said we are strong and swift as horses, beautiful as gazelles, or brave as lions; instead, He said we are like sheep. I guess I’ve been called worse, but it’s a little humbling and embarrassing, really. Yet sheep are worthwhile animals and they have a certain quality that makes them pretty smart. Are you smarter than a sheep? Well, let’s look and see how we stack up as we look at this Gospel in three stages.

I. The Situation of the Sheep In this Gospel the Lord is speaking to Pharisees and almost trying to reassure them that He is not like other false shepherds, false messiahs who have led many astray. Jesus says, Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. … All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them … A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy.

The times in which Jesus lived were ones of social unrest and political turmoil. There were heightened expectations of a coming messiah who would liberate Israel from its Roman and Herodian oppressors. Given the climate of the times, most had emphasized the role of the messiah as a political and economic liberator who would come and wage war and victoriously reestablish the Davidic Monarchy in all its worldly glory.

Josephus, a Jewish historian of the time, may have exaggerated (but only a little) when he spoke of 10,000 insurrections in the years leading up to the Jewish War with the Romans (66 – 70 A.D.). Even as early as Jesus’ lifetime there had been conflicts and bloody uprisings led by numerous false messiahs. It is most likely these whom Jesus refers to as thieves and robbers. It is also likely why Jesus resisted being called Messiah except in very specific circumstances (Matt 16:16,20; Mk 8:30; Mk 14:62).

Jesus also warned that after He ascended, false messiahs would continue to plague the land:

For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it’” (Matt 24:24-26).

Ultimately these false Christs did arise and mislead many; the results were horrible. Josephus wrote that 1.2 million Jewish people lost their lives in the Jewish War with the Romans.

So this is the situation of the sheep. Jesus speaks of the dangers of false saviors, unambiguously denouncing them as thieves and robbers. We, too, are in a world in which erroneous philosophies and false messiahs seek to claim our loyalties and engage us in error.

Perhaps it is the false claims of materialism, which says the right combination of wealth and power can bring meaning and happiness. Sadly, many of the “prosperity Gospel” preachers compound this by their silence about the cross and sin.

Perhaps it is the error of secularism, which exalts the State and the culture, putting their importance above God. Many in the Church and in the Protestant denominations (both clergy and lay) follow false shepherds and call others to do so. They seek to more closely align their faith with politics, instead of their politics with faith; they show more allegiance to the “party” than to the Faith; they do not prophetically address the errors associated with their political point of view; they see their political leaders as shepherds than they do their bishops or priests. Many also follow the false shepherds of culture, looking to them for moral leadership rather than to God, the Scriptures, or the Church. If Miley Cyrus says it, it must be so, but if the Church says something, there are protests and anger. Yes, false messiahs are all around us in the secular culture. Sadly, many Catholics and Christians follow them like sheep to the slaughter.

Perhaps it is the arrogance of modern times, which claims a special enlightenment over previous eras (such as the biblical era), which were “less enlightened and tolerant.” Here, too, many false shepherds in the clothing of trendy preachers and theologians have sought to engage God’s people in this sort of arrogance: that we moderns have “come of age” and may safely ignore the wisdom of the past in the Scriptures and sacred Tradition.

Perhaps it is the promiscuity of this age, which claims sexual liberty for itself but never counts the cost in broken lives, broken families, STDs, AIDS, high divorce rates, teenage pregnancy, abortion, and so on. Sadly, many so-called preachers and supposedly Christian denominations now bless homosexual unions and ordain clergy who are practicing the homosexual “lifestyle.” Many also support abortion and contraception, while saying little or nothing about premarital sex.

Yes, the sheep are still afflicted; false philosophies and messiahs abound. Jesus calls them thieves and marauders (robbers) because they want to steal from us what the Lord has given and harm us by leading us astray. Their wish is ultimately to slaughter and destroy.

Do not be misled by the soft focus of these wolves in sheep’s clothing, with their message of “tolerance” and humanitarian concern. A simple look at the death toll in the 20th century from such ideologies shows the wolf lurking behind these foolish and evil trends that have misled the flock.

As to these false shepherds, remember that not one of them ever died for you; only Jesus did that.

II. The Shepherd and His Sheep – Having rejected false shepherds, Jesus now goes on to describe Himself as the true Shepherd:

But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.

This passage tells us not only of the true Shepherd, but also his true sheep. The true Shepherd is sent by the Father, who is the gatekeeper and has opened the way for the Son and true Shepherd. The Father has confirmed the Son by signs and wonders and by the fulfillment of prophesies in abundance.

Of the true sheep, the Lord says that they not only recognize His voice, but also that they will run from a stranger because they do not recognize his voice.

In shepherding areas, flocks belonging to different shepherds are often brought together in fenced-off areas for the night, especially during the cooler months. One may wonder how shepherds can tell which sheep belong to which shepherd. Ultimately the sheep sort themselves out. In the morning a shepherd will go to the gate and summon his sheep with a chant-like like call. Those that recognize his voice will run to him; those that do not will recoil in fear. Now that’s pretty smart, actually. Sheep may not know how to go to the moon and back, but they do know their master’s voice.

So the question for each of us is this: are you smarter than a sheep? Sheep have the remarkable ability to know their master’s voice and instinctively fear any other voice, fleeing from it.

