Saturday, January 21, 2017

Daily Meditation: Playing The Fool For Christ


We are made to be social creatures. We all want to belong, we all want to be regarded highly by other people. We all want to be "cool". When I was a child in the 1960's, it was "cool" to be counterculture, to reject the values of our parents and society in general and find our "own way", and "do our own thing", which actually boiled down to throwing off all moral constraint. But "doing your own thing" really meant following everyone around you. We tried to pretend we didn't need others, but in reality, we could not reject our own need for social acceptance.

Jesus Christ tells us that to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, and part of that denial is to reject the need for acceptance by the rest of the world. He doesn't want us to actively seek rejection, but He warns us that if we follow Him, we will become, to one extent or another, social outcasts because Jesus is not of this world, which belongs to the adversary, Satan. As St. Paul wrote, to follow Jesus Christ makes us citizens of heaven, not of earth.

The repercussions of being citizens of heaven and not of earth are the subject of today's readings.

The first reading is the continuation of the Book of Hebrews which has been read this entire week in the Mass, specifically, the section concerning Jesus Christ as High Priest. It is often said that you cannot truly understand the New Testament without knowing the Old Testament. As Colossians 2:17 tells us, the Old Testament was a shadow of things to come, of which Christ is the reality.

HIgh Priest Entering Holy of Holies
The High Priest in the Old Covenant was the man who made intercession before the people before God. Once a year on the Day of Atonement, he would enter into the Holy of Holies, where no one else was allowed, and atone first for his own sins and then those of the people. The very fact that the High Priest had to first atone for his own sins shows how imperfect this was.

As the Bible tells us, there can be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood, and in the Old Covenant, that involved the shedding of the blood of hundreds of thousands of animal sacrifices. And of course, none of this actually resulted in the true forgiveness of sins. No one could earn eternal salvation this way, for salvation is only through Jesus Christ. But the ritual of animal sacrifice and the High Priest was the picture of the reality of Jesus Christ.

This is the message of today's first reading:

HEB 9:2-3, 11-14

The writer of Hebrews first describes the Old Covenant:
A tabernacle was constructed, the outer one,
in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of offering;
this is called the Holy Place.  Behind the second veil was the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies.
The Holy of Holies was an earthly representation of God in Heaven, and the High Priest entering was the foreshadowing of Jesus Christ entering into the real "Holy of Holies" and interceding on our behalf, as shown in the next verses:
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands,
that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own Blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
Animal sacrifices are no longer necessary because now we have the real thing, the Blood of Jesus Christ, the only blood that will truly wash away our sins and make us clean before God, as we are told in the following verses:
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the Blood of Christ,
who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God,cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
As this states, the animal sacrifices cleansed the flesh, but the Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses our hearts, minds and consciences, and actually makes us citizens of heaven. The Old Covenant High Priest and animal sacrifices were basically play acting but Jesus Christ is the true High Priest before the actual Throne of God. He truly makes us a new creation, one that can now serve God instead of Satan. We are no longer part of this world, but citizens of heaven and actually able to enter into the Holy of Holies with our High Priest, Jesus Christ, something the people of the Old Covenant could never do.

This is an amazing thing - God comes to earth, sheds his blood in atonement for our sin, then ascends back into heaven and intercedes for us, and now we, cleansed of our sinfulness, are able to actually enter into the Presence of the all perfect, all powerful God.  The responsorial psalm celebrates this remarkable event:
God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

For king of all the earth is God:
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
But what impact does our citizenship in heaven have on our earthly lives?  The Gospel reading shows us.

Today's Gospel reading is very short and succinct, only two verses, and it is easy to pass over it without realizing the great significance it holds.

MK 3:20-21
Jesus came with his disciples into the house.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, "He is out of his mind."
As we had read earlier this week, Jesus had been healing many, many people, bringing them not only physical healing, but mental, emotional and spiritual healing as well. But when the family and friends of Jesus were confronted with this, their response wasn't to celebrate. They looked at Jesus as a pariah, as someone who had gone completely off the deep end, and their response was "He is out of his mind."

