Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
Where will you be on Saturday, December 2? – (Part 2)
The Gospel is about judgment! Last week’s bulletin letter was to check your comfort level with the words Jesus used in that Sunday’s Gospel to describe the destiny of the lazy servant – “darkness,” “wailing,” “grinding of teeth,” and elsewhere Jesus describes that place as a “fiery furnace.” Once we are “locked out” it’s too late (the foolish virgins)! Those words need serious time for reflection. However, this week’s Gospel is not to check our comfort level but to consider something more frightening. Frankly, for some what is said here does not have the drawing power as the words of damnation heard earlier. Those words have told us of the consequences of not listening to Jesus’ message. But what is the judgment? Is it about vices and then are some more serious than others? Look at these statistics:
World War I – estimated casualties: 20 million
World War II – casualties: 60 million (not counting death from disease or famine)
Communist China: 20 million
For those who believe things were better before the Second Vatican Council, these are statistics of the twentieth century before that Council (1963-1965). At the time of the World Wars and subsequently, the continent was considered and called Christian Europe. In wanting to find some estimate of Christians living in Europe during WWII, there was this assessment in the first paragraph by a Jim Weber, “there seems little recognition that the very framework of the beliefs owned by the Fascists and Nazis came from their Christian up bringing from church, school….” Whatever Weber’s beliefs, it brought to mind Pope Saint John Paul II’s words of apology: “We forgive and ask forgiveness …for divisions among Christians…for the use of violence…committed in the service of truth…and hostility assumed towards followers of other religions.” A response to his remarks was that such apology threatened the authority of the Church! Without getting into other issues it should be added, only fairly, that in our own country, at least into the 60s, were found “White’ Churches and “Black” Churches. Before going further, it is noteworthy that The Catechism of the Catholic Church which was overseen in its promulgation by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XXVI) has an extensive index on the topic of dignity. One topic is called (Dignity) ‘of the human person,” It goes from CCC 1700-1876. Recalling the sufferings of the Twentieth Century, we need to remember and honor those Christians, many unknown, who withstood the onslaught and endured martyrdom –Jews, Catholics and Christians and others — for their faith and blood they shed for and with their brothers and sisters – ( E.g.Edith Stein [Carmelite] and Maximilian Kolbe [Franciscan priest] But had Christ’s message of human dignity reached the lay faithful of those times to whom Vatican II would later especially address itself? Vatican II also refocused attention on the message of the Bible. When speaking of the Eucharist with little implications of Christ’s humanity are we not inflicting a serious wound on human dignity and putting to the side Christ’s words from the Gospel, “that if your brother has anything against you leave your gift at the altar and be reconciled with your brother?”
In the Gospel today Jesus is addressing his disciples, separating sheep and goats. He says: “I was hungry….I was thirsty ….a stranger…what you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did to me.” His “least brothers” are seen as foremost his disciples whom he is sending out. How they are treated is really the treatment we show to Christ. But it is presumed that the disciples themselves are proclaiming, as part of the Good News, that what we do to our neighbor we do to Christ. Jesus concludes by saying, “…‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.‘ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous (those who have done justice) will go off to eternal life.” Is that not the judgment that frightens? ……to be without Christ.
Saturday, Dec. 2, is our Parish Advent retreat that gives us a day to focus on something essential to our very being. It is prayer. We have been created in the image of God which means we are able to place ourselves in the presence of God as created beings before our Creator. We are not truly ourselves if we do not fulfill this specific vocation of prayer to grow in our relationship with God. Love of neighbor for each of us is fundamental but our ultimate goal is union with God.
God Bless You,