Monday, November 16, 2015

Your New Name: One Like Christ

Throughout the history of Israel, the prophets used shocking, sometimes grotesque, images, depicting the end of time.

They lived in difficult times. The prophets hoped, by their shocking language, to draw the veil back so their hearers could get a glimpse into the future when God would exert power on their behalf.

That's the kind of language we hear in the Gospel with its images of: a darkening sun, the moon not giving off light and the unshakable, predictable stars, falling from their positions in the sky. All that was relied on will crumble.

End of the World

Over the din and the tumult, the Lion of Juda roars. Who can ignore Him? The light of Christ overpowers the enveloping darkness. We are assured that the kingdom, which Jesus inaugurated by His life, death and resurrection, will ultimately be victorious.

The name “Michael” means: Who Is Like God. The prophet Daniel depicts him as entering into the battle with a mighty shout that no one could ignore.

Through the transforming waters of Baptism, we have been grafted into the Body of Christ. Having been baptized into Christ, we have been given a new name: One like Christ.

One Like Christ

Recall these words of the apostle: “It is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me” (Gal. 2:20).

The putting on of Christ is not merely a ritual act, but a new birth, a total transformation. We are to cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of Light.

All those who have committed their lives to Christ lay claim to the title “Christian” which I will translate: One Like Christ.

Those who are known as One Like Christ must walk in the light of day and avoid the works of darkness. This means that we must put on the character qualities and virtues that reflect our identity as being One Like Christ.

In Christ, the old-Adam is crucified and the new creation has begun; sin and death no longer have authority over us because we have been brought of newness of life by grace. This newness of life is not for us alone, rather, it is for others.

Like Christ we are called to make ourselves poor so as to enrich others. We live in a state of dependence on Christ and, strengthened by Christ, we offer support to our brothers and sisters in need.

All who claim the name One Like Christ must be willing to stand in the breech and intercede for God’s people in need. Not only that, we must be willing to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to all who walk in the valley of darkness and live under the shadow of death.

Those who are One Like Christ shall become shining lights, guiding others onto the path that will lead them out of darkness, and that path is Christ. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being.

Because God so loved the world, we have been call by Christ to be One Like Christ. Because we have been loved, we can dare to love. Pope Benedict XVI wrote these words to youth of the world in 2007: “Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love.”

We who are One Like Christ are to observe the signs of the times and set our sights on the kingdom that is to come.

By being vigilant, we are to avoid the corruption of secular thinking and put on the mind of Christ.

May we begin, employ, and conclude each day attending to Christ's word, obeying his precepts, and following his example, that whenever he comes we may be found watching.

Those who are One Like Christ must do only that which they see their Father doing. Christians have been saying for many years that "Jesus is coming soon".

We definitely have the sense that things will not continue as they are forever, but that major shakeups are likely to occur someday, in such a way as to affect everybody on the planet.

We have no reason to be anxious about the end of the world or live in fear of a great worldwide catastrophe. Our faith tells us that, because Jesus rose from the dead, the new creation has, in fact, begun.

When Christ ascended to heaven in glory, He entrusted the care of the new creation to us.

Our participation in the new creation echoes the story of Genesis when Adam and Eve were charged with the maintenance of the Garden.

Those who are One Like Christ have a part to play in God’s ultimate plan. They must look beyond the struggles of this world and keep their focus on the world that is to come. Only then will they experience the victory of God and set their sights on the things that truly last.

The Lord is in control of everything, and He has already revealed His ultimate victory over sin and death. When He returns in glory, He will usher in the end of the world as we know it and transform the earth into his dwelling place.

While we wait in joyful expectation for the revelation of the Kingdom, we live by faith, doing the works Christ has given us to do. In response to Jesus' teaching we must do as Jesus himself did: help people know the love of God; put an end to injustice and exploitation; reach out to the rejected and depressed; the lonely and unborn; prisoners and the despised.

When you make your daily examination of conscience, ask yourself this one question: What is my name? I hope your answer is: One Like Christ.

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Humanity Is Created for Eternity

The scriptures tell us that the world is a marvel that was handed over to Adam as a sacred trust. The earth, out of which the human race was formed, was intended to provide sustenance for all the children of Adam and Eve.

Walking in the light of God’s loving gaze, we were to know peace, joy and happiness.

Having been created in the image and likeness of God, we were to open ourselves to God, following the example of the flowers of the field that open themselves to the rays of the sun.

We have only to recall these words of Saint Paul, “For God who said, ‘out of darkness let light shine,’ is He who has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, which shines from the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

Shielded from the Light of Glory, we cannot grow to our full potential. Separated from the mercy of God, we are condemned to live in a land filled with shame and guilt, a land devoid of joy and peace.

Bathed in the light of Glory, we are empowered by God to bring creation to fulfillment. We know that there is more to us than skin and bone.

By using our gifts and talents, we journey towards our heavenly homeland. The challenge placed before us is to live in this world with our hearts set on our heavenly homeland. This becomes more challenging when secular society wants to believe that HERE is all that we get.

With the Apostle to the Gentiles, we need to announce: “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we are waiting with longing expectation for the return from heaven of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

It is pleasant to bathe in the warmth of the sun; but it is better to allow the light of the Gospel to shine in our heart. As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul. The treasure of Gospel light and grace is put into earthen vessels that are the handiwork of God.

As disciples of Christ and heirs of the kingdom, contrary to secular thought, we know that there is more to being human than meets the eye. By the power of God’s grace working in us, we can stretch ourselves forward, so as to become more and more like Christ.

