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, April 29, 2015

Reflection: Morning Prayer, Sunday, April 26, 2015

This past weekend Dear Diane and I joined other deacons and their wives on a couples retreat sponsored by the Office of the Permanent Diaconate of the Diocese of Orlando. It was a wonderful retreat, conducted by Fr. Daniel Renaud, OMI, and held at the San Pedro Center in Winter Park, Florida. The theme of the retreat centered discipleship and was based on the beautiful passage from Luke's Gospel describing the two disciples who are joined by the risen Jesus on their walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus [Lk 24:13-35].

I was honored to be asked to lead Sunday Morning Prayer in the chapel. The reading, which I have included below, is from Acts 10 and consists entirely of the words of St. Peter as he preaches to the Roman Centurion, Cornelius, and his household. After the reading I shared the following brief reflection with my brother deacons and their wives.
"Yes, this man God raised (on) the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” – Acts 10:40-43
What a wonderful passage. These are, of course, St. Peter’s words. In fact, Peter is preaching to the Gentiles for the first time, to the Centurion Cornelius and his household.
Peter at the home of Cornelius the Centurion

Peter begins by summing up the Good News of Jesus Christ, and at the same time lets us know what God desires of each of us.

Jesus, who died on the Cross, has been “raised up on the third day” [Acts 10:40]. He’s alive! He eats and drinks and walks and talks among the faithful, just as He did with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Yes, Jesus lives. He’s no disembodied spirit. Indeed, His glorified body bears the marks of His passion and death. How fitting that these marks remain eternally, a constant reminder of God’s enduring love.

But there’s more Good News. His Resurrection brings the fulfillment of a promise; for we, too, shall rise. The longed-for hope of humanity is finally realized. Death is overcome by eternal life.

Is it any wonder Jesus so often tells the disciples not to fear? Yes, the Good News just keeps getting better and better, doesn’t it?

Peter now echoes what the Lord told the disciples along the road to Emmaus: “…beginning with Moses and all the prophets…” [Lk 24:27] Yes, “beginning with Moses,” the law-giver. Peter goes on to tell us that Jesus “is the one appointed by God as judge…” [Acts 10:42] That’s right. Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead – the judge who fulfills the Law and brings it to its perfection.

But perfection means more than justice, certainly more than human justice. For in Jesus we come face to face with divine justice, a justice tempered by mercy. As we stand before Him we see the marks of His passion, the marks of God’s love, the wounds of His mercy…and pouring out of them comes hope and forgiveness.

How did Peter put it? “…everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name” [Acts 10:43]. Yes, through Jesus, and only through Jesus, comes our salvation.

The Road to Emmaus
But Jesus is more than a judge. He fulfills more than the Law. Just as Jesus told the disciples on the way to Emmaus, Peter reminds us…“To Him all the prophets bear witness...” [Acts 10:43] All the prophets point to Jesus: He is the Word of God made flesh and through Him the Word of God revealed is brought to fulfillment. Indeed, as Christians we don’t read the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament, for its own sake, but always with Christ and through Christ and in Christ. Jesus Christ, the Lord of History, fulfills all.

Then, in the very heart of this passage, Peter reveals exactly what’s expected of the disciple… and, brothers and sisters, that includes us. We are called to “preach to the people and testify” [Acts 10:42] – to bear witness to Jesus Christ. It’s a call back to the basics, to the very core of our faith, to the core of our diaconal ministry.

And, yes, it might be our ministry, but we must never forget it's God's work. As the psalmist prayed, "Non nobis, Domine..." -- "Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory" [Ps 115:1].

It's a ministry that will get no easier, for the world may deny Jesus Christ, but we, His disciples, His servants, cannot.

The world can imprison us, but it can’t imprison the Truth.

It can silence us, but it can’t silence the Word of God.

It can even execute us, but it can never kill God’s enduring love.

The Word of God will always sound through the lives of God’s faithful ones.

Even our own sinfulness can’t silence it, because Jesus Christ heals all who come to him. The personal tragedies of our lives can’t silence it. We might be tested, but if the Word of God is deeply rooted in our hearts, we’ll survive the test. Even when we’re unfaithful, Christ remains faithful to us.

We’ve been given a mission, brothers and sisters, one that Pope Francis, Peter’s successor, reminds us of today. We are called to bear witness to Christ crucified and risen from the dead, to testify, through our lives, to the Good News of God's mercy and forgiveness, to remind the world that God is love.

And we’re called to return that love to Jesus; for Jesus is the poor, He is the homeless, the hungry, the dispossessed, the rejected; Jesus is the ill and the dying. Yes, we are called to remind the world of God’s love and to do so without fear.

1 comment:

  1. #Reasons to Believe in Jesus

    Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.
    > Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

    > Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

    > And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

    Sartre speaks of the "passion of man," not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.

    From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are "traditional" alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.

    If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.

    by David Roemer