Like it or not, one day we will all come before the author of life, our Lord, for an accounting. We won't be allowed a lawyer to speak for us, no loopholes will be found. No rationalizations, it will be yes and no.
Yet it seems we go out of our way to avoid thinking of these things. Sometimes it's as if we think we'll all retire to some lake front cottage and play with our grand kids until the second coming.
"The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, 'What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:17-21).
One of the strongest sermons on this was given during a funeral Mass. The priest closed the sermon by saying; "Not one moment of the future is promised anyone. So live each day, each second as though it were your last." With that he turned back toward the altar, took two steps, and fell over dead.
Now, for many, this translates to 'live, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die'. But this is not the attitude of the Christian. For many, the Sacrament of Penance is something to be done either haphazardly, or whenever, maybe on our death bed. (Ever wonder how many Catholics were on board those plane crashes? How many thought they'd go to confession later?)
Another tact is to say that God is love and therefore God wouldn't send anyone to hell. True enough, God doesn't send anyone to hell, we do. We show who our true god is by how we live our life. When I was younger, I felt the 1st commandment was outmoded; "I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me" (Genesis 20:2-3). I mean, who worships Baal, Odin, or whatever any longer. Now we see these other 'gods' making a come back. We also see other 'gods'. Money, power, sex, etc. " Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
Now we've all sinned. We've all fallen into one of these, or are still struggling with them. But isn't the key word here, struggling? "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'" (Lk. 18:10-14). The tax collector isn't making excuses for himself, nor, in particular, is he trying to excuse himself. He may not even be able to stop sinning immediately, but he isn't trying to pardon himself. But the Pharisee is another matter. " The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector" (Ibid).
Today, we hear the same kind of talk, only now, it's the faithful who are often put into the light of the tax collector. Stand up for the truth, for the Church, and you're liable to be grabbed by an 'enlightened' mob and stoned. (Figuratively speaking) Ever notice when someone speaks out against the homosexal lifestyle, they're automatically labeled closet homosexuals, homophobic, or some other 'derogatory' label? Speak out against abortion, and you're labeled as anti-woman, behind the times, etc.
We never hear of the sin of presumption. Not just the presumption that we'll have a chance to get to confession on our death bed. Nor even the presumption of someone's guilt of sin, but the presumption that everyone is going to Heaven.
One classic argument for a certain sin is that "it's who I am, God made me this way." The First Reading from this past Sunday sets that straight for we do have a choice. " The Lord hates all abominations, and they are not loved by those who fear Him. It was He who created man in the beginning, and He left him in the power of his own inclination. If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him. For great is the wisdom of the Lord; He is mighty in power and sees everything; His eyes are on those who fear Him, and He knows every deed of man. He has not commanded any one to be ungodly, and He has not given any one permission to sin" (Sirach: 15:13-20). Sound familiar? Yet so many say this is a lie. They say we shouldn't fear God, misinterpreting what that means. Fear of punishment is only part of it, fear of hurting the Lord is the greater part. But they say that because they do not fear the Lord, they can sin and not be concerned, relying on God's mercy to look the other way. That we can keep or reject His commandments as we will with no fear for the consequences. Life and death.
How can I explain this silliness? Let's say you were given this proposition? You can do whatever your heart desires, regardless of how illegal. The cost? You must spend the rest of your life in a prison cell. Too small to stand upright, too small to lie down, cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Would you do it?
When I posed that to my daughter she said, "No, I would have to be a nut?" Why then risk an eternity of torment for what is essentially a millisecond of illicit pleasure? If eternity were like a 10-mile stretch of road, our life here on earth wouldn't even register. "But it's natural. I can't believe God would punish me for something that's natural!!!!" Yes, it's natural, but... "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man" (Mark 7:20-23).
Yes, all these things are quite natural for man. But this is what Christ came to call us from. To change our hearts, to follow Him, to die to ourselves.
Lent is the time when the Church encourages us to sacrifice, to do penance, and reflect on how we've all fallen short of the glory of God. But Lent isn't just a 40-day period of the year, but it should be an ongoing practice. It should get us into the habit of daily converting our lives to God. To daily die to ourselves and pick up our cross and follow Him.
