Sunday, January 3, 2016

Test the Spirits...

A reflection based on the
readings for Daily Mass 1/4/16
Today we were talking to our students in Religious Education class about the need to truly listen to what people are saying, but to be careful and discern what is true.  All too often there is just enough truth in something to make it seem like it makes sense, but when you compare it with what you already know to be true... it comes out to be just a little off, or in some cases greatly different.  We talked about the Gospel of Thomas for instance.   How that it sounds beautiful, in fact some of it is very beautiful and even orthodox.   It contains many of the very statements that Mark and Luke write about as well.  On a cursory glance it would even seem that it could almost be in the bible... except once you look at it closely... you see this strange statement:  Simon Peter said to them, "Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life." Jesus said, "Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven."

Does that sound like the Jesus we know?  Does it sound like the Catholicism that has been handed on by the Apostles?  Of course not. It's clear when we truly read for ourselves that we find why this was rejected by the church, but we still find people trying to make up conspiracy theories about hidden gospels, or gospels that should be there and aren't.  That's why it's so important to truly test for ourselves and ask, is this the Jesus I know?  Is this the Jesus that was taught by the Church for 2000 years?  Is this in fact the Christianity that was handed on to the Apostles and by the Apostles?   What did the church believe in the first century for instance?  All good questions to ask yourself.

Beloved, do not trust every spirit
but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God,
because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

Our scriptures themselves warn us to not only test the spirits, but to draw towards Orthodoxy.  To cling to what we have been taught by the Apostles, and to reject any new and strange teaching.  Yet, we seem to go that route in this day and age.   We reject the Christianity that existed from the beginning and form new versions, new denominations, strange new teachings.  We must be careful to look for the truth.  To draw to the One True Church, and to give our hearts to Jesus in the way and manner he himself taught us to do so, through the seat of authority that he himself established.

Elizabeth Ann Seton knew this.   She went through a very rough time.  Her father in law died leaving her to care not only for her own children, but her husbands younger siblings.   Then her husband contracted tuberculosis and died while in Italy seeking a cure.  In order to support her large and needy family, she founded a school and began to teach.  It was a very tough time for a single mother to eek out a living and she turned to the church to do so.  In the end, she found herself drawn to the faith and converted to Catholicism.

The result was a quick loss in students.  People were quick to turn their back on a religious school, especially a Catholic one.  Instead of despairing she founded one of the first free Catholic schools in America, followed by a religious order of her own, the Sisters of Charity.  She tested the spirits, and followed God's lead.   She didn't give up when times got tough.   She could of easily become bitter, angry, hurt that God had allowed all of this to befall her.  Instead she followed him through his Church to lead others to Him as well.

In the Gospel we see people flocking from all around the area, thousands of men, women, and children coming to see him.  Looking for answers.  Looking for healing.  Looking for his voice.  There are so many voices out there today.  Pulling us one way or another.  Come on live like the world does.   Come on party.  Come on drink with us.  Come on it's just sex.  Come on... Come on.

Listen to the voice of John as he proclaims:

You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them,
for the one who is in you
is greater than the one who is in the world.
They belong to the world;
accordingly, their teaching belongs to the world,
and the world listens to them.
We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us,
while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us.
This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit.

Jesus left us a church.  Saint Paul tells Timothy that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth.  That when he has questions all he has to do is turn to the Church to find them.  John tells us that anyone who listens to the Apostles, belongs to God, because they belong to God.   The teaching authority of the Apostles was passed on to the Church, and through them to us.  So whose voice are you listening to today?  Test the spirits and ask yourself, do they align with the teaching of the Apostles?   Do they align with what Christ handed on to us through his disciples?  Or are we listening for our own voice?  Epiphany was yesterday.  A day when we celebrate the revelation of Christ to the world through the arrival of three kings.  Everyday needs to be an Epiphany.   He is there.. sacramentally present in His Church.  Do you see him?  Are you seeking him?  Or are you only seeking yourself?

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."