Saturday, September 12, 2009

Why Call Me Lord, Lord But Do Not Do As I Command?

In today’s First Reading (1 Timothy 1:15-17) we touch the heart of the gospel of Christ Jesus. He left his place at the right hand of the Father and entered the world of humankind for one purpose: to save us from our sins. He took upon himself the burden of our wrongdoing, and by his death paid the ransom due to the Father. That is the reason that God raised him from the dead, and gave him the name that is above all other names (Philippians 2:9).

Paul looked upon himself as the worst of sinners, since he had attacked the followers of the Way of Jesus with such ferocity. The Lord forgave Paul for all his sins, but Paul still looks upon himself a sinner, whom God has saved, not for any merit of his own, first of all because God is rich in mercy.

Paul was not the first to believe in Christ, but his was the most wondrous of conversions. He had been a champion among the persecutors of the followers of Jesus, when the Lord Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and “knocked him off his horse” (whether literally or figuratively). Now he is a leader in the Church, and an apostle sent to bring the Good News to new places, and build new communities of Christians throughout the Mediterranean basin, from Macedonia in the east to Rome in the west. He sees his own conversion as a powerful example of the working of God’s grace, and his experiences as a pattern of what Christ can accomplish in the life of all who put their trust in him. They will become what God wants them to be, and they will be truly alive, now in this world, and later, in the next.

As Paul reflects on what he has written, he gives praise to the Lord:

All honor and glory to God forever and ever!
He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies;
He alone is God. Amen.

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In today’s Gospel (Luke 6:43-49) Jesus is teaching his disciples, using parables.

The first parable is about the orchard:

First lesson: If a tree is healthy, it will produce an abundance of good fruit; if not, it will produce little fruit, and what it produces is likely to be rotten.

Next lesson: Every tree is known by its own fruit: figs grow on fig trees; grapes grow on grape vines. There are other trees and bushes that produce fruit that no one would want to eat. You can’t pick figs from a thorn bush, or gather grapes from brambles. And so it is with people: From the heart of a good person comes goodness, “whatever is true, honorable, fair, pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8). But who knows what evil might lurk in the human heart? It will become evident in the words and deeds which flow from that wicked heart.

The second parable of Jesus is based on his own experience as a carpenter’s son. If someone builds a house on a foundation of solid rock, then when the river overflows its banks in the springtime, the house will withstand the flood, because it is well built. On the other hand, if someone builds a house on level ground, without a foundation; then, when the river floods, the house will collapse and be totally destroyed.

A foolish person hears the word of the Lord, but does not do what Jesus says. A wise disciple listens to Jesus’ words, and acts upon then.

St Augustine: Let us not be lazy or content with the surface. Let us dig more deeply until we come to rock: “Christ is the Rock!” (1 Corinthians 10:4).


Elizabeth Mahlou said...

I know we have free will, but in my experience something else occurs, too. If God wants me to do something, He ultimately gets His way. It seems like doors are closed, paths disappear, and the like, until I choose the one that it seems I am supposed to. Does that make sense to you? How would you interpret those kinds of experiences in light of free will. (It is always much better for me to go the way that God seems to be pushing me, and I don't really care if I have free will or not -- it is kind of exciting to go where God sends because it is always unpredictable and even sometimes a bit risky, which I find enjoyable -- but I wonder where that kind of "leading" and "pushing" and "using" fits in with free will. Does being "willing" to be used fall into some kind of third category?)

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Elizabeth, the answer to your question is found in Sunday's scriptures: Being willing to be used falls in to the category of following Jesus. Fallowing Jesus often means carrying one's own cross, just as He carried his.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

Thank you. Fr. John, for your clarification. I don't mind the cross because the blessings are so tremendous!