What would we be able to see if our spirit sight was pure?
It happens in family life, when no one really talks to each other because everyone’s too busy working, studying, watching movies or updating their profiles.
I having been hearing Confessions for nearly 30 years. I have been regularly receiving this Sacrament myself since the age of 7. In the broad spectrum of Catholics, the sense I have is that many of us fall into two camps -
1. Those who are too afraid, embarrassed, don’t know where to begin or dismissive of the need to go to Confession.
2 Those who find themselves confessing the same sins again and again.
Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum let me be up front by first saying that the actual confessing of sins is the easiest part of this Sacrament. Any Catholic of the legal age of reason can confess, whether they are prepared or not, sincere or not, or even sorry or not. Whether the Sacrament will be effective, wasted or fruitful in one’s life depends on the active collaboration with God’s grace. That takes both faith and work.
And maybe that’s often where the difficulty usually is - not in the actual confessing of sins, but on our ability to use our God-given minds to reflect on our lives and to see our relationships objectively. And then doing something.
Often we spend so much time reacting to, recovering from, or distracting ourselves from the demands or the responsibilities of the world we actually live in. I suspect many people who have begun reading this, will not get to the broken line below.
Why? We increasingly rely on programs, apps, shows, websites, experts, commentators etc. (saints and sinners) to do all our thinking for us. It’s very easy to simply react or hide behind them. If we habitually do so, over time we stop doing our own thinking, or we get lost in an avalanche of thoughts coming from every direction at once.
I have to be careful here by what I am now sharing. I do not want to force anyone to go to Confession or into making an Examination of their life. Nor do I want anyone to presume they need not to. Instead, all I can offer is an opportunity to stand back and, with fresh eyes, personally seek out the truth about yourself and the relationships you are engaged in and, without fear, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide one to gratitude and/or repentance and a necessary change in attitude and behavior afterwards.
As a pastor of souls, I suggest this examination exercise. Before you do so, you are going to have to do something courageous. Copy, paste and print out the following text and switch off all your electronic devices. If you are stuck using a smart phone, switch it to airplane mode and set your alarm or timer for 30 mins. If you can not do any of these, I suggest you stop reading now and make a commitment or reminder to do so when you are in fact ready. If you continue reading unprepared, or just out of curiosity, you will probably give up after the first short reflection or read it through and forget it afterwards!
Using God’s Ten Commandments as a guide, simply draw out their implications in your life and lifestyle. Think, reflect, ponder and see yourself in your relationships
1: I am the LORD your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve. Do you give yourself a lot of attention, concerned about how you appear, what others think about you, wanting to be beyond criticism or praised? Do you live your life through your phone, your work, your children, finances, politics, your job, your personal interests, sports or cravings?
2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. How do you use the name Jesus or Christ in conversations or your thoughts? When you say or hear His Name, does it lift your mind up to God, or does it simply pass without attention?
3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. What is your attitude to Sunday? Is it primarily a lazy day, only a free day to catch up on errands or family business? Do you make excuses not to attend church, or only attend church simply to be seen or meet with friends. Do you have anything in place that actively keeps Sunday holy unlike other days?
4. Honor your father and your mother. Do you give them at least respect and allow them to offer advice? Do you give them time, opportunities for visiting or pray for them by name? If they are in true need, do you try to help them as best you can? Do you see their value only in terms of their assets or their weaknesses?
5. You shall not kill. Have you deprived the defenseless, innocent and vulnerable of their life or potential livelihood - an unborn life, child, adult, the sick or elderly? Have you ignored the injustice of abortion or facilitated acceptance of this evil?
6. You shall not commit adultery. Have you remained faithful to your spouse in body and spirit, through your words and who or what you look at? Have you sinned against the Covenant of Holy Matrimony by sexual relationships outside of Marriage or are willingly accepting of non-biblical definitions of marriage? Have you entertained sexual feelings alone, anonymously, by seduction or manipulation?
