March 5, 2016

March 5

March 5, 2016:  Saturday, 3rd week, Lent

  • 'Clouds' (and implied sun) tie:  The Lord's coming is as certain as the dawn.  Your piety is like a morning cloud (1st reading)

  • Blue shirt:  Wash me from my guilt (psalm)
  • 'Girl with heart' pin:  You won't spurn a contrite, humbled heart (psalm)

  • 'Eyeball' pin:  The tax collector wouldn't even raise his eyes to heaven... (gospel)
  • Purple suspenders:  Lenten season
For the psalm 

    • Hosea/ Norbet (composer-sung) (1st reading)
    Words and deeds
    Evangelization isn't just preaching, and it's not reserved for certain Christians.  “The plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having an inner unity:  God's deeds in salvation history manifest and confirm the teaching and realities the words signify, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them” (Dei verbum).  “Our Lord and Savior instructs us by his words and by his works” (Gregory the Great).  This law that applies to revelation also applies to its dissemination; we evangelize with our works and life, with what we do and who we are.
    McLuhan once applied “the medium is the message” in an enlightening way, saying only in Christ is there “no distance or separation between medium and message:  it's the one case where we can say medium and message are one and the same.”  Though total identification between herald and message is only in Christ, it should also be true of anyone who proclaims the gospel.  If preachers give their lives to Christ, they can say, “I no longer live, but Christ in me,” and for them the medium, their life, is their message.  “Actions speak louder than words.”  “People listen more willingly to witnesses than teachers, and if they don't listen to teachers, it's because they're witnesses” (Evangelii nuntiandi). 
    When a colleague asked a philosopher seen in unsavory company how he could reconcile that with his writings, he answered, “Have you seen a street sign walking in the direction it pointed to?”  Brilliant, but self-condemning.  People despise human “street signs” that point but don't move.
    The Capuchin Order's major contribution to evangelization hasn't been from its professional preachers but from “lay brothers”:  uneducated doorkeepers or mendicants; populations have rediscovered and kept their faith because of them.  One, Bl. Nicola of Gesturi, spoke so little, the people called him “Brother Silence,” but 58 years after he died, the Capuchins are identified with him, or Bro. Ignatius of Laconi, another mendicant.  Francis of Assisi's words to preachers came to pass:  “Why do you boast of converts when my simple brethren have converted them by their prayers?” 
    A Pentecostal once asked me why we Catholics call Mary “the star of evangelization” (Evangelii nuntiandi).   I concluded that it's because she didn't carry a particular word to a particular people like the evangelists but carried the Word made flesh to the whole world, even physically.  She said little but was full of Jesus and gave off such a scent of his presence that John the Baptist sensed it even in his mother’s womb.  Think of Our Lady of Guadalupe's role in the evangelization and faith of the Mexican people.
    If you spend most of your time behind a desk, you can still evangelize.  If you conceive your work as service to the Church, renew your intention every so often, and don't allow concern for your career to take priority, then you evangelize more than a professional preacher who seeks to please people more than God.
    • Hos 6:1-6  “Come, let us return to the Lord; he will heal and revive us to live with him.  Let us strive to know the Lord; he's surely coming!”  What can I do with you?  Your piety is like dew that passes away.  I desire love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings.
    • Ps 51:3-4, 18-21ab  "It is mercy I desire, and not sacrifice."  Have mercy on me.  My sacrifice is a contrite spirit; you won't spurn a humbled heart.  Rebuild Jerusalem's walls....
    • Lk 18:9-14  Parable to those convinced of their righteousness who despised others:  “Two went to pray.  The Pharisee spoke to himself, ‘God, I thank you I'm not like this tax collector or the rest.  I fast and tithe...’  The tax collector, beating his breast, prayed, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’  Only the latter went home justified; everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
      • Creighton:  Luke reiterates a central scriptural theme:  we're sinners who depend on God's mercy.  It's easy to get caught up in our sacrifices, but "I desire love, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not holocausts."  We can react against culture by seeking religiosity for its own sake, but God, not religion, is our savior.  The prophets and gospels remind us our problem is false religion, not no religion.  When my devotion is more about me than God, or separates me from others' needs, or puffs me up, I've fallen into false religion.  The "Jesus prayer" from the Eastern Orthodox tradition echoes the tax collector:  "Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a poor sinner."
      • One Bread, One Body:  "Sickening or pleasing God in prayer":  We can go to church and think of ourselves rather than God.  We can put down others.  We can pray wonderful words we don't believe or live.  Our prayer can be an abomination to the Lord.  Our church services may burden or tire him.  He's can't stand our hypocrisy:  "When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes; though you pray, I won't listen.  Your hands are bloody!  Wash yourselves clean!"  Or our prayers can be as incense to him.  We can be his joy and delight.  Our lives, prayers, and church services can be so pleasing to him that he renews us in his love and sings joyfully because of us.  What is God getting out of our prayer and church services?
        The Pharisee and the Tax Collector/ Long
      • Passionist:  The Pharisee's credentials are stellar!  He prays, fasts, and tithes.  He's deeply religious, likely with genuine fear of the Lord.   He's faithful to his wife, patient with his children, loyal to his friends, disciplined in life, honest in business.  He believes God has abundantly blessed him.  He's good and knows it.  But the tax collector isn't trustworthy, he makes deals with people who are against you, can take what he wants from you, keeps company with cheats and thieves.  Jesus addresses this parable to those convinced of their righteousness who despised others.  The Pharisee stands before God and says he's better that the rest of humanity!  He doesn’t see his whole self.  He's living a partial lie.  Most of us strive to be better than this tax collector, and many of us believe that the better we are, the more reward we'll have.  The Pharisee in us pops out when we're challenged with people "beneath us."  But the tables turn on us, because the person we'd choose in this story isn't who Jesus declares as justified.
      •  "God, be merciful to me a sinner!"  Hosea, speaking in God's name:  "I desire love, not sacrifice."  Our prayers and sacrifices mean nothing to God if they're not from a loving heart.  We need to approach God with humility and a contrite heart seeking mercy and forgiveness.  Despising my neighbor closes the door to God's heart.  Disdain for others springs from the assumption that one is qualified to judge and shame others.  Jesus' story offended the Pharisees who regarded tax collectors as unworthy of God's favor.  His parable speaks of prayer and our relationship with God by contrasting two attitudes towards prayer.  The Pharisee exalted himself at others' expense, centering his prayer on his good practices, not God, praising himself and despising the "less worthy," trying to justify himself before God and others; but only God can justify us.  The tax collector humbled himself and begged for mercy; God heard him because he had sorrow for his sins and sought God with humility.  Pride leads to self-deception and spiritual blindness, but humility helps us see ourselves as we are in God's eyes and inclines us to seek God's help and mercy....

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