In this way, it would seem that sheep are smarter than most of us are! We do not flee voices contrary to Christ; instead, we draw close and say, “Tell me more.” In fact, we spend a lot of time and money to listen to other voices. We spend buy big televisions so that the enemy’s voice can influence us and our children. We spend a lot of time watching television, listening to the radio, and surfing the Internet. We are drawn so easily to the enemy’s voice.

Not only do we not flee it, we feast on it. Instead of rebuking it, we rebuke the voice of God. We put His Word on trial instead of putting the world on trial.

The goal for us is to be more wary, like sheep, to recognize only one voice, that of the Lord speaking though His Church, fleeing every other voice.

III. The Salvation of the Sheep – The text says, Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. … I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

Here, then, is the description of the Christian life: acceptance, access, and abundance.

Acceptance – The text says that we must enter through the gate, and the gate is Christ. We are invited to accept the offer of being baptized into Christ Jesus. In today’s first reading from Acts, Peter and the other apostles are asked by the repentant and chastened crowd, “What are we to do, my brothers?” Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit …. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. Yes, we are invited to enter through the gate, to be baptized into Christ Jesus. He is the gate and the way to the Father.

Access – In accepting baptism, we enter through the gate and have access to the wide, green pastures. Jesus describes this entry as “being saved.” Most of us tend to think of salvation rather abstractly, as if it is the result of a legal process through which one goes from being guilty to having the charges dismissed. That, however, is only a very partial understanding of salvation. The Greek word σωθήσεται (sothesetai) more fully means to be safe, rescued, delivered out of danger and into safety. In the New Testament it is used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin—bringing them into his into His safety and grace. Being saved is much more than changing legal categories; it is new life! It is power over sin; it is being kept from the poison of sin and its terrible enslaving effects. Salvation is also related to the concept of health (salus = health and well being). For the believer who accepts Christ’s offer, there is access to the protected pasture; there is supply or provision of grazing land as well. The Lord feeds His faithful and brings them strength. Yes, there is access to God’s many gifts.

Abundance – The Lord concludes by saying that He came so that we might have life more abundantly. This is the fundamental purpose of all he did. Abundant life is really what is meant by eternal life. Eternal does not refer merely to the length of life, but even more so its fullness. And while we will not enjoy this fully until Heaven, it does begin now. We, through Christ our good shepherd, gradually become more fully alive. I am more than fifty years old and my body in some physical sense is less alive, but my soul is more alive than ever! I have more joy, more confidence, more peace, and more contentment. There are many sins with which I now struggle less. I have a greater capacity to love and to forgive. The Lord has granted this by giving me access to His grace and His pasture, and feeding me there. I am more abundantly alive today than I ever was in my twenties. Yes, the Lord came that we might have life more abundantly; I am a witness of this. Eternal life has already begun in me and is growing day by day.

So, are you smarter than a sheep? If you are, then run to Jesus. Flee every other voice. Enter the sheepfold and let Him give you life.

Here is a portion of a performance of Handel’s Pastoral Symphony of the Messiah:

Read Full Post »

As a follow-up to my post about the “uplifting” Easter Sunday “talk” I heard that had nothing to do with the readings of the liturgy for that most glorious of all Catholic solemnities (Christ’s resurrection), I share with you the following uplifting comments from Msgr. Charles Pope.

“… Even now, though, the Lord, by the grace of His passion, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us a new life—a life transformed and increasingly free from sin, sorrow, regret, anger, greed, lust, and all forms of negativity. To be a new creation in Christ is to be more confident, serene, joyful, virtuous, and chaste. It is to live a life that is orderly and properly directed to our noble and glorious end: life with God forever. Jesus, in his resurrection, manifests this capacity for us to walk in newness of life.”

Easter Sunday Sermon – A Missed Opportunity

I heard a very beautiful, sentimental, loving, uplifting, tear-inspiring “talk” at Easter Sunday Mass this morning. No one could have left the church without loving the presiding priest due to his humble, sincere and loving demeanor and the message he conveyed along with his personal emotionally affecting anecdotes. The standing-room-only attendees applauded Father for his “homily”. I didn’t, but I understood why everyone else did because I was as emotionally moved as were they. However, Father’s “homily” did not relate to the readings in the least regard. In fact, they were not even referred to. The presiding priest was not our pastor. He is a priest from a far northern state who visits our Florida parish annually for Easter week and helps the pastor cover all the Masses. So many people come from all parts of the country and beyond to spend time in our beautiful climate and surroundings that our parish must have two Masses simultaneously on Easter Sunday. In addition to the Vigil Mass, we have four morning Masses, two in the church and two in the parish hall (for those for whom there is no room remaining in the church). There is also a Spanish Mass at 1:30 pm and a fourth (actually a fifth) English Mass at 3:00 pm.

Based on percentages that we are all familiar with, I can’t help but presume that many of our Mass participants do not attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of obligation. A gentleman sitting next to my wife told her that he had to walk around outside the church (our church has a marvelous prayer garden) before he could enter it. I took that as a feeling of guilt and if so, it was actually a healthy feeling for him to have. He did, however, probably along with 99 or more percent of the attendees, approach for communion (I can’t say that he or everyone else that approached actually received).

The point I’d like to make is that however emotionally moved everyone was, I didn’t hear anything in Father’s “homily” that might provoke a good many of his listeners to attend Mass next Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised if some, if not many, don’t attend another Mass until next Christmas.

