NOVEMBER 3, 2010 – WEDNESDAY OF THE 31ST WEEK: PHIL 2:12-18;  LUKE 14: 25-33.

 

BE BLAMELESS IN THE MIDST OF A CROOKED AND PERVERSE GENERATION, AMONG WHOM YOU SHINE LIKE LIGHTS IN THE WORLD. This appeal by Saint Paul to the community at Philippi has become increasingly pertinent and challenging for the faithful in our country today. As society becomes more secular and materialist morals decay along with orthodox Christian belief. Within the Catholic ranks in the last decades there is found a large number who openly deny major elements of Church teaching; even belief in the real presence of the Risen Christ in the Eucharist is denied by not a few who still call themselves Catholic. The detailed study of the teaching and lifestyle in the Universities of this country published recently reveals the broad extent of drunken partying and sexual activity by the youth. That such corrupting practices were not confined to the Greek society at Philippi is notorious.  In his Epistle to the Romans Paul urged similarly that the faithful believers avoid conforming to the society in which they were immersed. He exhorts the Catholic community in these words: “Let us live decent lives, in the open light of day, not in drunken parties, not indulging in sexual promiscuity and licentiousness, not in dissention and jealousy, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for gratifying the flesh.”(Rom 13:13-14) When Saint Augustine read these words he experienced a strong impulse of grace that enabled him to cast off the shackles of carnal attachment and open his heart to God. If this decisive experience proved to mark the end of a long interior conflict it was at the same time the first round of a fight on behalf of the Church’s teaching that was to last the rest of his life.

 

Saint Paul and Augustine, while separated by several centuries and a changed society, had similar conflicts in dealing with the situation in which in which they lived. They were encountering the kind of opposition that Jesus had told all of his followers to expect. Opposition and even persecution that he met with is the background of his statement in the Gospel text we have just heard:. “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Jesus identified himself as a light in the world, and Saint John in the preface to his Gospel introduced him to his readers saying “The true light which enlightens everyone was coming into the world.”(John 1:9) When Paul tells us in the passage we heard in today’s first reading to “shine like lights in the world” he is encouraging us to witness to Jesus as the Son of God made flesh. To do this, he explains, we are to “Be blameless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” Inevitably we are to encounter the same kinds of resistances that our forefathers in the faith had to deal with. Those of our fellow Catholics who have sought rather to adapt to the secularizing society that has come to dominate in our country, instead of providing a shinning witness have been co-opted by the liberal public. Such liberal Catholics see no problem in supporting activities and practices that are contrary to the Bible and the Church’s teachings from abortion to homosexual marriage. As faith and Christian morality are increasingly abandoned materialism takes over increasingly and trivial, superficial pursuits and pastimes flourish.

 

Neither Paul nor Saint Augustine confined their teaching to criticism of their society and warnings against its spreading influence. They both set out a program intended not only to avoid contamination but also to provide for a wholesome response that offered a way leading to a noble, true happiness. Paradoxically, this alternative way involved self-denial and taking up the cross of such suffering as is inevitable in this world where sin and darkness abound, and death puts an end to human strivings. Faithfully to witness in such a way that we shine with a light that is the fruit of grace imparted by the Spirit of God, entails cultivating a confidence and developing strength of purpose that is interior. We are to seek to enter the place of the heart where Jesus dwells within us and he promised, and by such prayer learn increasingly to find in him the courage of trust in his mercy and loving care. Such prayer as arises from the deep places of our inmost self, the place of God within, as the early monks designated it, enables us to discover the affirming presence of God active within us and enables us to act freely, without fear of the disapproval of others. Such confidence in our Lord’s approbation and care is the basis for the freedom of the children of God that allows us to carrying out Paul’s injunction to BE BLAMELESS IN THE MIDST OF A CROOKED AND PERVERSE GENERATION, AMONG WHOM YOU SHINE LIKE LIGHTS IN THE WORLD.

 

May the grace of this Eucharist so energize us in spirit that we serve as a leaven for the society of our time. By living out the witness to the truth of God’s love revealed in his Church and bestowed in this sacrament may we in fact contribute to the spread of the light of God so that it shines for all persons of good will in the darkness of our society. & 


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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