Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Malachi 3:19-20; Psalm 98; Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19
Saint John Baptist de LaSalle, November 13, 2022
Early one morning a woman came to my rectory door in tears, and this is what she said: "I came home and immediately sensed that there was something wrong," Gloria told me. "Then I noticed that our statue of St. Joseph was missing and the Mother of Perpetual Help picture was gone from the wall. When I asked where they were, my daughter-in-law told me that she had burned them because the Bible forbids us to worship graven images. When I heard this, I felt that I had been stabbed through the heart and that Our Lord and Our Lady had been insulted. I felt so angry with my daughter-in-law and her 'Born Again' talk that I could not even look at her for days." During my time as a parish priest, I heard many stories like that of Gloria. Stories of deep hurt and division within families in the name of religion. They were stories of wounds inflicted by those who believed that they were right. At present there is a great growth of religious movements outside and within the Church. There are many conservative groups on the one hand and many liberal groups on the other. Within the Church we have a range of groups from Christian and Zen meditation groups to Bible sharing and study groups, to Charismatics and Opus Dei. The words of Jesus, "take care not to be deceived because many will come using my name and saying 'I am He"" are as valid in their application now as they were in the time of Jesus. How can we know which are genuine and which are phony, which are from God, and which are from the evil one?Unfortunately, they do not divide that way. Good and bad are not stacked clearly on either side. I think we must always approach any religious movement with respect.
There is always something admirable in the fundamentalist who will stand for what they believe in, and die for it, and unfortunately, even kill for it. There is always something admirable in a spiritual search, even if it takes people into areas that to you and I, seem weird or incredible. All around us are groups, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, who believe they have a better way or the right way to follow God, then the way our Church teaches. Catholics who reject the teachings of the Vatican II Council and wish to turn to the past and the Latin Mass are in serious error. Simply because a healthy movement will only be interested in promoting, rather than halting the message of the Second Vatican Council. Today's Gospel reminds all people of the implications of having faith in Christ Jesus. Our faith comes, of course, with risks of persecution, suffering and even death simply because of Jesus' name. Jesus offers a rather grim vision for all who will follow him, for we will suffer the dangers of discipleship. Yet, Jesus envisions a discipleship that mirrors his own life and ministry. As he suffered persecution, so too will his followers. However, even during persecution, Jesus lived out a ministry rooted in love, and so also must his followers. Jesus calls on us to imitate him as a way to be disciples in his name. While that might mean that we encounter conflict at times, it also involves creating and revealing the Kingdom on earth. Living our life in Jesus' name requires an attentiveness to those who are most vulnerable. It requires of us an intentional concern for the wellbeing of others. Pope Francis made it perfectly clear, "that on the day of our judgement the only thing that God will ask of us is, 'what have you done for the poor." So, let us try together, as best we can, despite the suffering and injustice in our lives and in the world, to act and behave as Jesus wants us to. Trust only Jesus.