What a missed opportunity to inspire – more truly, to instruct – those who rarely attend Mass to do so every Sunday and holy day of obligation. And to remind them of the obligation to be in a state of sanctifying grace when they receive communion. Could priests not at least say “if you haven’t been to confession since you last failed to attend Mass on a Sunday or holy day of obligation, and yet were truly quite able to do so, please do not receive communion”? They could also add “you are welcome to come forth to “one of the priests” distributing communion for a blessing”. Okay, rephrase the message to be as gentle as you wish, but make the point! How else will they learn what they are missing out on, now, and might for all eternity?

Read Full Post »

Part two of  Will you ever be able to truly say “I want for nothing more”?

If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

The Pain of Greed

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

There is a text in the Office of Readings that speaks to the connection between greed, affluence and dissatisfaction.

The foreign elements among them were so greedy for meat that even the Israelites lamented again, “Would that we had meat for food! We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now we are famished; we see nothing before us but this manna.” … [The LORD replied,] “To the people, you shall say: Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, when you shall have meat to eat. For in the hearing of the Lord you have cried, ‘Would that we had meat for food! Oh, how well off we were in Egypt!’ Therefore, the Lord will give you meat for food, and you will eat it, not for one day, or two days, or five, or ten, or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your very nostrils and becomes loathsome to you. For you have spurned the Lord who is in your midst, and in his presence you have wailed, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’” (Numbers 11:4-6, 18-30)

I have written before about the Israelites preferring slavery in Egypt, with its melons, leeks, and cucumbers (here), but in today’s reflection I would like to emphasize how what we desire can eventually become loathsome to us. The Lord says that not only would He give them the meat they asked for, but that He would do so until it comes out of your very nostrils and becomes loathsome to you. In this way, He reminds us that our greed for earthly things will eventually bring us consequences that disgust us.

What is greed? It is the insatiable desire for more. By it, we desire far more than we need; in fact, we can never be satisfied.

  1. Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is emptiness (Eccles 5:10).
  2. All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied (Ecclesiastes 6:7).
  3. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing (Eccles 1:7-8).
  4. Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied (Proverbs 27:20).

In the passage from Numbers, God fed the people with the miraculous manna from Heaven. However, even food from the very hand of God is not enough for the faithless and the greedy.

The sinful drive of greed will always protest unless we, by God’s grace, learn to curb it. Greed will always make us think that we need more; that we need what we want, in the way that we want it, and exactly when we want it. And if we get all that, we are still not satisfied; we simply become more particular, fussy, and demanding. Indeed, we have never had so many consumer options, comforts, and conveniences; and yet I would say that on the whole we have never been more unhappy. In this age of comfort and convenience, psychotherapy and psychotropic medications are big businesses. Misery indexes, consumer confidence surveys, and opinion polls often show high levels of fear, dissatisfaction, and anger. It is the same with our health. We have never lived so long and been so healthy, yet we have never worried more about our health.

Yes, no matter how much we have, it is never enough; and we are all afflicted with greed to some extent.

Greed is one of the under-confessed sins of our time. It is always the other guy who is greedy, the one who earns more than I do; he is the greedy one.

No, greed is common a human problem, and it takes a heavy toll on us all by robbing us of gratitude, satisfaction, and joy with what we have. Greed robs us of the ability to enjoy life and to savor what is before us.

Even more, God teaches that greed punishes us with the very excess it drives us to desire. God says of this greed that it will sicken us with its excess: until it comes out of your very nostrils and becomes loathsome to you.

What does our present age with its unprecedented comforts and conveniences actually afford us? Stress, overwork, and worry seem to be our common lot. We are all in a big hurry to get somewhere, to get on to the next thing.

Consider a simple thing like a car or a cell phone—great conveniences, right? Yet they seem to bring more stress. Our cars raise the expectation that we should reasonably be all over God’s green acre with little care for the actual human cost of making the trip and sitting in traffic. Our cell phones make us available at any time of the day or night; there is little or no quiet in our lives; relationships are more often virtual than real.

At some point it all starts to seem loathsome to us. We have more and more, the latest and greatest, the most recent upgrade—more and more until it comes out of our nostrils. We start to long for simplicity and for a time before we ever knew we “needed” all this stuff. Yet we cannot imagine how to pull free from so much of it. Life without a cellphone? Life without Facebook? Are you kidding? All of our gadgets and advanced technology have not freed us; they have ensnared us. And still our greed drives us to want more.

Scripture says, The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep (Eccles 5:12). And this is largely true. Despite all our labor-saving devices we are busier and more restless than ever.

Yes, God’s word is true. Greed ignites an insatiable desire for more. At some point, God’s remedy is to permit us to obtain so much that it becomes downright loathsome to us; through this we discover that less is more.

Simplicity may be difficult to achieve in times like these. Living in an Amish village is not an option for most of us, but deciding what is important and then focusing on it is a step in the right direction. To an age that cries out” “You can have it all,” we must learn to respond, “No, I can’t. We have to accept that “all” is too much and that less is more.

Affluence and abundance usually seem unambiguously good to us, but they are not; they bring human costs that we too seldom weigh. Scripture says, The rich may be able pay a ransom for their lives, but the poor won’t even get threatened (Prov 13:8). In other words, in our abundance we have too much to lose and so are easily threatened. There is a paradoxical kind of freedom that comes from having and needing less.

God’s Word is true. The text from Numbers above provides wisdom, as does this teaching from the Holy Spirit through St. Paul:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs (1 Tim 6:6-10).