Whoever has heaven in sight must press forward to it, in holy desires and hopes and constant endeavor.

Believers make Christ all in all and set their hearts on their heavenly homeland.

Those who have the Lord for their God, have his Spirit for their Guide; they are led by the Spirit.

God, in Christ, is our joy. He who emptied Himself of all glory and grandeur fills us with transforming grace, making us a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Saint Irenaeus said it most beautifully: “The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, Who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows Himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that He may give life to those who see and receive Him…. Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation gives life to all who live upon the earth, much more does the manifestation of the Father through the Word give life to those who see God.”

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Monday, November 9, 2015

Purgatory Explained for Children

If anyone understands the doctrine of purgatory, it is little children. 

If you ask children, “Do you love your parents?”, they will say, “Yes!” 

“And do they love you?” “Yes!” 

“And when you do something really good, are they excited about it?” “Yes!”

“And when you do something wrong, do you get punished?” “Yes.” 

Yep, you do get punished when you do something wrong. Case in point, end of doctrinal study. 

It is right and just that you get punished, even though we might not think it at the time. Because when you do something wrong, your parents want to teach you not to do it again. So when you get put in timeout with your nose in the corner and have to do it for 20 minutes, when you get out, are you excited? Of course you are. You do not want to go back into timeout, do you? So you change your behavior. 

Punishment causes us to change. If we do not change our lives in this world, there will be a reckoning. We must change, because there is no confessional after death. The beautiful grace that we have here on earth, to go in and have our sins forgiven, isn’t there after we die. 

Our Lord taught us, “If you are going to court, settle before you get to the judge. The judge will not free you until you have paid the last penny.” 

When we are not perfect before we die, we go to purgatory. That is the place where all the desires we have for the world are taken away from us and replaced with the pure love of God, which we are all called to. 

Losing those worldly desires is like the burning and refining fire that makes metals shiny and pure. Because of our sinfulness, we tarnish ourselves, like metal tarnishes, but the Lord wishes to make us beautiful and perfect. The fires of purgatory are what help us to get to that point of beautiful perfection.

So let us pray for all our loved ones who have died, to help them on their way. Are you happy to get help when you need help? Yes. Because when we ask for help, it means that we cannot do it on our own. 

And so it is with the souls in purgatory, because after we die, we cannot merit grace, we cannot do anything for ourselves. We were already given the chance during our lives to merit that grace. So it is up to the saints in heaven, and we the church militant on earth, to pray for the holy souls in purgatory, to help release them into heaven.

We have no reason to mourn without hope, because purgatory is a one-way street. Everyone who goes to purgatory, is getting into heaven eventually. Some of us need more help than others. And so that is why we need to pray for the souls. And so pray for your loved ones who have died. All Souls Day is a day when we should all sacrifice and pray for the souls. But we can do this every day of the year.

Have you ever seen a priest wear black during Mass? Why do you think we wear black on All Souls’ Day? 

Because Jesus cried when Lazarus died; it was a sad day. And guess what, your parents are not happy to put you in the corner and punish you if you do wrong. And just as they are sad to punish you, so was our Lord sad to see sin cause death. God did not want death, we chose death through sinning. So we wear black on All Souls’ Day to remember the sadness of sin causing our death.

--Father Jacob Meyer

Sunday, November 1, 2015

God Is Good for Us

As servants of the One True King, our love should be sincere, free from deceit, and free from hollow sentiment. This is especially required when we are confronted with people intent on being nice and politically correct.

This obsession, being nice and inoffensive, renders our words insincere, deceitful and devoid of meaning. Eventually, the living and life-giving Word becomes a dead letter. Faith becomes meaningless when the Word is not alive and active.

The gospel challenges us not only to speak the truth but to live it in love. “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy” (Warren W. Wiersbe).

Because He chose not to equivocate, Jesus lived a dangerous life. He knew that He was the Beloved Son of the Father and He committed Himself to doing only that which the Father told Him to do. He was not afraid of rejection. In His passion and death we have been healed.

Like the one true King, let us pour ourselves out in the service of the Gospel and thereby bring those who wander in darkness and gloom to the fullness of life. As servants of the Kingdom, we offer the world an invitation to the banquet of the Lamb, who loved us first and saved us at the cost of His blood.

If we desire to be conformed to the person of Chris, we must allow His Grace and Truth to take possession of our souls and transform our hearts. We cannot expect to attain the crown if we do not strive to repent of our sins and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom. We must seek the kingdom of the Father in spirit and in Truth.

Saint Paul often used athletic imagery when speaking of his striving for to grasp his heavenly prize. To live in the arena of the monastery, we must run the race according to the Truth, leaving no room for duplicity. Entering the arena of the monastery bears with it a stark reality. Stripped of all deceit, the monk stands naked before the gaze of the Beloved Son. Obeying the Word, we strive to take hold of the prize for which Christ has taken hold of us (Cf. Phil 3:12).

I will allow Blessed Paul VI to end this reflection: “We can imagine, then, that each of our sins, our attempts to turn our back on God, kindles in him a more intense flame of love, a desire to bring us back to himself and to his saving plan… God, in Christ, shows himself to be infinitely good…

"God is good. Not only in himself; God is – let us say it with tears – good for us. He loves us, he seeks us out, he thinks of us, he knows us, he touches our hearts us and he waits for us. He will be – so to say – delighted on the day when we return and say: ‘Lord, in your goodness, forgive me. Thus our repentance becomes God’s joy”.

Father Jerome Machar, OSCO