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!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Homily: Monday 5th Week of Lent

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


A few years ago I received a small package from the Department of Defense. I wasn't expecting anything from them, but when I got home and opened it, I found it contained a bunch of medals. Among them were medals I didn't even know I'd been awarded. And with two exceptions they all dated back to the Vietnam conflict.

I lined them up on the dining room table and thought, if only briefly: Well, will you look at that, McCarthy. You're a genuine hero.  That thought lasted about two seconds, because it wasn't the truth. I was no hero.

Heroes do remarkable things, far beyond what anyone might expect. I did only what was expected of me, what I was ordered to do. Indeed, if I hadn't done the things for which I received those medals, I would have been court-martialed.

But I knew many men who really were true heroes, ordinary men who did extraordinary things. Today's first reading brought some of them to mind, the real heroes - the same kind of people we read about in the Book of Daniel. Three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, follow their consciences and profess their belief in God - their faith that God will be with them regardless of the consequences.
fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God.”
For them, the issue was clear: they had no choice but to do God's will, what was good and acceptable. The three believed themselves to be free to do nothing but what is right, what their faith obliged them to do. Believing in the one, true God, they knew their greatest freedom rests in doing God's will. And in their faith, God saves them.

Jesus, of course, understood this well. That's why He declared,
"I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me" [Jn 6:38].
Unlike the three men in the furnace, Jesus wasn't saved from the violent death of crucifixion. And it was through Jesus' obedience that He expressed his divine Sonship. This is emphasized in the Letter to the Hebrews where we read,
"Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him" [Heb 5:8-9].
Our whole existence, then, as disciples of Jesus flows from the mysterious roots of our souls where we are called and sustained in supernatural life beyond all human ability to comprehend. How did Jesus put it in today's Gospel passage?
"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. Too many today think freedom means the right to choose anything - good or evil. But that's not freedom; that's license. Jesus tells us that 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.

Brothers and sisters, our lives are marked by thousands of decisions and actions, normal everyday responses to the opportunities we confront. But at our core, as Christians, like Jesus we are being begotten by God, and receive a divine life similar to Jesus. And at those crucial moments in our lives we are called to be heroic.

Like the three young men in the furnace, if we want to be truly free, we have no other choice.

Like the true heroes I knew back in my days as a Navy pilot, like those willing to sacrifice all for the sake of others, we have no other choice.

As we respond to life's challenges with heroic obedience, the most divine part of us, the image of God within us, rises to the surface for all to see. When we act according to God's will, in the true freedom God desires for us, our true selves emerge most fully, most courageously, most divinely. God's will always leads to the good, and nothing can interfere with what is good.

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 - that truth will set us free.

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