This song in the video below says, “It’ll wear you out, dealin’ with too much stuff.”

Read Full Post »

If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Just a Little Talk with Jesus Makes It Right

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

As we examine the Gospel for this weekend’s Mass we do well to understand that is about human desires and how the Lord reaches us through them. Prior to examining the text in detail, let’s consider a few things:

  1. What it is that really makes you happy? We desire so many things: food, water, shelter, clothing, and creature comforts. We long for affection, peace, and a sense of belonging. Sometimes we want stability and simplicity, at others we yearn for change and variety. Our hearts are a sea of desires, wishes, and longings. Today’s Gospel says that a woman went to the well to draw water. She represents each one of us and her desire for water is symbolic of all our desires.
  2. In reality, your desires are infinite. Can you remember a time when you were ever entirely satisfied, when you wanted absolutely nothing else? Even if you can recall such a time, I’ll bet it didn’t last long. That is because our desires are without limit.
  3. The well in today’s Gospel symbolizes this world. Jesus says to the woman, Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again. The world cannot provide what we are really looking for. No matter how much it offers us, it will never suffice, for the world is finite while our desires are infinite. In this way our heart teaches us something very important about ourselves: We were not made for this world; we were made for something, someone, who is infinite, who alone can satisfy us. We were made for God.
  4. The water offered is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said elsewhere, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive (Jn. 7:37-39).
  5. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about the meanings of our longings:

The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for. … With his longings for the infinite and for happiness, man questions himself about God’s existence. In all this he discerns signs of his spiritual soul. The soul, the seed of eternity we bear in ourselves, irreducible to the merely material, can have its origin only in God (Catechism # 27, 33).

  1. Scripture speaks to us about our desires: Of You my heart has spoken: “Seek His face.” It is your face O Lord that I seek; hide not your face! (Psalm 27:8-9). Only in God will my soul be at rest, he is my hope, my salvation (Psalm 62:1).
  2. Augustine wrote these classic words to describe our truest longing: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee” (Confessions 1,1).

With these in mind, let’s look at the journey that this woman makes to Jesus. Things start out rough, but in the end she discovers her heart’s truest desire. The journey is made in stages.

Rendezvous – Notice that Jesus is the one who takes the initiative here. As the Lord teaches elsewhere, It was not you who chose me, It was I who chose you (John 15:16). Jesus encounters a woman from Samaria at Jacob’s well. She desires water, but Jesus knows that her desire is for far more than water or in fact anything that the world gives. Her desire has brought her face to face with Jesus. It is a holy and fortunate rendezvous. Jesus begins a discussion with her about her heart’s truest longing.

Request – The discussion begins with a request. The text says, It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” Imagine, God asking you for anything; what a stunning thing! What can she or anyone really give God? The answer is simply this: the gift of our very self. God has put a threshold before our heart that even He will not cross unless we first say yes to Him. Jesus’ request initiates a discussion, a dialogue of two hearts. As we shall see, the woman struggles with this dialogue. To be sure, it is a delicate, even painful process for us to accept the Lord’s invitation to self-giving. Something within us makes us draw back in fear. Scripture says, It is an awesome thing to fall into the hands of living God (Heb 10:31).

Rebuke – Sure enough, she draws back with fear and anger. She says, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”—For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. In our journey to God, we do not always trust or understand Him at first. Some are afraid to relate to God because they think they will lose their freedom or that they will have to change too much. Others loathe the commandments or fear that they cannot keep them. Still others are angry at the unexpected twists and turns of life and do not want to trust a God who doesn’t always give them what they want. The woman’s anger is not really at Jesus; it is at “the Jews,” with whom the Samaritans have a hostile relationship. This is sometimes the case with God as well. It is not always the Lord Jesus, or God the Father, whom people hate or distrust; rather, it is Christians. Some have been hurt by the Church or by Christians; others have prejudiced opinions influenced by a hostile media and world.

Repetition – Jesus repeats His offer for a relationship. He says, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” I don’t know about you, but I am mighty glad that the Lord does not merely write us off when we say no to Him. Jesus stays in the conversation and even sweetens the deal by making an offer to give her fresh, living water. The Lord does the same for us. First He gave the Law, then He gave the prophets; now He gives His Son. It just keeps getting better. First He gave water, then He changed it to wine, and then He changed it to His blood. Despite our often harsh rejection of God, He keeps the dialogue going.

Ridicule – The woman is still hostile and now even ridicules Jesus: “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” To the world, the teachings of God often appear to be foolishness. People often dismiss religious faith as fanciful and unrealistic.

Reminder – Jesus now re-frames the question by reminding the woman of the obvious: Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. What she is relying on can’t come through for her. The world’s water does not satisfy us; the world’s delights are transitory. They promise ultimate satisfaction, but soon we are thirsty again. The world is the gift that keeps on taking; it takes our money, loyalty, freedom, and time, while giving us only temporary—and ultimately unsatisfying pleasures—in return. It’s a bad deal. Every one who drinks from this well be thirsty again.

Re-upping the offer – Jesus says, “… but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Here the Lord speaks of happiness and satisfaction that he will give, that grows in us and makes us more and more alive. The “water” he offers (as noted above) is the gift of the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit lives in us and transforms us, we become more and more content with what we have. As the life of God grows in us, we become more alive in God and joyful in what He is doing for us. This is what the Lord offers us: the gift of a new and transformed life, the gift to become fully alive in God. I am a witness of this. How about you?

