Saturday, May 29, 2010

Keep Yourselves In The Love Of God, And Wait For The Mercy Of Our Lord Jesus Christ, That Leads To Eternal Life.

Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I
Jude 17, 20b-25

Beloved, remember the words spoken beforehand
by the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Build yourselves up in your most holy faith;
pray in the Holy Spirit.
Keep yourselves in the love of God
and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ
that leads to eternal life.
On those who waver, have mercy;
save others by snatching them out of the fire;
on others have mercy with fear,
abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh.

To the one who is able to keep you from stumbling
and to present you unblemished and exultant,
in the presence of his glory,
to the only God, our savior,
through Jesus Christ our Lord
be glory, majesty, power, and authority
from ages past, now, and for ages to come. Amen.
As we come to the end of this week, we have a solitary reading from the Letter of Jude. It is a very short letter, consisting of just one chapter of 25 verses. Our reading comes from the latter part of the letter. In general, the letter is a stern warning against false teachers who are doing untold harm to the community.

The first piece of advice is to keep in mind the prophetic teachings of the apostles. The coming of these godless heretics should not take believers by surprise, for it had been predicted by the apostles.

Addressing them as ‘Beloved’, in contrast to the ungodly false teachers about whom this letter speaks at length, Jude gives them some exhortations on how to cope with these threats to their faith. He urges them to pray under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, they are to remain persevering in the love of God. God keeps believers in his love and enables them to keep themselves in his love. As Paul had said so graphically: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, no powers, nor height, nor death, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). As long as they remain open to that love, the Christians can be sure of “the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to life eternal”.

At the same time, some who are confused by the false teachers need to have their thinking corrected, while others need to be snatched from imminent destruction and loss.

“On others have mercy with fear..” - even in showing mercy and compassion to those who stray, one may oneself be trapped by the allurement of their false teaching - “…abhorring even the outer garment stained by the flesh”. The wicked are pictured as so corrupt that even their garments are polluted by their sinful nature.

The reading ends with a magnificent doxology, one of the finest in the whole of the New Testament.

We look to protection from the only One who can protect us and help us stand unstained and triumphant in the presence of his glory. After all the attention necessarily given in this letter to the ungodly and their works of darkness, Jude concludes his letter by focusing attention on God, who is fully able to protect those who put their trust in him.

Every age in the Church, not least our own, has people going around with all kinds of strange and new messages. And there are always those who, in Paul’s words, have “itching ears” for the latest novelty. Some of these novelties can be highly destructive as we have seen in the case of some of the more outlandish sects where many people, including children, unnecessarily lost their lives or where there was indulgence in behaviour that was either bizarre or humanly degrading and abusive.

The Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, have their faults and need continue to learn where the Truth is but there is a solid foundation in the Word of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ that we abandon at our peril.

+++    +++    +++    +++
Psalm 63
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
O God, you are my God whom I seek;
for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts
like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary
to see your power and your glory,
For your kindness is a greater good than life;
my lips shall glorify you.
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
Thus will I bless you while I live;
lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.
As with the riches of a banquet
shall my soul be satisfied,
and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.
My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Mark 11:27-33
Jesus and his disciples returned once more to Jerusalem.
As he was walking in the temple area,
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders
approached him and said to him,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
Or who gave you this authority to do them?”
Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question.
Answer me, and I will tell you
by what authority I do these things.
Was John’s baptism of heavenly
or of human origin? Answer me.”
They discussed this among themselves and said,
“If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say,
‘Then why did you not believe him?’
But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?” - -
they feared the crowd,
for they all thought John really was a prophet.
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
Then Jesus said to them,
“Neither shall I tell you
by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus is now in Jerusalem. It is the last phase of his public life. Hostility is building up against him. In today’s reading, while walking in the Temple area, he is confronted by a group of Jewish leaders, chief priests, scribes and elders. These are the people who formed the supreme council which will later condemn him to death.

“By what authority are you doing these things?” they ask. The implication is that he is not doing it on their authority which they regard as supreme. In his usual manner, Jesus counters with another question. He asks them if the work of John the Baptist was of human or divine origin.
They immediately realise that answering Jesus’ question raises a serious dilemma. If they were to say John’s baptism was from God, then it could be asked why they did not take part in it (as large numbers of the ordinary people did - and as Jesus himself did). The Gospel describes the leaders as simply coming to observe John as outsiders and judges.

On the other hand if they were to say they considered John’s baptism as merely a human thing, then it would offend all those people who had the highest respect for John and saw in him a prophet of God.

Weakly Jesus’ questioners reply: “We do not know.” A strange and not very convincing reply from the spiritual leaders of the people! Jesus then refuses to answer the question they asked him.

But Jesus’ case was similar to that of John. The people, who had heard Jesus speak (”No man has ever spoken like this”) and saw his cures (”God has visited his people”), had no doubts whatever about the source of Jesus’ authority. “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the Scribes” (Mark 1:22).

The leaders’ own question was a clear indication of their prejudice and wilful blindness in the face of overwhelming evidence.

We too, of course, can have a similar blindness. We can refuse to see the presence and activity of God in situations where we do not want to see it, in people where we do not want to see it. But God can use any person, any experience, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, to communicate with us. “Help me, Lord, to seek and find and respond to you in every experience of my life.”

No comments: