October 20, 2017
(St. Paul of the Cross, Priest)
St. Paul wrote, “Brothers and sisters: What can we say that Abraham found, our ancestor according to the flesh? Indeed, if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works, he has reason to boast; but this was not so in the sight of God.” Rom_4:1-8
Jesus said, I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one. Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Lk_12:1-7
In the days of Jesus, the Jewish leaders insisted that the Jews follow the Law of Moses to the letter. If they didn’t, they were excluded from worship. They were excluded from communion with their brothers and sisters. And sometimes they were even isolated from their whole community.
And yet, those leaders themselves were not perfectly sinless. So we often hear Jesus, in the Gospels, call them hypocrites. You see, their whole premise was that their righteousness resulted from their actions, from following that Law.
As the Church grew, 15-centuries after the resurrection of Jesus, our own leaders had become more and more like those Pharisees, requiring indulgences of physical suffering or monetary payment in order to gain God’s salvation.
It was enough to create a schism in which the priest, Martin Luther, rebelled by protesting the Church’s theological concepts of justification and salvation. Luther professed that we are not saved by our good works, but solely by our faith in God. And he would take a Scripture, like our first reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans to justify his thesis.
All of it prompted the Church’s long-overdue re-evaluation and reformation, through the Council of Trent. But unfortunately, that long-overdue reformation also initiated a split by Luther, that today has resulted in the splintering of the Christian Church in a thousand different directions.
And keeping us united in Faith and Community was the whole purpose of the Church. As a matter of fact, it was St. Paul himself who wrote these words in his Letter to the Ephesians. He said . . .
I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in all. Eph 4:1-6
Seemed Martin Luther missed that point.
You see, Jesus taught us that first and foremost, God Loves us. He loves us so much that He sent Jesus to make sure we understood it.
And then, Jesus gave us directions on how to keep ourselves safe from eternal damnation. He taught us the Way to salvation. And the shortest possible description of those directions is – to Love.
Love IS God’s justification.
And Love is the driving force of every action, every work we do.
IF our Work of Love is done in order for us to get to heaven, then we’ve missed the point.
But if our Love results in heavenly Works for others, then our souls are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, and our reward will BE heaven.
And if our Fear is our not getting into heaven, then we’ve missed the point.
But if our Fear is being robbed of our Love for others – because of jealousy, or hatred, or anger, or greed, then that fear itself is born of God’s Love, and that Love will surely get us into heaven.
You see, beloved, we are Loved more than we can ever, possibly imagine. And now our Work is to always remember that fact, and then LIVE it!
Like the billionaire with one day left to give away her fortune, we are called to give away God’s Love with every breath we take and with every face we meet.
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