Result – The woman has moved toward Jesus; she has warmed to His offer. She says, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” Here is the result of the Lord’s persistence. Thank God that He does not give up on us. He keeps calling, even when we say no, even when we sin; He just keeps call our name!

Requirement – Jesus wants to give this gift, but first He must help her to make room for it. For the truth is that she has unrepented sin. A cup that is filled with sand cannot be filled with water. The sand must first be emptied out and then the cup cleansed. Thus Jesus says, “Go call your husband and come back.” The woman answered and said to him, “I do not have a husband.” Jesus answered her, “You are right in saying, ‘I do not have a husband.’ For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true.” Now she does what most of us do when we are in an uncomfortable spot: she changes the subject. She attempts to engage in a discussion about where to worship. Jesus is patient and answers her, but ultimately draws her back to the subject at hand: her heart and what her desires are really all about.

Reconciliation – At this point the conversation gets private; we are not permitted to listen in. It is just between her and Jesus. But whatever it was, she is elated and will later declare, “He told me everything I ever did.” There is no sense in her tone that Jesus was merely accusatory. Rather, it would seem that Jesus helped her to understand her heart and her struggle. An old song says, “I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in and then a little light from heaven filled my soul. He bathed my heart in love and he wrote my name above and just a little talk with Jesus made me whole.” Here, Jesus reconciles her with God and with her own self.

RejoicingThe woman left her water jar and went into the town and said to the people, “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” They went out of the town and came to him.” Do not miss that little detail: she left her water jar. She left behind the very thing she was depending on to collect the things of the world. What is your “water jar”? What do you use to gain access to the world and to collect its offerings? For most of us, it is money. Scripture says, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Tim 6:10). At any rate, the woman is joyfully empowered to leave this enslaving water jar behind. Freed from its load, she is able to run to town and declare Jesus to others. Her joy must have been infectious, for soon enough they are following her out to meet the Lord!

This is the journey of a woman who represents each one of us. This is our journey, out of dependence, out of an enslaving attachment to the world. It is our journey unto Jesus, who alone can set us free. Here is our journey to understand that our desires are ultimately about God.

You can listen to this homily here: Just a Little Talk With Jesus.

I have it on the best of authority that as the woman joyfully journeyed back to town, she was singing this gospel song

Read Full Post »

If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Advice from the Lord in Overcoming Anxiety

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

When we read today’s Gospel (from the Sermon on the Mount) we must be careful not to misinterpret its basic vision. Jesus is not telling us what to do, but rather is offering us something to receive. The wrong way to interpret this Gospel is to think that Jesus is just saying, “Stop worrying.” We all get this advice from people every day and it isn’t very helpful. This is not what Jesus is saying, for remember that in the Sermon on the Mount He is describing the transformed human person. What He is teaching us here is that as He begins to live His life in us, many of our anxieties will diminish and go away.

The transformed human person trusts God and is able to see God’s hand even in the difficulties of life. It is this trust growing in us by God’s grace that diminishes and ultimately removes fear. Trust God and fear lessens. This is the gift that Jesus offers in this Gospel.

We can distinguish three particular aspects of anxiety that Jesus sets forth: possessions, paternity, and priority. Let’s examine each and see how the Lord wants to free us from them.

I The Problem of Possessions – The text says, No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Mammon is variously understood as riches, greed, or possessions. In an extended sense it can refer to the agenda of the world, which is focused essentially on material things, and which ties our dignity to only those things.

Whose slave are you? The Lord is clear that we cannot serve mammon if we wish to serve Him. The Greek word translated here as “serve” is δουλεύειν (douleuein), which more specifically means to “serve as a slave.” We miss the strength of the text when we fail to notice the slavery aspect. It may happen in our culture that one works at a job, yet after work hours goes home and is free from obligations. Hence we tend to believe that we can serve both God and mammon. But the Greek word used here describes a slave, not a servant. A slave is wholly given over to the will of his master. The Greek word is thus more intense than the English translation.

The Lord is saying, “You’re either going to be a slave of the Lord or a slave of the world.” The honest truth is that most people are slaves of the world, of mammon; slaves to riches, greed, and the agendas associated with them. These worldly things tend to completely consume us so that when we hear of some demand from God, we feel overwhelmed—even angry—that something “more” is required of us. Our anger at God is a sign that we are slaves to mammon.

We are usually too proud to admit that we are slaves of the world, but most of us are, to a large extent. The world and its demands press on us, taking up nearly all the oxygen in our life. It is this terrible slavery that is a huge source of our anxiety and from which the Lord offers to free us. The Lord describes the anxieties that flow from slavery to mammon; to the world, its riches, and its agenda:

I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear …. Why are you anxious about clothes? Do not worry and say, “What are we to eat?” or “What are we to drink?” or “What are we to wear?”

Still anxious! For us who live in the Western world, the anxiety about merely having such things has receded a bit. In general, we are well-supplied and may not worry about whether we will have clothes or food. But even though we have them in abundance, still we worry about them obsessively. For example, we may worry about whether we have the right clothes, if they are fashionable, if they look good on us. We worry about whether we have too much fat or salt in our diet. Many people are obsessed with what they eat. We have never lived so long and been so healthy, yet we have never been more anxious about our health! We have plenty of food and still we worry about it! Worry, worry, worry. Anxiety about these things is a sign that we are slaves to them. Scripture says, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep (Eccles 5:12).

