THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for November 20th, 2017
Monday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Liturgical texts here
This week, I am doing something different—a five part series, based on this week’s Gospels, on how to begin again after having fallen. We live in a culture where we are saturated in sin and temptation, and it is claiming many victims; many are discouraged and exhausted, downtrodden and losing their faith. It is necessary, then, to learn the art of beginning again…
WHY do we feel crushing guilt when we do something bad? And why is this common to every single human being? Even babies, if they do something wrong, often seem to “just know” that they shouldn’t have.
The answer is because every single person is made in God’s image, who is Love. That is, our own natures were made to love and be loved, and thus, this “law of love” is written on our very hearts. Whenever we do something against love, our hearts are broken to one degree or another. And we feel it. We know it. And if we don’t know how to fix it, a whole chain of negative effects is set off that, if left unchecked, can vary from simply being restless and without peace to serious mental and health conditions or slavery to one’s passions.
Of course, the idea of “sin”, its consequences and personal responsibility, is something this generation has pretended does not exist, or that atheists have dismissed as a social construct created by the Church to control and manipulate the masses. But our hearts tell us differently… and we ignore our conscience at the peril of our happiness.
Enter Jesus Christ.
At the annunciation of His conception, the Angel Gabriel said, “Do not be afraid.”  At the announcement of His birth, the angel said, “Do not be afraid.”  At the inauguration of His mission, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid.”  And when He announced His impending death, He said again: “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”  Afraid of what? Afraid of God—afraid of the One whom we also know, deep within our hearts, is watching us and to whom we are accountable. From the very first sin, Adam and Eve discovered a new reality they had never tasted before: fear.
…the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. The Lord God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you? He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.” (Genesis 3:8-11)
So, when Jesus became man and entered time, He was essentially saying, “Come out from behind the trees; come out from the cave of fear; come out and see that I have not come to condemn you, but to liberate you from yourself.” Contrary to the picture modern man has painted of God as a wrathful intolerant perfectionist who is poised to destroy the sinner, Jesus reveals that He has come, not only to take away our fear, but the very source of that fear: sin, and all its consequences.
Love has come to banish fear.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (1 John 4:18)
If you are still afraid, still restless, still guilt-ridden, it is usually for two reasons. One is that you have not not yet admitted that you are sinner, and therefore, live with a false image and distorted reality. The second is that you still struggle with your passions. And hence, you must learn the art of beginning again… and again and again.
The first step in being liberated from fear is to simply admit the very root of your fear: that you are indeed a sinner. If Jesus said “the truth will set you free,” the very first truth is the truth of who you are, and who you aren’t. Until you walk in this light, you will always remain in darkness, which is the breeding ground for fear, sadness, compulsion and every vice.
If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. (1 John 1:8-9)
In today’s Gospel, we hear the blind man crying out:
“Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38-39)
There are many voices, perhaps even now, telling you that this is silly, futile, and a waste of time. That God does not hear you nor does He listen to sinners like you; or perhaps that you are really not that bad a person after all. But those who heed such voices truly are blind, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  No, we already know the truth—we just haven’t admitted to ourselves.
This is the moment, then, when we must reject those voices and, with all our strength and courage, cry out:
Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!
If you do, your liberation has already begun…
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.