You can be sure that is what the world will think of you, too. I stand almost every week outside of abortion clinics praying the rosary. I do it silently, I don't make comments to anyone. I don't even hold my rosary in a prominent way. But people are still very aware of me, and every so often I will have someone yell at me, telling me to "get a life", "go to hell", "get out of our neighborhood." My goal is to try to save lives, but the world looks at this as trying to take away their freedom. I think that also, deep down, they know abortion is wrong, but to admit it means to let go of their own way, and they turn their hatred of themselves towards me and others who are standing up against evil.

Our Lord never struck back in any way towards those who rejected and condemned him. Even as he was pouring out His Lifeblood and carrying His cross to Calvary, his prayer was "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

Yes, we will be rejected by this world if we follow Christ. Following Christ means becoming an alien to this world. We have seen in our now current President of the USA and those who support him that people don't like those who are from a different culture. They find them untrustworthy and threatening. People want to be around those who think and act like they do.

The saint of this day - St. Agnes - is one who suffered greatly because she refused to conform to her world. She was a young Roman girl - only 12 years old - in the early part of the 4th Century who was martyred because she refused to marry the pagan son of a Roman official, instead declaring herself committed to Christ. Christianity was outlawed at this time in Rome. Agnes was threatened with torture, but when she showed no fear of that, she was stripped naked and forced to stand in the street before a pagan crowd. Many wanted to marry her, but her response was "Christ is my spouse; he chose me first and his I will be." She was finally beheaded because of her loyalty to Jesus Christ.

Many Christians are being persecuted and martyred in our world today, in fact, more than at any time in history. 90,000 Christians were killed in 2016 throughout the world because of their religious beliefs. That amounts to a Christian being killed every 6 minutes.

Christians should be in a constant state of celebration because of the great miracle of our salvation through Jesus Christ, but we should also be aware of the heavy price we may be called to pay on this earth.


4 comments:

  1. Catholic in Brooklyn, what do you have to say about the Women's March?

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    Replies
    1. I actually have not read anything about it, but I will say this. Women in this country have many legitimate complaints about the way they have been treated. And there can be no doubt that Donald Trump is a misogynist. He bragged about sexually assaulting women, and made the really sick statement that he finds his own daughter to be "hot" and that he would date her if she was not his daughter.

      But all of that aside, the problem with the women who were out yesterday is that one of the main motivations of their movement is legal access to abortion any time and any where. I can never support that, and it is because of that fact that I can never support the women who protested yesterday.

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    2. Catholic in Brooklyn, you might want to check out the following links:

      http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2017/01/20/anti-trump-feminist-protest-excludes-pro-life-groups/

      http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/pro-life-feminists-booted-from-womens-march-sponsorship

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    3. This doesn't surprise me at all. This is a classic example of cognitive dissonance, which is defined as "the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change."

      These groups say that their objective is equal rights for all and to support those with no voice. But somehow, the unborn - who are the most helpless with no voice at all - just don't rate with them.

      Those on the right are, in some ways, no better. Yes, they are pro life, but at the same time, they see nothing wrong with turning away war refugees who are fleeing persecution and death, and they see nothing wrong with capital punishment, taking life away from those who may need it the most in order to give them time to repent.

      I think for a follower of Christ, the best way is just to stay close to Our Lord and let him fight the battles. Msgr. Philip Reilly, who is a pro life leader in NYC, never goes to the pro life march in Washington. He says it is much more important to stay at home and go to the clinics right here, praying and counseling.

      Tomorrow there will be a huge pro life march in Washington, DC, and once it again it will be ignored by the media and basically accomplish nothing.

      Those like Martin Luther King, Jr. did do a lot with political protest, so I guess there is a place for it. But I still personally prefer to stay away from it.

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