Thursday, February 18, 2016

So ya thought ya might like to go to the show

In today's news feed I found it interesting to see headlines that declared Donald Trump and the Pope at war with one another. One article making it seem as if the Pope had declared Trump a heretic and excommunicated him, another in which Trump declared the Pope despicable for questioning his Christian faith. All of them had one in thing in common, they weren't showing the whole truth. Clips out of context and misquotes abounded. What the Pope said rather, was that building walls instead of bridges was not the action of a Christian. What the Pope said was radical.  What he said was counter cultural.   What he said is Catholic teaching.

The readings for tomorrow's daily Mass remind us of this simple truth. God wants to forgive us. He wants to bring us to the fullness of humanity, to become the person that we are created to be. Thomas Merton said “For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.” That doesn't mean that how I am currently acting is saintly. Rather it means when I truly live out the fullness of what God created me to be... when I am the authentic Brian he intended me to be, that's when I find Sainthood.. that's when we have arrived. I remember when I was in school as a kid the ladies in the cafeteria had a sign hanging up with this little boy kind of frowning as if he was trying to figure something out. It said "I know I'm somebody, cause God don't make no junk." How true.

A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel. - Pope Francis

What do writings about anger and hatred have to do with Trump and the Pope? The Catholic Church teaches :

Our attitude to our neighbor will disclose acceptance or refusal of grace and divine love.  (CCC 678)

The more filled we are with love, the more we treat our brother with love, dignity and respect. The more like God we are, the more we want to share that love. Many conservatives often want to quantify this love by saying that of course Jesus did not mean to put ourselves at risk. Yet, when people came to capture him in the middle of the night he did not even defend himself, but even had Peter put his sword away. Then he healed his 'enemy.' Now, we have a right to self defense. Of that the Church has been clear of over the years. Not only a right but even a grave duty. (CCC 2265). Jesus though called us to a radical notion, a self giving that goes beyond our own box.

The problem truly has become our segregationist attitude. We in our search for greed, security, and pleasure; have divided the world up into countries, states, and political entities. It's a system that helps bring order, sure. It's also a system that turns our fellow man into the 'other'. Then we decide who is 'us' enough to be included as our neighbor, and who isn't. When we say 'lets take care of those at home first,' we are essentially saying 'those born in our country deserve more freedom, more love, more charity than those who were born elsewhere. How is that we get to decide that? What did they do to deserve that? Why is being born somewhere a deciding factor in how much we care for someone? Isn't that pretty much what the caste system attempts to do? Those born into the right family are treated with respect and dignity, those in the wrong are the unclean, the outsider, the ones who will always be downtrodden.

Building bridges, not walls. That is what Christ came to do. Christ came to tear down the wall of hostility and make the two into the one, the gentiles and the Jews into one family (Ephesians 2:14). He didn't come to die only for those in America, only those in the Church, or even only those who are free from sin. No he came to die for all men, that all might come to be one. When we pray the our Father we are praying for 'us.'

Finally, if we pray the Our Father sincerely, we leave individualism behind, because the love that we receive frees us from it. The "our" at the beginning of the Lord's Prayer, like the "us" of the last four petitions, excludes no one. If we are to say it truthfully, our divisions and oppositions have to be overcome.  (CCC 2792)

Doesn't that just hit home? It's time for us as Christians to truly ask ourselves, are we living the Gospel? Are we holding anything against our brother? Are we serving God's Kingdom or our own? The only crime many of these refugees have committed is being born in a country that is not our own. A crime that they did not choose to commit. In the case of Mexico alone, we see people being murdered in a drug war, raped and pillaged. Then we demean and degrade them by keeping them at bay. We use terms like illegal to make them seem unwanted, undesired, criminal. We put up a mental wall that makes us feel safer, and then cheer when someone wants to put up a physical one to keep out those undesirables. What will we do on judgment day when Christ says to us, “What you did to the least of these, you did to me”? None of us got to choose where we were born. It's time to stop punishing people for that.

What will we do on judgment day when Christ says to us, “What you did to the least of these, you did to me”?
The first reading from Ezekiel is wake up call. It remind us that for those who choose to do good, to live the fullness of what God created them to be, heaven awaits. For those who reject it, those who decide to do evil and ignore the potential for freedom of excellence that God has offered them, awaits the fires of Gahanna. 

The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."  (CCC 1036)

Today we are faced with a choice. Jesus is asking us for water, he is asking us for food, he is a stranger asking for shelter. How will we respond to him? We have a right, even a duty to keep those we are responsible for safe. We also have a duty to reach out to fellow man and lift him up to that fullness that he too is created for. That fullness which was revealed completely and perfectly in the person of Jesus Christ. That's what Christianity is all about. That's what Lent is about. Forgiveness. Prayer. Fasting. Alms-giving. We are deeply entrenched in the desert of our own ego. God is offering us a chance to move outside of our own small mindedness and reach out to the rest of the world and say, “Christ is the way the truth and the life.” More poignantly than ever echoes the words of that beautiful hymn, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”

His servant and yours,

“He must increase, I must decrease.”