• Father David M. Knight

April 1, 2017

SATURDAY, Lent Week Four

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The Responsorial (Psalm 7) tells us the ruling principle of discipleship: “O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.”

The starting point of discipleship is an act of trust in God. Our security is rooted, not in acceptance by others, not in conformity to whatever group in the Church seems most solid and reliable, not even in the approval of popes and bishops, who frequently in history have turned a blind eye to abuses and “stoned the prophets” God sent to them. Our ultimate confidence is in the word of God and carefully discerned enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. To give unqualified trust to anything else, besides the reliable but rare “defined’ dogmas of the Church, is idolatry. “O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.”[1]

Jeremiah 11: 18-20 tells us we don’t always know who is speaking or acting against us. “I, like a trusting lamb led to the slaughter, had not realized they were hatching plots against me.” It is not paranoia to think that it happens today. A priest “on loan” to an American diocese was denounced in a letter from the bishop’s office in his home diocese for sexual misconduct with a consenting adult. The American bishop told his Chancellor to put him on the next plane home. The Chancellor asked if he could check the story first and found proof the letter was a forgery.

Priests and others are frequently denounced to bishops for statements some hearer judged “heretical” (which today almost always means “liberal”). Most bishops simply send the letter to the accused for a response. But some prominent authors and theologians condemned and “silenced” by Rome have complained that they were never allowed to confront their accusers or see the actual text of the accusations. There has been and still is an exaggerated cult of “secrecy” in some areas of Church government.

So what? We live with the truth that we are a sinful, saintly Church. Not to worry. Eventually, God wins. “O Lord, my God, in you I take refuge.”

In John 7: 40-53 everybody is arguing about the wrong questions — except the temple guards, who when asked why they didn’t carry out orders and arrest Jesus, just said, “No man ever spoke like that before.” But others argued that he wasn’t born in the right place, or accepted by the Sanhedrin (the religious authorities) or the Pharisees (considered the educated and “fervent”), but only by “this lot, that knows nothing about the law — and they are lost anyway.” Nicodemus pointed out it was all irrelevant. “Since when does our law condemn anyone without first knowing him and knowing the facts?”

All the false arguments above are paralleled in the Church today. Disciples are those who seek to know Jesus (and any accused) and the facts.

Initiative: Be a disciple of Jesus. Neither accept nor reject without involving him.

[1] See Mathew 5:12; 23:29-39. The worst opponents of Jesus were the established teachers of religion (the “scribes”), the approved “law and order” party (the Pharisees), and the “chief priests.” What they all had in common was power and prestige.

  • Father David M. Knight

March 31, 2017

Friday, Lent Week Four

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“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted” What the Responsorial (Psalm 34) tells us sometimes appears to be contrary to appearances, especially to unbelievers.

Wisdom 2: 1-22 lists some reasons why many nonbelievers, now as well as then, find even those who are authentically religious “obnoxious.”

  1. “They reproach us” for going against the law of God. But we should. We can’t judge people’s consciences, but when something is wrong we should say so.

  2. “They profess to have knowledge of God.” Of course. Religion is empty without it. But this is not pride; the knowledge is a gift, not an accomplishment.

  3. “Their life is not like others’ — they are different.” In a religious culture it is the nonbelievers who would be different — and they would fight for the right to be so! The emotion here is not consistent with logic

  4. They “hold aloof from our paths as from things impure.” The question is, “Are they impure?” The unbelievers “hold aloof” from religious services. So?

  5. They “call blest the destiny of the just.” Yes. And since believers aren’t always “blest” by this world’s standards, this calls the standards into question: the core values that unbelievers live for. Someone is a fool.

  6. They “boast that God is their Father.” Yes, but it isn’t a boast. It is a gift offered to everyone, and its first effect is humility: “O Lord, I am not worthy.”

The unbelievers’ biggest mistake is to assume God will protect the just from being delivered over to their enemies. Jesus’ crucifixion settled that question. But it only makes sense if there is “a recompense of

holiness” after death. The bottom line (omitted in the reading) is: “For God created human beings to be immortal; he made them as an image of his own nature.” Our stand on that governs our answer to everything else. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”

An advantage to reading Scripture is that it raises all sorts of questions that are tossed about but not really confronted elsewhere. It helps to confront them, getting help from the word of God.

John 7: 1-30: When Jesus calls people to confront the question of his origins — “So you know me...?” — all he explains is, “I was sent.” We can like or dislike, understand or misunderstand all sorts of things Jesus teaches. But the only important question is whether God speaks in him. If he does, belief is settled. All that remains is to try to understand, and ask how to put it into practice. That is the work of disciples.

In a theology exam, the first question asked about every Church doctrine and practice is, “Where does it come from?” Scripture? A Church council? The personal viewpoint of a pope, bishop or scholar? The common consensus of the faithful? Or just unexamined conventional hearsay? To give a doctrine more authority than it has is just as bad as giving it less.

In today’s educated Church, every believer is challenged to ask those questions. If we don’t, we will become a community of blind led by the blind.

Initiative: Be a responsible believer. Know the origin of what you believe and do.

  • Father David M. Knight

March 30, 2017

Thursday, Lent Week Four

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“Lord, remember us, for the love you bear your people.”

The Responsorial (Psalm 106) presumes the value of prayer. Now we see an example of it.

In Exodus 32: 7-14 Moses gives God good advice, reminds him of what God seems to have forgotten, and gets God to change his mind about what he had planned to do. Yeah, right.

This is a good example of the way God inspires the Scripture writers. He inspires them with truth, but truth expressed in the kind of words and images the writers understood, and that the people for whom they were writing would understand. Sometimes a story incorporates assumptions everyone had that were false, but which it was not yet time to challenge.

From our way of seeing things, our prayer does affect what God does. God already knows from all eternity what he is going to do, but he has made some of it conditional on our asking for it. Why?

God does not want to save the world unilaterally. He wants humans to have a part, real part, in it. One way in our power is to pray for each other. Then God can say, truly, that what he does is our gift as well as his. We ask, God answers, and we are joined in love.

Also, if we “argue” with God, as Moses did, it lets God inspire us with questions and answers that lead us to clearer understanding of ourselves and him. God is a teacher; we are disciples. Disciples learn through dialogue.

In John 5: 31-47 Jesus is trying to dialogue, except that it takes two to tango, and Pharisees never answer.

Jesus gives four reasons for believing in him and seven why people don’t.

Those who bear witness to Jesus are: 1. John the Baptizer, whose life made people trust him; 2. the works (good deeds and miracles) Jesus performs; 3. the Father himself; 4. the Scriptures, and specifically Moses.

People refuse to believe because 1. God’s word is not abiding in their hearts; 2. and this is because of their free choice not to accept Jesus, the “one God has sent”; 3. they don’t desire eternal life enough to come to Jesus for it; 4. they accept others who do not come in the name of God; 5. they accept praise from one another; 6. they do not seek the glory that comes from God; 7. they don’t believe Moses or the Scriptures.

Later, Jesus will specify that all the reasons for believing in him are secondary to the testimony the Father and Spirit give within the hearts of those who are open. “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” Those whose hearts are good will just know.[1]

The readings in the Liturgy of the Word are intended to encourage reflection. So take time to go through the “four and seven” above. See which apply to you. [2]

Initiative: Believe Scripture as divine revelation. Read it as human dialogue.

[1] John 3:20-21, 6:44-45, 8:42, 10:38, 14:11.

[2] General Instruction on the Roman Missal, no. 56.

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