Saturday, November 24, 2012

2012 November 25: Christ the King - What is 'truth'?

Why did Jesus come into the world?  Take a guess  - we all know this its pretty obvious but can any of us answer that question off the cuff?  Why did he come?  To set the captives free?  To give sight to the blind?  To save us from our sins?  All of that is true but what did JESUS say was the reason he came?  We just heard it in the Gospel two minutes ago.  For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.
Its not the answer we might have expected.  I would imagine most of us would have asked the same question Pilate did, Truth?! What is truth?
Wouldnt you love to hear Jesus answer that question?  Its always bugged me that he went silent at that moment.  Here he is on center stage in front of the authorities this is his chance to get his word out to the world and EXPLAIN what his life's mission is about but after that statement, he fell silent leaving Pilate AND US to guess at his meaning.
Does it really matter?  Do we really care that Jesus testifies to the truth?  Does it change anything in OUR lives that Jesus said I am the way and the truth and the life?
It does matter, Because truth is the basis of morality.  We can only decide what is right and wrong based on truth.  C.S. Lewis said, If no set of moral ideas were truer, or better than any other, there would be no sense in preferring civilized morality to savage morality.  In other words, who is to say that our Christian moral code is any better than that of the head-hunters of the South Pacific.  You can only say that one is better than the other if you have a moral standard to compare it to.
Let me give you an example lets say you go down here to the gas station and fill up your tank with gas.  You notice that if you fill up at this gas station it only takes like 10 gallons to fill up your tank.  But if you fill up while in Evansville, it takes almost 12 gallons.  Now dont get excited this is just a made-up example.  The question is how DO we know when we buy a gallon of gas that it is in-fact exactly a gallon?  This used to be a real problem but now every county has an inspector who goes around to every gas station and certifies each pump in effect, guaranteeing to you and me that a gallon is a gallon.  But how does that inspector know its a gallon?   Well he has to rely on his own instruments which are themselves calibrated and certified by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in fact they have a department devoted to maintaining standards for Weights and measures.
Obviously, if we DIDNT have such a department maintaining standards, we would have chaos.  Imagine back in the old days, if you went to the store to buy some rope youd buy like three arms length.  Easy to see how THAT would be chaos since everybodys arms are different.  Thats when some king got the idea to set the standard that a foot would be the length from his elbow to his wrist (from here to here) then a yard was 3 feet.  Measuring sticks were provided to all merchants so that Now you could go to the store and get three yards of rope. And pretty much know what you were getting.  If somebody wanted to prove their stick was the perfect length, they would have to take it and measure against that standard...which was the kings arm.  The king stretched out his arm to set the standard...remember that.
I use those examples just to highlight the fact that there ARE absolute measurements out there.  If you want to the absolutely, positively sure that youre measuring correctly, you take your measurement device to the authorities who have the True measurement.
So does that apply to morality as well?  Is there an absolute authority I can check myself against to determine right from wrong?  This has been a problem ever since Adam and Eve... They wanted to be like Gods to decide for themselves what is right and what is wrong but our church year ends with this feast which declares that CHRIST is the King HE is the one who sets the standard for what is right and wrong. Not us.  In order to live in His kingdom, we have to follow His rules.  While that may sound harsh or unfair it really is a comfort to us.
Because we live in a kingdom that follows the law Thou shall not kill, we can live in reasonable peace of mind knowing that WE wont be the ones being killed.  Of course, that changes if we go into a different culture one which doesnt follow the law of truth and love in the kingdom of God.
Some things in this life ARE absolute truths.  Jesus sets the standard because HE IS the truth.
most people including probably everybody in here think that truth is NOT absolute that it is relative.  Its called relativism and I want you to hear and remember that word and what it means, because the Pope has called it possibly the greatest threat to Christianity....even to society.
Relativism says there  IS no absolute truth there is no right or wrong in any situation that the truth varies depending on the situation or the person.  Youll hear people say things like, well, to me, the truth is this…”  or My belief is that....  Relativism judges no one and prefers no one.  Relativism can justify any action, no matter how evil.
Granted there ARE situations that are grey area.  For example, should I study to become a doctor or a professor.  I cant say there is an absolute right/wrong answer for this.  However, I submit to you and any MORAL issue before us can and MUST be weighed against our perfect moral standard and that is the standard set by Jesus.
We live in a kingdom that believes "thou shall not steal"... But if we allowed relativism to make the rules, then we might say....well, if my kids are hungry... Or as long as I don't know the person I'm stealing from... No harm no foul.  Reminds me of a line from a recent reality show, "ain't doin' nothin' illegal unless you git caught".  Really?!  This guy's standard of right and wrong is relative...relative to what he gets caught doing.
Also reminds me of the story Fr. Tom used to tell about the lady working the bingo at his old parish and they caught her stealing money.... They even caught her on videotape.  When they asked if she had taken anything, she still denied it...and when they showed her the tape, her defense was...well it wasn't that much!  Her morality was relative... In her moral code it was ok to steal as long as it wasn't "much". 
If we allow relativism to set our moral standards, then we can all do whatever we want and eventually, we will fall into anarchy and chaos.  Thank God we have our own King, Christ who overthrew the dictator of lies years ago.  Just like the first yard sticks, if we want to know if were measuring our moral character correctly, we have to take it to the king... Christ the King....he not only Set the standard, He IS the standard of truth. Just like the first yard stick, OUR king stretched out his arms to set the standard for us.  The standard of Love is from here to here (arms outstretched).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