7. You shall not steal. Have you willfully taken something not belonging to you against the presumed wishes of someone else? Have you purposefully not given your employer the expected value of your work and time? Have you wasted time through laziness or invested your time in idle pursuits?
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Have you purposely lied, damaged the reputation or presumed the guilt of someone else? Have you hidden behind an online profile, a position or manipulated circumstances to serve your own needs? Are you quick to make rash judgements?
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse. Have you allowed your thoughts, actions or habits to look at another person, real or imaginary with lust or obsession? Have you acted out of jealousy or envy to damage someone else’s relationships? Have you ignored or taken for granted your own responsibilities to a spouse, family or friends?
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods. Do you actively appreciate and care for the things you own? Do you spend a lot of time shopping, browsing, imagining having items you can truly live without? Do you harbor resentment for the apparent success of others? Are you selfish with your time, resources and blessings?
A. Repent and Believe in God’s Forgiveness and seek to be assured of this personally through the Sacrament of Confession.
B. Stay as you are and accept the consequences that God has promised.
The Gospel passage we have just listened to is very simple and, because it involves Our Blessed Lord, it has value and relevance for us today as it has been throughout the ages. The Lord went into Simon Peter and Andrew’s home. They first tell him about Peter's mother-in-law who is sick and with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and raised her up and she was healed. The fever left her and she immediately set about serving them.
Within this one episode we can see the whole mission and ministry of Jesus portrayed. Jesus enters into our lives, visits our homes and finds us sick, consumed with fevers of various illnesses. Our fever comes in many different forms, for we can be found consumed with pride, envy, anger, lust, laziness, gluttony and greed, Through the sacraments of confession and the Holy Eucharist, the Lord gives us his hand, lifts us up and heals us.
When we are strengthened by the grace of God, we are better able to serve him. In the Gospel passage we heard today, we note that, after she was raised up out of her bed, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law immediately began to serve Christ and to be available to all who are now, whether she planned for it or not, a part of her home and life.
Jesus stayed overnight at Peter's house, but the Gospel also tells us that Our Lord “rose before dawn while it was still dark and went out to find a deserted place to pray”. Although by nature he is divine, Jesus also has a human soul. What does that mean? It means, like us all, Jesus thirsted for communion with his heavenly Father. In his prayer, Jesus united his human soul with all of humanity’s hunger to be one with our father in heaven.
Jesus had learnt to pray as a child from his mother Mary, from the prayers of his own people in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple of Jerusalem. Yet the uniqueness of Jesus’ prayer was found in his self-awareness that he was the one and only, true Son of God. When he prays to his Father in heaven, he does so in the unique and intimate relationship he enjoys with his heavenly Father.
Everything that Jesus is, his miracles, his preaching, his life and his love, his obedience to the will of God, flow out from his own continuous communion with his heavenly Father. It is into this Father/Son relationship we are invited. “No one comes to the Father except through me”, the Lord will remind us.
In this way the passage of the Gospel teaches us as Christians, that Christ must be at the center of our homes and our lives. If he is not, the fever of a life without God will consume us.
“Therefore, let us ask the Lord to grasp our hand. ‘And at once the fever left her’. Immediately as her hand is grasped by the Lord, the fever flees” (St. Jerome). May we never be afraid or too proud to reach out to Christ who stands before us and to grasp his hand, knowing that he alone can bring us back to true strength, enabling us to respond to the Gospel message not just for our own salvation but for the sake of a whole world still hungry for God.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Too often when we picture Jesus Christ, especially in our imaginations, we have the tendency to see Him as a reassuring presence, a friendly face, a comfort in the midst of the storm and challenges of life.
Unfortunately, too often we have an unrealistic picture, often influenced by devotional pictures, religious imagery and artistic impressions. Granted, there are no actual photographs of Jesus, apart from maybe the imprint of His likeness on His death shroud.
