Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cast off the works of darkness

From Pope Benedict's Holy Thursday homily "In caena Domini":

When first called, terrified by the Lord’s divine power and his own weakness, Peter had said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). In the light of the Lord, he recognizes his own inadequacy. Precisely in this way, in the humility of one who knows that he is a sinner, is he called. He must discover this humility ever anew. At Caesarea Philippi Peter could not accept that Jesus would have to suffer and be crucified: it did not fit his image of God and the Messiah. In the Upper Room he did not want Jesus to wash his feet: it did not fit his image of the dignity of the Master. In the Garden of Olives he wielded his sword. He wanted to show his courage. Yet before the servant girl he declared that he did not know Jesus. At the time he considered it a little lie which would let him stay close to Jesus. All his heroism collapsed in a shabby bid to be at the centre of things.
We too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers. We too do not want to accept that he is powerless in this world. We too find excuses when being his disciples starts becoming too costly, too dangerous. All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us.
(Source: Sandro Magister, "'He Descended to the Dead.' Easter Surprise," Chiesa Online)
“God loves us the way we are, but too much to leave us that way” (Leighton Ford). It's hard to accept that that love makes demands on us to change; we've told ourselves that "love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet 4:8), as if that made sins acceptable. And so we find ourselves trying to rationalize the tougher teachings of Scripture, to explain away the apostolic tradition of the Church, as the interjected teaching of men (flawed, failing, corrupt, fallible) spoiling the pristine beauty of Christ's tolerant love.

Many of us sang as kids, "Jesus loves the little children, /All the little children of the world ...". But we aren't children. We don't come into an adult love of God with the full, innocent trust of children; we come in scarred, burned, suspicious, needy, carrying agendas, lying to ourselves and others with equal facility. We come in like addicts in denial, expecting a new, different, better kind of "high"; we come in wanting a fix, not wanting to be fixed. 

But I, miserable young man, supremely miserable even in the very outset of my youth, had entreated chastity of You, and said, "Grant me chastity and continency, but not yet." For I was afraid lest You should hear me soon, and soon deliver me from the disease of concupiscence, which I desired to have satisfied rather than extinguished" (St. Augustine, Confessions 8:7:17).

What wretched, arrogant fools we are, that, looking on the tormented, agonized Body on the cross, we still think that we can give just enough to make us feel we gave something without letting go of everything!  We can be profligate with our money, generous with our possessions, but such terrible misers with our desires! How could we possibly impose a just order upon the outer world when we can't impose a strict economy on our own inner appetites? What kind of martyrdom can we endure from the God-hating world when we can't endure the discomfort of self-denial? How can we spare ourselves anything in the name of Him who spared Himself nothing on our behalf?

The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires (Rom 13:9-14).