Saturday, September 5, 2009

Christ Has Reconciled You Through His Death, To Present You As Holy Before God.

Long before history began to be recorded, some man decided to do what he wanted, instead of what he knew God wanted. Either in the same incident – or not – some woman decided to do what she wanted, instead of what she knew God wanted. The author of the third chapter of Genesis, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, placed a man and a woman in the Garden of Eden, from which they were exiled after disobeying God’s will.

In today’s First Reading, (Colossians 1:21-23) Paul reminds the Christians of Colossae that from the beginning of time, all men and women separate ourselves from God by our own evil thoughts and actions. Yet God, in his love and mercy, did not allow that separation to endure forever. So, he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to take upon himself the burden of the sins of humankind, from the first man and woman who ever lived, until the last men and women who are alive when Christ comes again in glory at the end of time. This does not mean that Christ’s death will be effective to free every single one of us from the burden of our sinfulness. It is possible for us to refuse God’s grace no matter how often he grants it, and those who make that choice and never repent from it (if any such person exists) will condemn themselves to everlasting banishment from God’s kingdom in Heaven.

The Christians at Colossae have heard the true message of the gospel, and they have believed it. Now Paul encourages them to be steadfast in their faith. He cautions them not to drift away from the assurance they received when they first heard the Good News, which has been – and continues to be – preached to every creature under heaven, and of whom Paul has been chosen as a minister.

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In today’s gospel (Luke 6:1-5) as Jesus is walking through a field of grain on the Sabbath, his disciples begin to break off heads of grain, rub the husks off in their hands, and eat the kernels. Some Pharisees see this and say, “Why are you breaking the Law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”

Jesus replies: “Haven’t you read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He went into the house of God and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests can eat. He also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus added, “The Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath.”

Yesterday’s reading was a discussion about freedom; today’s is about freedom in action. St Ambrose of Milan (c. 333 – 397) said that this piece of lawbreaking in the cornfield was designed to lead the disciples into freedom in action, not just to get them talking about freedom. “The Lord Jesus begins to free them from the old law... not only through the understanding of words but also through actions performed in plain view.”

“Do you want to be well?” Jesus once asked a man at the Sheep Pool (John 5:6). It wasn't a foregone conclusion that he wanted it. We often have a stake in our illnesses. We can imagine Jesus asking us, “Do you want to be free?” Quite often we don't.

‘Freedom’ is a buzz word in advertising, and that alone should make us wary. Advertisers tout all sorts of slavery before us under the brand name of freedom. These pretended forms of freedom don't carry much weight, and a moment’s reflection is enough to dispel them. But we are usually quite afraid of real freedom. We have a stake in our many forms of slavery, and freedom is often a heavier burden. I suppose it’s partly because there is always the question, How am I going to eat tomorrow?

Jesus said his burden was light (Mt 11:30), but it is light only if we get under it fully. When we try to hold onto it with one hand while holding our addictions and attachments with the other, it becomes heavy. When we have a moment of real freedom we attract another enemy or two. Still, we pray to set free. Free for what? Free to set others free. He himself came “to set the downtrodden free” (Lk 4:18).
Donagh O’Shea, O.P.

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