Of course, we have the perspectives of the early apostles and disciples who wrote the New Testament portion of the Bible. They had the privilege of seeing Christ through the lense of His Resurrection from the dead, His ascension into heaven and could now see Him clearly through the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who helped them to understand and articulate the life and mission of Jesus even for us today.
But we should not forget another point of reference, a unique perspective of seeing Christ which speaks volumes of the power of His personality and the invisible dynamics of His soul which were often on display. How did the demonic actually see Him when Our Lord stood before those unfortunately processed by them or influenced by evil spirits.
Although the people who encountered Jesus did not know him as yet as “God with them”, the demons knew. They even shouted out in horror and fear, for they knew that through the eyes of Jesus of Nazareth, God was looking right at them!
You see, the devil and his demons are theologians with true knowledge about God. They are not atheists! They know that God exists. In fact the devil is very spiritual. He knows about the complexities of the soul - his demons know the hidden fears of the human heart, the thirst and hunger each person has for God. They are theological and spiritual experts. But they are without faith, forever obstinate, forever stubborn in their refusal of God's influence. These fallen angels are perpetually caught up in their own burning furnace of pride and arrogance and they refuse to let go of their recycling behavior.
When Christ came upon those possessed by evil spirits and demons, what did He in fact actually see? What did God see through the eyes of Christ? Did He see demons before Him like frenzied hyenas with blood-red eyes and razor sharp fangs and claws, dark creatures with flattering bat-wings?
I would say no. The gaze of God saw, first and foremost, children with diseases, men and women suffering from sickness and epidemics, those enslaved by addictions and deep wounds. In short, God saw first and foremost our injuries and our ailments. God looked at us through the eyes of Jesus and His gaze was one of compassion, not revulsion - His gaze was one of mercy, not disgust. The loving and tender gaze of Christ, like a powerful sword, cut through the devil's suffocating cloud. His word evaporated the demonic hold.
God saw right through them and saw you and me, in all our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities and our broken spirits. God gives "us" the attention, not the demons. As we heard in the Gospel today, He doesn't even allow them to speak theology. Christ will instead patiently wait for us to surrender to Him, not out of fear, but from faith in His strength and out of need of His love.
What does this tell us? We can not pride ourselves in simply having the true knowledge about God. The devil, in fact, knows more than we do! Instead, we should not be afraid to look at Christ, and to look at Him eye to eye. But to do so takes great courage on our part, for we must, in a way, “capture” His gaze - allow it to purify us from any pride, selfishness and recklessness. Christ's gaze is disarming - it can be frightening and we might experience a battle of wills. But by laying down our arms, of all the things we often hide behind, and submitting to Him, then only we will find true liberation.
So that we may see the face of God and live (cf. First Reading) may our preparation for Holy Communion with our Lord always begin with a careful examination of our souls, not simply in the light of our knowledge of the faith, but also and in particular, under the gaze of Christ’s patient mercy and healing, so generously made available in the Sacrament of Confession.
Never be afraid of Confession. It reminds us, as St. Paul spoke in the second reading, that before anything or anyone else in this world, Christ claims you and me first. If today you hear his voice, harden not your heart. Stop fighting, surrender and claim the prize of victory, and peace of body and soul is assured.
4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Instead Christ resists the temptation to go fearlessly straight into the battle. To come face to face with his enemies at the beginning of his ministry, tempting as it may be, would not allow the Lord accomplish great things in the lives of others, such as with Peter, Andrew, James and John – the fishermen of Galilee.And as He moves from town to town on His mission, what is His message. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. The Lord’s message highlights that there is time, but also that our days are numbered. His gift of a way out of darkness will cause joy for some or will or will cause others to seek out new hiding places, but not by the fishermen in the Gospel today. They recognized an opportunity for salvation, and they like fish jumped at the bait provided by God, even to the point of leaving behind all that was familiar in their lives.
Just think of it, we spend so much time sanitizing our hands against a virus we cannot see, what could we be able to see if we could sanitiz...