2012/11/04 ...with your WHOLE heart

I dont know if you know this, but all Clergy are required to pray from this book every day.  Us Deacons just have to do morning and evening prayer, but Fr. Eugene has to pray a couple more times per day.  Its whats called the Liturgy of the Hours it a book of psalms and readings  and prayers.  Why would we willingly do this every day?  Why would the church insist that we do this?  Why is it that a lot of lay people and religious pray it even though they dont have to?  This book was designed for us to life up every part of our day to God.  In this way, somewhere in the world at every minute of every day SOMEbody is praying.  In fact, Ive got this neat App on my ipad which has all these prayers on it and you can pull up a globe and show everywhere in the world that somebody else is praying at that very moment using that app.  I checked it this morning and there were 502 people across the globe at 11 am.  And MOST people who pray this use the book and not the app, so that number must be 100 or 1000 times that amount at any given moment.

I bring that up because Twice in todays readings we hear part of the Shma the prayer that was the foundation of the Jewish religion Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God.  The Lord is One.  This prayer was the centerpiece of their morning and evening prayers kind of like the Our Father is the centerpiece of our Christian prayer.

The very essence of this prayer is the subject of both the first reading and the Gospel:  You shall Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.    Jesus himself told us today that THIS is the most important commandment of ALL! 

So do we do it?  Do we love God with our whole heart, soul, and strength?  If its the most important thing, surely we think about it all the time, dont we?  I admit, I dont .. but I am trying to better. 

God should be the first thing we think about in the morning and the last thing at night.  He should be the first one we thank when we receive a blessing and the first one we turn to when we are afraid or in trouble.  He is the one we should look to whenever we have a decision to make which answer will serve God the best?  Its all a matter of priorities is God the priority in our lives?

Heres a test for you to discover your own priorities:  where do I spend most of my time work, school but where do I spend most of my FREE time?  TV, Hunting, eating ice cream?  Another question:  Where do I spend most of my money house, insurance, gas  again, these might be necessities so where do I spend most of my EXTRA money?   Toys, vacation, hobbies, ice cream?

Wherever your time and money are thats where your treasure lies.  Do you see the truth in that?  Whatever I consider important enough to invest my time and money into THAT must be a priority to me.  If I spend all my time hunting deer then that must be a priority to me.  Maybe thats a good thing, because my family needs the meat.  But maybe its a selfish thing if I take too much time away from my family.  Same goes for us work-a-holics.  We convince ourselves that were putting in all those extra hours of work for the sake of our family but in reality, were often doing it for our own egos.  We want to move up we want to look good in the company or we want to plant just one more field or we get a sense of well-being from knowing that weve worked extra hard.  All of these things are good in themselves, but when they become the priority over family or God, then we have not made the best choice to Love God and our Neighbor. 

Every choice we make should be preceded with prayer.  Before I choose a career, before I choose a spouse, before I choose anything I should take it to God God show me the way that will love you the best.

We all have an important decision to make this Tuesday.  Before you enter the booth, ask God what is the most loving choice.  Think about the candidate youre voting for and why you think THEY deserve your vote what specific policy or policies do you think is the most important?  Now - what does that tell you about your OWN priorities? Then ask God is that really YOUR top priority?   The first line of the first reading is very appropriate Fear the Lord.  In other words, respect the fact that He knows best  and has authority over our lives.  When we stop fearing the Lord, we think we can make all the decisions without considering His perspective.

Beside every voting booth should be a kneeler.  Since there isnt, you are welcome to stop here at church on your way to the voting booth.

Hear o Israel hear o America hear o church hear o dubois county Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.   In this year of Faith, lets all strive to put God into every moment of every day, and into every decision we make.

Someone once said, I Spend an hour every day in prayer except when Im really busy then I spend two hours.  Im sure almost everyone here thinks thats just plain unrealistic but even if we cant spend 1 hour a day in prayer consciously find SOME way to integrate God into your day.  Otherwise, were ignoring the commandment that Jesus said was our top priority.