The Lord offers to live His life in us so that we will not be slaves to mammon, but rather slaves to Him. We may not like the image of slavery, but I have news for you: we are so small and powerless that we are going to be slaves of someone; it might as well be the Lord! Being wholly devoted to the Lord and what pleases Him breaks our obsession with the world, money, possessions, popularity, and fashion.

As the Lord’s life and His will begin to replace our own life and will, our obsession with the world’s demands diminishes and its power over us is broken. As we grow into a deeper relationship with the Lord, our ties with the world and concerns about worldly agendas fade. As the ties are loosened, our anxiety diminishes.

You and I, in our flesh, are not going to stop worrying, but the Lord, living His life in us, isn’t worried at all. As His power and influence over us grows, the worries lessen, and the anxiety goes away.

This is the gift that the Lord is offering us if we but let Him take greater possession of our hearts. How do we do this? Through the medicine of prayer, the sacraments, Scripture, and spiritual reading. Gradually the Lord’s heart, mind, and will transform our heart, mind, and will to be like His.

II The Problem of Paternity – Jesus wants to draw us to a deeper relationship with His Father. A common spiritual problem, even among those who develop something of a relationship with Jesus, is finding the Eternal Father to be distant or remote. To many, the Father is a stranger. They have surely heard of Him and read of Him in the Scriptures, but He is a stranger. Some even have a sort of fear of Him. This may be because they think of certain Old Testament texts, or perhaps because their earthly father was stern or remote. Whatever the problem, the Lord Jesus wants to lead us to His Father. Note that the phrase, “your heavenly Father” occurs twice in this passage and four times in Chapter 6 overall. There are two other references to the Father as “God” in today’s Gospel, and it is in Chapter 6 of Matthew that Jesus teaches us the “Our Father.”

All of these references to the Father, in close proximity to the invitation “Do not worry,” cannot be overlooked. Having a closer relationship with the Heavenly Father is an antidote to anxiety. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need. He cares for birds, flowers, and countless other things. Thus He is willing and able to care for us. To embrace and experience His love for us is to experience a lessening of our anxiety.

Perhaps an illustration will help: When I was six years old, I had a fear that someone would break into our home, or that something bad would happen during the night. When my Father was home I didn’t worry. In 1968, he left for Vietnam and was gone for a year. During that year I had an extended bout of this fear; Daddy was gone and I felt unsafe. In 1969, he returned and my fears went away. I didn’t cause them to go away; it was not an act of the will on my part. It was simply this: Daddy was home.

You and I may not be able to dismiss our fears and anxieties by a simple act of the will, but to the degree that our “Daddy-God” is near and we feel His presence, our fears just go away.

This is a critical gift that Jesus wants to give us: a deep experience of, and love for, His Father. It is our perceived distance from the Father that causes our anxiety. When we truly experience that our Heavenly Father “knows what we need,” we find our fears melting away.

Seek this gift from Jesus: that you know and love His Father and that His presence will be close at hand. Then watch your fears dissipate. The Lord Jesus can do this for us. Read the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) slowly. Understand that the parable is really about the Father more than it is about the sons. Jesus is saying, “This is what my Father is like.”

III The Problem of Priority. The text says, But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. One of our greatest struggles is to have proper priorities, and in the end, to do just one thing. This third matter (priority) is similar to the first (possessions), but it is more about choices and direction rather than things and allegiances.

The simple truth is that we have a lot of trouble deciding what is most important and learning to make good decisions. This causes a lot of grief and anxiety for us. We want too many things. We want to please too many people. We are too easily distracted from our goal. In many ways we have not even fully clarified our goal.

What is it that you want? What is the one thing that guides every other thing that you do? You may say, “God,” or “the world,” or maybe “my career.” But the fact is, a lot of people don’t really have a clear answer. They want a lot of things and have never really sat down and determined the one overarching goal of their life. Because of this, they run about chasing this thing and that, and experiencing lots of anxiety along the way.

Imagine a man driving north to New York from Philadelphia. He knows that Philadelphia is his destination. Along the way he sees lots of signs, but is quickly able to determine which ones pertain to his journey and which ones can be ignored. If he sees an upcoming fork in the road with a sign that says, “95 South Baltimore,” he ignores it and continues on his way, experiencing no anxiety at all about doing so.

But now imagine another man, one who is not sure where he is going; it may be New York or it may be somewhere else. Frankly, he hasn’t thought about it all that much; he just lets life happen to him. Now this man sees that sign for “95 South Richmond.” He struggles to know whether he should take that fork or not. The sign makes him anxious. Should he or shouldn’t he? Then when he makes the choice, he wonders whether he did the right thing. His anxiety is even greater now. He keeps looking back, second-guessing himself, and wondering. He is anxious because he did not first determine his real destination.

Many people live this way. They have no real priority, no firm choice. Even if they have some vague direction (e.g., “I want to be happy”) they have little idea what it really takes to get there. And frankly, they don’t want to know the specifics all that much. Commitments and decisions are eschewed. Strangely, though, in trying to avoid a decision or commitment, they are not any less anxious; in fact, they are more anxious. Every intersection is bewildering to them. “What should I do?” “Which way should I go?”

