THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for November 23rd, 2017
Thursday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
Opt. Memorial of St. Columban

Liturgical texts here

 

JESUS looked down upon Jerusalem and wept as He cried out:

If this day you only knew what makes for peace — but now it is hidden from your eyes. (Today’s Gospel)

Today, Jesus looks upon the world, and His Church in particular, and once again cries out: If you only knew what makes for peace! A discussion of the art of beginning again would not be complete without asking, “Where exactly do I begin again?” The answer to that, and to “what makes for peace”, are one and the same: the will of God.

As I said in Part I, because God is love, and every person is created in His image, we are made to love and be loved: the “law of love” is written on our hearts. Whenever we deviate from this law, we deviate from the source of true peace and joy. Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ, we can begin again.

With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew.—POPE FRANCIS, Evangelii Gaudiumn. 3

But start anew where? Indeed, we need to lift our heads away from ourselves, away from the paths of destruction, and set them on the right road—God’s will. For Jesus said:

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my commandment: love one another as I love you….  For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (John 15:10-12; Galatians 5:14)

Think of the earth and how its orbit around the sun produces the seasons, which in turn give life and fecundity to the planet. Were the earth to deviate even slightly from its course, it would set off a chain of ill effects that would eventually culminate in death. So too, says St. Paul, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [1]

It is not enough to say I’m sorry. Like Zacchaeus, we have to make concrete decisions and changes—sometimes dramatic and difficult ones—in order to repair the “orbit” of our lives so that, once again, we revolve around the Son of God. [2] Only in this way will we come to know “what makes for peace.” The art of beginning again cannot deform into the dark art of returning to our old ways—unless we are willing to be robbed again of peace.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

All of God’s commandments—how we are to live, love, and behave—are expressed beautifully in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is a summary of Christ’s teachings as they have unfolded over 2000 years. As much as the orbit of the earth is “fixed” around the Sun, so too, the “truth which sets us free” does not change either (as much as our politicians and judges would have us believe otherwise). The “perfect law of freedom” only produces joy and peace insofar as we obey it—or we become slaves again to the power of sin, whose wages are death:

Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. (John 8:34)

And so, the art of beginning again consists not only in trusting in God’s love and infinite mercy, but trusting also that there are some roads we simply cannot go down, no matter what our feelings or our flesh are saying, screaming, or dictating to our senses.

For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. (Gal 5:13)

What is it to love? The Church, like a good mother, teaches us in every generation what love consists of, based on the intrinsic dignity of the person, made in God’s image. If you wish to be happy, to be peaceful, to be joyful… to be free… then listen to this Mother.

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.(Romans 12:2; 13:14)

The art of beginning again, then, is not only taking hold again of the merciful hand of the Father, but then also taking the hand of our Mother, the Church, and letting them walk us on the narrow road of God’s will that leads to eternal life.

 

I and my sons and my kin
will keep to the covenant of our fathers.
God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments.
We will not obey the words of the king
nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.
(Today’s first reading)

 

A blessed Thanksgiving to my American readers!

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