As St. Francis of Assisi writes: "Our lower nature, the source of so much sin and vice, should be hateful to us. Our Lord says in His Gospel, It is from the heart of man that all sin and vice comes. (cf. Matthew 15:18-19) We are bound to order our lives according to the precepts and counsels of the of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so we must renounce self and bring our lower nature into subjection under the yoke of obedience; this is what we have all promised God. [In our baptismal and Confirmation vows] All those who refuse to do penance and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord are blind, because they cannot see the true light, our Lord Jesus Christ. They indulge their vices and sins and follow their evil longings and desires, without a thought for the promises they made. In body they are slaves of the world and of the desires of their lower nature, with all the care and anxieties of this life; in spirit they are slaves of the devil. They have been led astray by him and have made themselves his children, dedicated to doing his work." (Letter to the Faithful; St. Francis of Assisi; Omnibus of Sources, pages 95;97).
Many are convinced that the millennium means an end of the world, and/or a great chastisement. But for many, the end of the world comes today, tonight, tomorrow, next week, next month. Maybe me, maybe you. Are we ready? Will Christ see us as His servant, or are we our own 'god'. And if we are our own 'god', then why would God make us spend an eternity with Him? If we echo satan and say, "I will not serve", can we be assured of being before His throne in paradise? Or will God allow us to spend eternity with our own 'god'?
"Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified" (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).
Pax Christi, Pat
SACRIFICE part one
What if Jesus Christ, Who offered Himself up as the Sacrificial Lamb for the salvation of sinners for all generations had been as soft on sacrifice as we are today? "No, Father, I think I'll take the easy way out. Put the cross away. I wouldn't want to get those people upset or offend anyone. Let's try another way that will be easier." We guarantee those words never came out of the Son of God's mouth! Yet today the word "sacrifice" is an anathema to our comfort zones. We rationalize that "times are different, Jesus lived in another era - He would understand we have different standards and cultures today - the Church and the Pope are out of touch with what the people really need." etc. More ad nauseam excuses to justify the world. However, didn't Jesus say, "If anyone wishes to come after Me let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For he who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for My sake and for the gospel's sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation. of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes with the holy angels in the glory of His Father" (Mark 8:34-38)?
One of the central themes of Sacred Scripture is sacrifice. From the customs of the Old Covenant to the carryover to the New, God has asked man to sacrifice. But in our modern times, that seems such a 'sacrifice'!
We hear the word and at once, the mind conjures up all types of "things" we can do, or not do, that will constitute our personal sacrifice to God during the season of Lent.
What will it be this year? Giving up desert? Except on Sunday, of course. How about watching a little less TV. Sure, we can give up those sit-coms or even the docu-dramas that whittle time into a state of non-existence. Maybe we'll cut down on "March Madness" - which is what the NCAA Tournament has become - madness, bringing out the beast and worst in family togetherness. If we smoke, maybe we can cut back. If we overindulge in eating, we'll just eat a little less. Fasting? Sure we can do that. After all the Church only requires we do it on Ash Wednesdays and Good Friday, while Fridays during Lent are for abstinence from meat. Hey, it's a chance to sample the fish diners at the Red Lobster! Oh, it's a sacrifice because that restaurant is farther away, but hey, it's Lent.
What else can we do? Be more charitable? Go to Mass more often? How about an extra confession during Lent? That seems like a good sacrifice, especially since we might not like going and it takes up our time. After all, it can be humiliating and God wants us to be humble. We'll try it. Extra prayers? Gee, we don't know if we can fit them in. We're so busy as it is, running hither and yon with work, taking the kids to whatever practice or game they've got scheduled, plus grocery shopping, cleaning the house, the daily pressures of the office, and getting the proper rest we need. Well, okay, we'll promise to say at least one rosary (five decades) a day. There! We can pick and choose among a hundred things to make "sacrifice" and after all, it's only forty days and then we don't have to do it anymore! Yep, once we get to Easter, we can put "sacrifice" back on the shelf for another year and go on with our lives.
If you think we have been facetious in al this, you're right. Sorry, but we've all got the wrong attitude and a misunderstanding of what it really means to make a sacrifice so that our soul grows in holiness and continues on the right path to Eternal Life with God in Heaven. In the next installment next week we will begin to delve into that in more specifics.
Next Installment: SACRIFICE part two
His apostles are all around Him, and they are trying to keep the crowd from pressing too close. The task is an impossible one. They are at once filled with an exhilarated air because of the people w ho have poured out of Jerusalem to greet the Master, the Messiah. They are filled with a bit of pride to see their beloved Master so well-received, and their quick glances to one another swiftly convey the message that this is how it should be for the Son of God; and they grow confident that from this point on, the tide of popular love for Jesus will win over the hearts of His enemies. At the same time they react to the pushing, shoving, loud crowd in a very human fashion. The one who leads the donkey is trying to make haste, but must constantly push people out of the way. The other apostles surrounding our Lord must also elbow, push and shove the people back lest in their zealousness they would cause injury to our Lord, or suffer injury in the undisciplined crowd.