The Lord wants to save us from all this anxiety. He offers us the grace to become clear about what we want and where we are going. As He begins to live His life more fully in us, our mind gets clearer; our heart desires with greater clarity. When Jesus’ own life begins to replace our own, we want what He wants. He wants the Kingdom and its values. He loves His Father and everyone and everything that His Father loves.

And so do we. By grace and by degrees, the Lord begins to change us, to clarify things for us. Increasingly, our life becomes about only one thing: “I want to die and leave this world loving God and His kingdom; I want to be with him forever.”

Received, not achieved – In all three of these areas please remember that the Lord is not merely saying to us that through our own power we must serve only God, experience Him as Father (Abba), and seek first the Kingdom of God. If it depended on us, we would never be able to do it!

No, what the Lord is doing here is painting a picture of the transformed human person. He is showing us what we will experience if we let Him live His life in us and transform us. This work begins in us and continues when we get down on our knees and beg the Lord to do it. It begins and continues when we are serious about having a steady diet of prayer, Scripture, Church teaching, the sacraments, Holy Mass, and holy fellowship.

Now if you want to stay anxious and fretful, fine; but if you seek serenity, then invite the Lord into your life every day. Stay faithful to spiritual practices. If you do, I promise (I am a witness) that you will see your anxieties lessen, your fears abate, your serenity grow, and your confidence strengthen. The choice is yours.

The clip below, from the movie City Slickers, speaks of doing just one thing. (Please pardon the slight profanity.)

Read Full Post »

If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Pass the Salt and Put on the Light – A Homily for the 5th Sunday of the Year

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

In the Gospel today the Lord describes metaphorically what a Christian is and what He expects of us. Note five things about what God says:

I The Definitiveness of His Proclamation – The text says, You are the Salt of the earth. … You are the light of the World. … But if salt goes flat it is good for nothing. … No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.

The Lord is definitive in two ways. First, He says, “You.” He is not talking just to people long ago or to the person next to you. He is not merely talking to your pastor or the Saints. He is talking to you. You are salt. You are light. You. It’s too easy to say, “Look at what the Lord is saying to those people long ago near the lakeside.” It’s not long ago; it’s now. It’s you.

The second way that the Lord is definitive is in saying that both images depend on us; if we are not salt and light then no one else will be and we will have utterly voided our worth.

  1. The metaphor of salt: You are either salt or you are nothing; in fact, you are good for nothing. As Christians, we have signed up to be specialists. This means is that if we go off and do something else instead, we are nothing and are good for nothing. It’s an all-or-nothing scenario. Jesus says that if you have decided to be His disciple you are either going to do that or else be nothing. You may go on to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, laborer, or social worker, but the Lord has plenty of those (and so does the devil). Your first and only mission is to be a true and uncompromised Christian; everything else is mere commentary. You may be a great doctor, but if you don’t do it as a clear and visible Christian you are nothing. You may be a skilled social worker, but if you don’t do it as a Christian you are good for nothing. Any non-believer can be socially useful as a doctor or social worker, but only a Christian can be a Christian. If you don’t do “job one,” you are nothing. If you supply your children with every good thing, but do not act as a Christian witness to them and bring them to Christ, you are good for nothing. Any parent can provide his children with material things, but only a Christian can give them Christ. Got it? You’re either salt (a true Christian) or you are nothing.
  2. The metaphor of light: The Lord says that you are the light of the world, not merely a light. What this means is that if we do not shine, the world is darker; no one can take our place. If we don’t shine by living our faith and proclaiming it, the world is in darkness. Buddha can’t help. Mohamed can’t pull it off. Science and humanism can’t substitute. Either we are light or there is none. Some may call this arrogant, but I just call it Scripture. The Lord said it, not us. We are either light or else the world is dark. And if the world is getting darker, whose fault is that? We need not go far. Too many Christians fulfill Isaiah 56:10, which says, Israel’s watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. You may be an exception, but too many Christians are not.

Therefore, notice the definitive pronouncement the Lord makes here. We Christians are either with the Lord or we’re nothing. We’re either light or the world is in darkness.

II The Dynamics of Salt – When Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth, what are some of the lessons we can learn? Consider these four things:

  1. Salt seasons. Christians are called to add spice to life, to bring beauty, joy, and hope to the world. Joy is the surest sign of a Christian. Even our keeping of the Commandments is a source of joy, as we experience God’s power to put sin to death in us and bring forth order, self-discipline, and holiness. Hope, too, ought to distinguish us from a world that is often cynical and thinks sin is inevitable. To this world we are not only to declare that the Commandments are possible and bring joy, but to demonstrate it in our lives. We are to be zesty, passionate, alive, and free from sin in Christ. Yet, sadly, we Christians are known more for what we are against. Too many Christians are not spicy; they do not really add flavor. They are more like bored believers, depressed disciples, fearful faithful, and frozen chosen. In our best moments, look what spicy things the faith has contributed: Art, music, churches, hospitals, universities, the scholastic and scientific methods, and holidays (a mispronunciation of Holy Days). Our tradition and Scriptural teaching of justice, mercy, love, and the dignity of the human person has blessed the world. Do you bring spice to the lives of others? Do you bring hope and joy? Scripture says, Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15). That means that people notice hope in you! Do they? How?
  2. Salt preserves. Before refrigeration, people often used salt to cure or preserve meat. The salt killed bacteria and other microorganisms that caused rot and decay. As Christians, we are called to prevent further decay in this sin-soaked world. The truth that we proclaim is meant to preserve people from the decay of sin and overindulgence. Chastity, justice, generosity, and the proclamation of the truth, are like salt that preserves this world from decay. We must be salt. If we are not, nothing else is. You are the salt.
  3. Salt heals. In the ancient world, salt was used on wounds. It helped to stop bleeding, killed bacteria, and prevented further infection. So, too, the Christian faith. Through our doctrinal and moral teaching, and our living of it, we are called to bring healing to this world, which is wounded by sin, strife, war, jealousy, anger, bitterness, retribution, promiscuity, unfaithfulness, greed, and countless other errors. The Word of God and His plan is a healing medicine for what ails this world.
  4. Salt burns. Yes, salt stings when applied to wounds. We Christians aren’t just sugar and spice and everything nice. When salt is applied to wounds it burns and often brings out loud protest. The truth stings, too. The truth of the Gospel can be irritating to a world that is wounded by sin. But despite the protests of the world, the sting is a healing one. It is driving out the disease of the world and preventing further infection. Just because people protest the Church and howl in complaint at the truth of the Gospel does not mean we have done anything wrong. In fact, protests often show that we are doing exactly what we must.

