Saturday, November 13, 2010

Benedict Sunday Morning 33C: "you are not to prepare"

... your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. (Lk 21:5-19)

Well known is the parable in which we are urged to be prepared like servants awaiting their master's return from a wedding, but in today's Gospel it seems as though the Lord is instructing us to do the very opposite: do not prepare! But, in fact, what He means is that He Himself, through wisdom, is our "preparation"; He Himself will be with us to defend and protect the evil of unjust judgment in this world and the day that "is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire," (Mal 3:19-20a) at the end of the world.

How can we live so that Jesus Christ Himself "gives" us this wisdom He describes in the Gospel, so that He Himself is our defense, our protector? He tells us that He is to be our "soul armor", our advocate who pleads our cause, our defender, such that we can live completely free of defensiveness, of the gnawing worry that eats away at one who is gripped by fear.

One must be "of Christ", that is "in" Christ in order that Christ might be in one. Christ has a Body in the world. This Body is His Church so that we might become members of Him.

" 'Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who - by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion - are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but "in body" not "in heart." ' " (CCC 837)

Yes, when we are baptized we are truly incorporated "bodily" into Christ by means of grace through faith, usually the faith of our parents. But as we grow we must continue to be nourished in faith through the Sunday Eucharist, the teaching and example of parents and the wider Christian community so that bodily growth in the natural sense is accompanied by the spiritual growth which Christ promises will make it possible for us to live true freedom, without the worry that comes with concern to "prepare a defense" beforehand. We must attain a mature Christian faith, through which we speak for ourselves and confess of our own will that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Temptations and worries will come. And weariness of prayer itself. One of the purposes of prayer is to "hallow" or to make holy God's name. We do this by glorifying Him in word and work. But the heart of faith is prayer and praise.

"In the waters of Baptism, we have been 'washed . . . sanctified . . . justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.' Our Father calls us to holiness in the whole of our life, and since 'he is the source of [our] life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and . . .sanctification,' both his glory and our life depend on the hallowing of his name in us and by us. Such is the urgency of our first petition.

By whom is God hallowed, since he is the one who hallows? But since he said, 'You shall be holy to me; for I the LORD am holy,' we seek and ask that we who were sanctified in Baptism may persevere in what we have begun to be. And we ask this daily, for we need sanctification daily, so that we who fail daily may cleanse away our sins by being sanctified continually. . . . We pray that this sanctification may remain in us. (CCC 2813)
Living in faithfulness to the Church and her life of prayer, especially the Sunday Eucharist, also takes away any worry about what we will say on judgment day when we stand before God. Why? Because we are in Christ! He will do all the talking to His Father on our behalf! One can have no better or more perfect advocate!

For those who are distant from God, because they stand aloof from the Church and her sacramental life, these words describe well the fear which the certainty of judgment day can inspire:

"Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch" (Mal 3:19-20a)

But there is no fear for those who have His mercy, who live His life now with perserverance in the Church. We also hear these words which invite us to love Him, in action as well as word:

"But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays." (Mal 3:19-20a)

What is "fear" of the Lord? It is not a worldly, gnawing loathing which eats away at the huma person, a foretaste of death itself. No, it is rather life giving: the love which worships and adores the very source of infinite Good, God Himself.

"God makes himself known by recalling his all-powerful loving, and liberating action in the history of the one he addresses: 'I brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.' The first word contains the first commandment of the Law: 'You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him. . . . You shall not go after other gods.' God's first call and just demand is that man accept him and worship him." (CCC 2084)

Come to Christ, in His Body the Church, through which our advocate and defender gives Himself to us every time we, with the Church, "accept and worship Him" in His holy sacrifice: holy Mass.

Come, Lord Jesus!

-- ((((..))))

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