Saturday, February 16, 2019

THE FUNDAMENTAL CHOICE IS FOR OR AGAINST JESUS: a homily for the Sixth Sunday, year C (Luke 6.17, 20-26)

Over the last century many near death experiences have been recorded.  There are numerous video interviews on Youtube.  I have heard a few that impressed me.  One was by an American badly injured in a car crash who had his own death certificate! He also had five sets of the same tests taken because the doctors could not believe he was alive!  He spoke about being given a choice: to go on living the semi-Christian life he had been living or to change and take Jesus seriously.  
It is in the middle of working wonders (healings and exorcisms) that our Lord gives this teaching!  Luke presents it as four blessings and four woes.  It would be easy to misread this teaching as if our Lord was saying that being poor or hungry or grieving or hated and excluded means you should rejoice because God will make it up to you.  Likewise it would be easy think our Lord saying that those who are rich or well fed or rejoicing or spoken well of are done for.  He is not saying such things at all.  Our Lord is saying that those who are poor, hungry, mourning, or hated and excluded because of their faith in Him will be satisfied and rejoice in the Kingdom of God.  Likewise it is those rich, well fed, rejoicing, or spoken well of by the world while denying and opposing our Lord who will hunger and grieve for ever. 

At the heart of this, and the question of religion, is Jesus Christ.  We have to decide whether we stand with or against Him.  A common misconception today is that all religions are equal or the same.  Such ideas are a testament to the ignorance of our day.  For example one cannot believe that Jesus is God made flesh, truly man for our salvation, who established and empowered the Church and that he is only a prophet preparing the way for Mohammed the last prophet.  Islam and Christianity are mutually exclusive.  One must choose between them.  One must choose Christ or reject Him.  There is no middle ground.  This is true for all religions.
Yet in our World there are obviously many religions, many philosophies. They each have members who are good and members who are bad.  Does not each religion have something of the truth?  There are some things that one can admire and find inspiring.  The Angelus was inspired by the Muslim practice of praying five times a day that so impressed St Francis.  But that itself was probably inspired by the ancient Christian and Jewish practice of dividing up the day by times of prayer.  That there are good people in other religions, and all too many bad Christians, does not prove that all religions are equal, only that so few embrace the Christian way with enthusiasm; so few of us make the choice to actively follow the Lord and seek to be saints.  There is nothing to be added to the Christian Faith.  Our Lord revealed everything necessary for salvation to the Apostles and the first disciples and that has been handed down to us in the Tradition and teaching of the Church and in the Bible.

Why does God allow so many religions? That question is related to the questions about why God allows suffering.  Remember, please remember, God is not a puppet master!  We are not tied by strings to God’s fingers!  Theologians usually make a distinction between the active and the passive will of God.  God never wills evil.  God always and only ever wills the good. Indeed God actively wills our existence because it is good.  Every moment is a gift from God.  Your parents, your children, your friends and neighbours, everyone and everything around you is a gift from God.  Every heart beat and every breath is a gift from God. Yet obviously there is evil in the world. When God is said to allow evil this is attributed to His passive will.  He allows evil to happen but he does not cause or desire it.  
There are two basic kinds of evil: natural and moral.  Natural evil involves all the bad things that happen due to the nature of our world and also accidental events: earthquakes, storms, volcanic eruptions come to mind. One could include many illnesses and injuries. Human error, laziness and even malice can make these things worse but they do not cause them.  No one cares if a tsunami or a storm hits a coast where no one lives or an earthquake or volcano devastates the desert.  We care when they affect human beings.  Then they are disasters.  Likewise with bacteria and viruses.  We only care about them when they are a threat to us and our loved ones.  Then we call them ‘evils.’  They are the ‘bad’ things that happen because of the limited nature of our universe.
The other kind of evil is moral evil. Moral evil happens because of choices made by rational beings: terrorism, wars, addiction, theft, sexual abuse, rape and murder.  The list of the evils of which we human beings are capable is long.  It is because of moral evil, its possibility and its reality, that we have so many laws, a police force, a judiciary and legal profession, a penal system and an army.  If people and nations never did wrong we would not need these things. Despite God’s goodness and mercy, despite His loving respect for our freedom, we violate that freedom and we do wrong.  We harm and hurt and betray one another.  We let each other down. God does not actively will this,  He merely allows it for the present moment.  Thus our Lord accepted the evil of the cross because through it He could save us and unite us with His Father.
  So while God never actively wills evil, never chooses it and does not want it in our world, He does allow it so that He can bring some greater good from it.  He allows natural evil as part of his creation for His own plans.  He allows moral evil not only because of His own wise plans but because He really respects our freedom.  God will never ever violate our free will.    While we are here we have the chance to conform ourselves to His plan and His active will for us or not.  Where and how we will spend eternity depends on the choices we make here and  now, above all the choice we make about Him.

We can choose to reject and oppose our Lord, or to ignore Him, or we can choose to embrace His teaching and put it into practice.  In the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelations (also called the Apocalypse), our Lord warns us that He would rather have us against Him than indifferent, tasteless and bland like lukewarm water.  He warns us He will spit us out of His mouth!  Let us not be cold or indifferent to the Lord.  Let us draw near to Him and follow in His footsteps regardless of the price.  He will replace all that we sacrifice for Him a hundred times over and more; we will have eternal joy and gladness with Him forever. 

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