III. The Destination of Salt – The Lord says that you are the salt of the earth. He did not say that you are the salt of the Church. For salt to be effective it has to get out of the shaker! Too many Christians are bold in the pew but cowards in the world. They will speak of the faith in the relative security of the Church and among certain friends, but don’t ask them to preach to their spouse, their co-worker, or even their children; that’s too scary. And don’t even think about asking them to knock on doors, or to go to the local mall and witness, or to stand in front of an abortion clinic.

Salt in the shaker is useless. It has to come out of the shaker in order to make any difference. You don’t salt salt. Witnessing to fellow Christians may have a limited benefit, but it is not really the true destination of salt. The salt has to go forth. When the priest or deacon says “The Mass is ended go in peace,” he might as well be holding up a salt shaker and shaking it!

It’s long past time for the salt (you and me) to go forth. Consider these observations about life in our country today:

  • In the last fifty years there has been an increase of more than a 500% in violent crime.
  • There are more than half a million abortions each year.
  • Since 1970, the divorce rate has quadrupled. The overall number of divorces may have declined recently, but it is due more to people not getting married in the first place.
  • More than 40% of children today do not live with both their biological parents. Since the 1970s, the percentage of children living in single-parent homes has tripled.
  • As the family has broken down, here is what has been happening to our young:
    • a quadrupling in juvenile arrests,
    • a 400% increase in births outside of wedlock,
    • one million teenage pregnancies annually,
    • three million teenagers treated annually for sexually transmitted diseases,
    • a 200% increase in the rate of teenage suicide,
    • a drop in average SAT scores,
    • two-thirds of high school students have experimented with illegal drugs.
  • In the schools, one cannot pray or mention religion, yet condoms are freely available and all sorts of aberrant and alternative lifestyles and philosophies are openly promoted.
  • Parental consent is required for a child to go on a field trip or to get an aspirin, but in many states abortion referrals can be made without parental consent.
  • Our neighborhoods are devastated by poverty, injustice, crime, and despair.

All of this has happened on our watch. It’s time for the salt to work. The world needs the salt to get out of the shaker and do its work of seasoning, purifying, and preserving.

IV. The Details of Light – Jesus goes on to say, Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. Let’s consider four things about this light:

  1. The CAUSE of the light – Notice that little word: “Let.” We are to yield to Christ, to allow Him to shine through us. He is the cause of our light. Let your light shine. There’s an old gospel song that says, “When you see me trying to do good, trying to live as a Christian should, it’s just Jesus, Jesus in me.”
  2. The COST of the light – The light is to shine, but there is no shining without burning. Shining costs us something. It may be Christ’s light, but it shines through us. This means sacrifice. It means letting Him use you. It means not always sleeping when you want to. It means not just sitting at home and saying, “Ain’t it awful.” It means getting out and getting involved. It means getting “out there” and risking a few things. It means being visible, targeted, and identified with someone (Jesus) who is hated by many. And in a world that prefers the darkness to light (cf. John 3:19-21), it means being called harsh, out-of-touch, and hateful. There is no shining without burning.
  3. The CONCRETENESS of the light – Letting our light shine is no mere abstraction. Jesus speaks of deeds. Shining involves concrete behavior. Your light shines by the way you live, the choices you make, the behavior you exhibit. It shines when Christians get married and stay married, stay faithful to their commitments, and are people of their word. Our light shines when we tell the truth instead of lying, live chastely instead of fornicating, are courteous and respectful instead of rude. It shines when we respect life, drive safely, and shun reckless and risky behavior. Our light shines when we clean up our language, give to the poor, and work for justice. It shines when we refuse to purchase pornographic, violent, or other degrading materials. Our light shines when we love instead of hate, seek reconciliation instead of revenge, and pray for our enemies instead of cursing them. It shines when we walk uprightly and speak the truth in love, without compromise. That’s when our light begins to shine.
  4. The CONSEQUENCE of the light – God is glorified when our light shines. We do not act or get involved merely to vent our own anger or to fight for our own sake. We are light to glorify God. It is not about our winning, it is about God shining and being glorified. When we do get involved, too often we seek merely to win the argument rather than to glorify God. Often we act in order to garner praise rather than to have God glorified. We need to pray for good intentions, for it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. The desired result is God’s glory not our glory.

OK, now pass the salt and turn on the light!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »