The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Homily: Wednesday, 5th Week of Lent

Readings: Dan 3:14-20, 91-92, 95; Dan 3:52-56; John 8:31-42

Torture at the Hanoi Hilton
A US Navy pilot who’d been shot down over North Vietnam was once more dragged from his prison cell, interrogated, beaten and tortured, and then interrogated again. The first thing his interrogator asked him was, “Wouldn’t you like to go home? Wouldn’t you like to be free?”

Barely able to stand, the American looked down at him and said, “I don’t understand your question. I am free.”

“Free? You call this free? Are you a fool? Do you understand nothing? Don’t you realize you are under our total control?”

“Well,” the young officer replied, “you do have control over my body, and my surroundings, but nothing more.”

“There is nothing more.”

“Ah, spoken like a true communist. Sadly for you, you’re wrong. There is so much more. There is the Good News of Jesus Christ, the truth of the Gospel. Because I believe in that truth, I am free. But because you don’t believe, you remain a slave.”

His interrogator shouted at him, “You dare to call me a slave. You’re the one in chains.”

“Yes, and I thank you for the leg irons. They remind me of how much Jesus suffered for us all…for you too. Maybe that’s why I’m here: to help you find him.” And with that the session ended. He was again beaten and dragged back to his cell where he spent the next five years.

And so now we fast-forward forty years or so and find ourselves worried about all sorts of things, earthly things, imagining the worst, and forgetting the truth. Too many people today are like that interrogator in Hanoi. They look around them and they see nothing more. Like Pontius Pilate they can look at the Son of God and sneer, “What is truth?”

Pope Francis: "Pray for me..."
Yes, so many folks today deny the very existence of truth. Pope Benedict aptly called it, the “dictatorship of relativism,” a kind of radical political correctness that forces itself on the world and screams, “How dare you claim to have the truth.”

It has infected even the Church. Christians want to take the Gospel, rewrite it to fit their own personal wants, and get rid of that pesky Cross. Pope Francis, in the very first homily of his papacy, a homily preached to the cardinals who elected him, stated:
“When we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, and when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord. We are worldly; we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”
Yes, the truth, the Cross of Jesus Christ, can be very inconvenient; for if we really accept it, we must come face to face with our own lives, our own sinfulness, our own slavery. But to accept the truth of the Gospel is to change. To accept the truth is to become a disciple. That’s why Jesus could say,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” [Jn 8:31-32].

The truth not only sets us free, but we are free only in truth. It’s common for people to think freedom means the right to choose good or evil. But that’s not what Jesus tells us. True freedom is only the freedom to choose what is good – for once we choose evil, we cease being free. Instead we become slaves, slaves to that evil, slaves to sin.
King Nebuchadnezzar's Fiery Furnace
Brothers and sisters, our lives are marked by thousands of everyday decisions and actions, but at crucial moments in our lives we are expected to be heroic. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace, like that young pilot in Hanoi, if we want to be truly free, we have no other choice. It’s then, when we act in true freedom, that our true selves emerge most fully, most courageously, most divinely.

Do you believe that? Really believe it? I hope so because it’s the truth. And the truth – the truth of that deep divine life we are all called to share -- will set us free.

God's peace.

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