• Father David M. Knight

April 7, 2017

FRIDAY, Lent week five

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The Responsorial (Psalm 18) is a reminder we never stop feeling the need for: “In my distress I called upon the Lord and he heard my voice.”

Jeremiah 20: 10-13 shows us what Jesus predicted for his disciples:

“Terror on every side! Denounce! Let us denounce him. Those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine.

Jesus said, “Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!’

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves... Beware of them.... Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child.... You will be hated by all because of my name.

It takes courage to study God’s word. We may get insights we don’t want — about ourselves, others, friends and family, the Church, the world we live in. Once we see the truth, what do we do with it? Put it under a bushel basket? Speak it? Live it out? The last two can get us in trouble. But Jesus calls this peace!

I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world![1]

The assurance of victory gives peace even in the midst of conflict. “In my distress I called upon the Lord and he heard my voice” — and answered, “Peace!”

John 10: 31-42 is all about Jesus’ identity. His enemies were stoning him because “you who are only a man are making yourself God.”

If we are honest in professing our faith, the same can be said of us. We say we are the actual, physical body of Christ, not just God’s creatures but his true children. His own divine life is in us, because we are filii in Filio, “sons and daughters in the Son.” Each of us says with St. Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” By Baptism we have “become Christ.”

And we claim that this groping, sinful “pilgrim Church” we are is uniquely the “one true Church” of Jesus Christ! While all Christian assemblies have something of his Church in them, we alone have all that is required to be the full Church Jesus founded. Does that make us popular?[2]

Jesus said, “If I do not perform my Father’s works, put no faith in me.” We as a Church may hesitate to suggest that, but people will do it anyway. If the “fruit of the Spirit” is not visible in us; if we don’t obviously love God and all our neighbors; read and reflect on God’s word as disciples; live a lifestyle different from our culture as prophets; celebrate liturgy with enthusiasm and nurture one another as priests; care for the poor and work to establish the reign of God’s justice and peace on earth as stewards of his kingship, no proofs from Scripture or theology will convince anyone that we actually are the living body of Jesus Christ on earth.

Initiative: Have the courage to read, reflect, speak and do. Be Christ visibly.

[1] Luke 12:51; Matthew 10:16-22; John 16:33. See John 7:40-43, 15:18-20.

[2] See Romans 12:1-5; Galatians 2:20; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 795, 460.

  • Father David M. Knight

April 6, 2017

THURSDAY, Lent week five

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The Responsorial (Psalm 105) gives one side of the picture: “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.”

Genesis 17: 3-9 is a weak promise compared to what Jesus promised those who accept his “New Covenant.” To Abraham God promised human benefits: “I will render you fertile, make nations of you... give to you the land where you are now as a permanent possession.” But Jesus promises us a “posterity” alive with the life of God; and the Kingdom of God as our “permanent possession” for all eternity. Beginning with Mary, who gave flesh to God himself, we will bear spiritual fruit:

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Blessed are we all. Blessed is the fruit of our lives. Like Paul, we are “in the pain of childbirth” until Christ is alive and fully formed in every person. All we help to grow in grace are our “children.”

This is the fruit of discipleship: those who hear the word and accept it” will “bear fruit, 30, 60, 100 times over”:

I chose you... to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last....

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples....

In Baptism we “died to the law” and to every human rule of life, so that “through the body of Christ” we might “belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God.” This comes through absorption in:

the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God.[1]

That is just one side of the picture: “On your part,” God asks, “you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.” Christian life is a commitment.

In John 8: 51-59 Jesus claims to be divine: “I solemnly declare it: before Abraham came to be, I AM.” This is the translation of YAHWEH, the self-description God gave when Moses asked him to reveal his “name.”[2]

As Christ’s disciples, we study, not just words, but the words of the Word. This makes a difference in our commitment.

We made a covenant at Baptism with the Word of God. It was at the same time a covenant with the words of God: we are committed to seek understanding of the Word through his words. This is a “constitutive element” of being a Christian. To “love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind,” we have to use our minds to know him. St. Augustine said, “We cannot love what we do not know.” The conclusion is obvious. We are committed by our baptismal covenant to be “students of the word,” disciples of the Word expressing himself in words. “The Lord remembers his covenant forever.” The question is, “Do we?”

Initiative: Face the Word. Commit to discovering him in his words.

[1] Luke 1:42; Galatians 4:19; Mark 4:20; John 15:8, 16; Romans 7:4; Colossians 1:5-6.

[2] Exodus 3:14; see Isaiah 41:4-14 and 43:1-13; John 4:26, 6:20, 8:24-28, 13:19, 18:5-8. “I am he” can also be translated, “I am.”

  • Father David M. Knight

April 5, 2017

WEDNESDAY, Lent week five

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St. Ignatius of Loyola defines “three degrees of humility” — three levels of understanding about ourselves in relationship to God. The first is:

I so subject and humble myself as to obey the law of God in all things, so that not even were I made lord of all creation, or to save my life here on earth, would I consent to violate a commandment... that binds me under pain of mortal sin.[1]

Daniel 3: 14-95 gives an example of three young men who fit that description perfectly. They were young Jews of the nobility, young men without any defect, handsome, intelligent and wise, quick to learn.... who were to be taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans. After three years’ training

they were to enter the king’s service (ch.1:3-5).

Smart politics: integrating the conquered into the culture. They were made administrators of the province of Babylon. But when the king wanted to impose religious uniformity on his kingdom, the three refused to worship his false god. When threatened with death by fire, they replied: “If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace... may he save us! But know, O King, that even if he will not, we will not serve your god.”

God did save them, but the point is, being unfaithful to God was for them simply a non-negotiable. Not even to think about. That is the first level of authentic relationship to God.

The three young men learned Chaldean culture but did not abandon their own. They remained uncompromising Jews, faithful to the Covenant. In John 8: 31-42 Jesus argues with others who claim the same thing. He had said, “If you live according to my teaching, you will truly be my disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answer, “We are descendants of Abraham. Never have we been slaves to anyone.” But Jesus tells them they are: “Everyone who lives in sin is the slave of sin.” Might that include us?

Many young Catholics, “intelligent and wise, quick to learn....” are selected by our system for four years of higher education, “after which they are to enter the service” of the American dream. With great rewards. They are not asked to kneel before a golden statue. But they may be required to subordinate their values to the god of gold. Or the god of sex. Or the god of relativistic philosophy. Or the god of No-god-at-all. In order to “fit in.” For the sake of religious uniformity in rejecting all religions as divisive. If they refuse, they will be “burned.” If they accept, they may not even know they have.

Jesus gives four “if’s’” to help us know if we are free:

“If you live according to my teaching...”

“If the Son frees you” (through personal interaction with him).

“If you are Abraham’s children”: faithful to your heritage, e.g. still going to Mass...

“If God is your Father,” not just your Creator and Judge.

Four benchmarks.

Initiative: Make fidelity non-negotiable. Refuse slavery. Identify false gods.

[1] Spiritual Exercises, no. 165.

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