Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent, 2021
What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus, the Christ? Is being a Christian simply about being a good person? Is being a Christian based solely upon a one-time profession of faith? Or, is there more to this Christian thing than modern Church of Nice christians teach?
The various seasons of the Catholic Church year have been purposefully designed to guide Catholic Christians on a spiritual journey of enlightenment. Throughout our three year cycle of readings we are presented with teachings that should, with prayer and diligence, help us to truly understand the depth of what it means to be fully inculcated in the life of the Church.
On virtually every page of scripture, in both testaments, we find instructions in both faith and morals, the very precepts which our Most High God expect of us. In a very real sense, as the Prophet Jeremiah proclaimed, the moral precepts of God are already, indelibly written in our hearts. However, due to pride and hardness of heart, many, if not most, reject that still small voice that that prompts us to avoid immoral thoughts and actions.
Today’s readings present us with several options to choose from. A parish priest, pastor, or bishop needs to choose which message is best suited to the needs of his particular community. Should we focus today on God’s demands for righteousness, or His effluent love for us that prompted him to the Cross?
But why should we have to choose? They are both intimately connected.
As the Apostle suggests today’s reading in Hebrews, we must learn obedience, and follow in Christ’s example. We must put aside our personal fears, wishes and desires, in favor of doing the Father’s divine will. Because, as St. Paul tells us in Romans, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” What does it mean to be “in the flesh”? That simply means to care more about the things of this life more than the things of the Spirit. What is the most important thing in your life, right now? What is motivating your actions. Are you motivated by the finer things of life, a bigger home, a fancy car, jewelry, sports, or any number of things? Do you put any of these things, even family above your love of God? The lusts of the flesh and the pride of life, and earthly possessions are huge distractions that if not kept in check, will interfere with our spiritual growth, and relationship with God. How in the world can anyone truly become aligned with the will of God while being only partially committed to serving Him. Too many of us have divided loyalties, not truly submitting ourselves to God’s Lordship over our lives.
Take a moment in honest reflection...
How much time do you devote solely to God in a given week? Does God rate more than a couple of hours on an occasional Sunday? The mantra for many is that attending Church isn’t really necessary. I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that “I’ve got a relationship with God, I don’t need to go to Church.” My friends, every single relationship requires nurturing to grow and remain in tact. It is simply another lie of the evil one that whispers that it’s okay not to go; or, going to the ball game on Sunday won’t interfere with my spirituality.”
Another evil message percolating through modernist churches is that “god is speaking a different message to the church today.” My sisters and brothers, modern teachings that suggest that ancient moral teachings were some how only applicable for times past are leading many in this present generation to the pit of hell! New age moral teachings are reminiscent of the Serpent’s deceptive word’s to Eve in the Garden saying “God didn’t really mean that,” (paraphrased).
One thing abundantly clear in my mind is that God’s word succinctly proclaims both wisdom and truth. Nothing in the written Word suggests that God’s moral code changes with the passing of time or that it is subject to politically correct ideology.
That’s the crux of the matter, as I see it. Modernist theologians have become highly adept at removing God from the equation. It’s little wonder that so many are leaving traditional churches or staying away from Church altogether these days. When you remove divine inspiration from the biblical texts, you also remove Godly authority. In that mindset, biblical writings become simply writings of men, who are culturally out of touch with our modern wisdom. But, remember the biblical injunction: in “proclaiming themselves to be wise, they’ve became fools.”
Today’s readings from John’s Gospel are powerful examples, not only of Jesus’ power over death, and of His divine authority, it was the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Yes, the life and ministry of Jesus was foretold in the Hebrew Scriptures and fulfilled in the presence of numerous people so that we would know, without a doubt that God’s word is true. The same Jesus that raised Lazarus from the dead, and He Himself was resurrected, has Surely proven to be faithful to do the same for those who “trust in the Lord, and are called according to His purposes.” Through His divine acts, “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”
So, as we enter the last week of Lent this year, the question becomes, what will you do with Jesus in your own life? Will you make Him a priority? Will you “obey Him, or will you simply continue putting god in second or third place in your life? Does God even make it to third place? Being a follower of Jesus requires more than paying Him Lip-service, but actually doing something radically different than the secular world considers normal. It requires putting God in 1st place. That means that everything else in life takes second place to following His Will for your life. For many this will be a price that is too high to pay. In truly following Jesus, some will lose jobs, family, and friends. Others have lost their lives for their faith in Christ. The Authentic Christian message is actually contrary to what modern politically correct churches teach — radically different.
This Lent, I’m making a conscious decision to follow Christ, no matter the costs even unto death, as the Apostle Thomas bemoaned. I choose to believe the moral teachings that have been passed down through the apostles and their successors from the beginning of the Church age. I choose to reject modern politically correct “wisdom“ that relegates scripture to being merely writings of men, removing divine authority. I choose to do the will of the Father in all things, placing my own wants, needs and desires subservient to His.
What will you do with Jesus?