Jesus appears very tired. He is thin. His face is gaunt. Yet, notwithstanding the visible marks of His endless labors, He exudes serenity and peace. No one who is present can doubt the majesty of His whole Being. He smiles at all, those in the high places as well as those along the side of the road. He constantly lifts His right hand in blessing, and at His gesture those lucky enough to have a palm frond gladly lay the palm upon the path so that, in essence, they make a path of greenery for Him to pass over.
I understand, also, that so great is their fervor at this moment that they would willingly lie down to let the donkey with its precious burden trod upon their bodies, if only to acknowledge the Messiah, this Jesus of Nazareth.
I watch as Jesus continues to bless, aware of all the people. And when He drawn closer to the houses He lifts His gaze, His blue eyes bright and filled with love, and bestows His blessing upon those who I referred to earlier as the "Holy Women" of Jerusalem. These women cross (1) themselves and bow as He passes by, then silently, almost sadly, retire within their homes. The air is filled with dust, and the feverish voices of the populace which constantly cry out: "Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah! Jesus of Nazareth!"
Jesus, astride the donkey, rounds a bend in the road and is lost from my sight as I remain where I began this interior vision. I see the people form a living train that follows after the Master, their cries of "Hosanna!" filling the hot, sultry air.
The time when all my faithful little ones will be severely tested, slandered and persecuted is here, and for all who endure this heavy cross I beseech you: Pray very much, forgive all, and speak very little. My dear children, the world has become chaos, and the strident voices of all of my children add to the chaos and confusion.
Therefore, I ask all of my children everywhere - do not speak unless it is to praise God and give witness to the truth. Little children, when you pray from your heart many words are unnecessary. It is your willingness to love Divine Love, to obey Divine Love, to annihilate your own will to the Divine Will, that allows your heart to speak the language of God, which does not have human words.
If you would beseech Almighty God to allow my Immaculate Heart to triumph now, then pray very much. Be ever mindful of my Divine Son and in all you do, allow Him to assist you. Before you speak, pause and seek the help of the Holy Spirit. In this way, you shall not engage in idle talk, useless words that lead one into curiosity and rumor. Rather, keep close guard over your tongue, and as I, your Heavenly Mother did, so too must you. Ponder all these things in your heart and my Divine Son will show you the path to take in all things.
As the evil one's darkness permeates all of the world, it is wisdom to let your heart alone pray and be filled with infused Divine understanding and knowledge.
Know the darkness intensifies as the chastisements increase. Fear nothing. Rejoice in the refuge of my Son's Sacred Heart. Believe with unyielding faith. Trust without reserve. Love as my Divine Son loves and fear nothing.
I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!
These are very troubled days for many of my little ones, particularly those of my little army. They are confused, anxious, even bewildered. The evil one seeks to take all faith, trust and love away from you, even as you strive to live my messages and draw deeper into the recesses of my Son's Sacred Heart.
But I solemnly tell you the more furious the evil one attacks, the more you should possess faith, boundless trust and great love for all men, for the evil one attacks only those who are on the right path. Therefore, I, your Mother, ask you to be steadfast, for the summit of Mt. Calvary is at hand. This then must be for all my faithful little ones the time of great strength. You will find this strength only through prayer, which enables you to go to Holy Mass, worthily receive my Divine Son in the Holy Eucharist. You must draw strength from the Sacrament of Penance, and go frequently - every week if you can.
Little children, do not become discouraged. One of the signs given is the slander, rumor and disunity among those gathered beneath my Immaculate Mantle. You must pray more from your heart and speak very little, lest you also fail in charity to others. Even if they speak against you, do only what my Divine Son tells you to do.
Dear children, I cannot remain among you in this manner for much longer. Therefore, heed my words and live them daily.
I say to my children everywhere: These are the last days. Beware the false prophets. Dear children, those are false who deny the role destined by God to me in the salvation of mankind. Beware any who acknowledge me, but deny my Perpetual Virginity, my Immaculate Conception, my Assumption and role as Mediatrix of all graces. These are wolves, who quote scripture but know not its truth.
If you desire Truth, come to my Divine Son in the Holy Eucharist, and obtain the grace of proper discernment.
I love and bless you. Pray very much. Thank you for responding to my Call!