Sunday, September 28, 2008

Doing the Will of the Father

Today's readings
1. Which son did the will of the Father? Really, this is what it all comes down to- doing the will of the Father. That is the way in which Jesus lived and died in His earthly life- doing the will of the Father. But what does it mean, doing the will of the Father? Scripture reveals various ways to do the will of the Father. For example: to believe in Jesus, to obey the commandments, to protect and nurture the small and the weak, and to put things aside to trust in the Lord.
2. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him (on) the last day. (John 6:40). To believe in Jesus as the True Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, this is the will of the Father. In the Gospel we heard today, there were those who many of the religious people thought of as sinners who were entering the kingdom of heaven because they believed in Jesus on the strength of the preaching of John the Baptist. Those who did not believe in Jesus were risking their eternal souls by failing to recognize that He was the One whom God sent to save the world.
3. But belief in this context is not merely intellectual assent to a proposition of faith. Remember, Saint James told us that the demons believe that there is only One God, and they tremble (James 2:19). Rather, to believe includes turning away from sin- to repent- to change one’s life. That is why Jesus chastised the chief priests. Even if they were not sure of the message of John the Baptist, the effect it had in converting sinners should have alerted them that God was at work. As Jesus said at another time if you cannot believe in me, believe because of the works that I do...(see John 10:38). That is, believe that God is at work. And it is more than the work of God, it is God Himself entering our human condition to save us from death and sin.
4. To believe in Jesus requires the believer to change - to begin to obey the commandments, not merely to give lip service. Remember that Jesus said Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven (Matthew 7:21). Unfortunately these days there are those who would promote themselves as Catholic Christians, and yet their actions and their words are false. There are even politician- public figures who recently have even misrepresented the constant teaching of the Church so that they may permit the destruction of the weak and the small. I speak of those who would continue to support abortion, euthanasia, and medical experimentation on the unborn as if the unborn were not human beings made in the image and likeness of God. Yet Jesus says that the angels of the little ones always look at the face of God the Father in heaven (see Matthew 18:10).
5. Of course, what drives many of these so called leaders into error is the same force that drives practically everyone to whatever sin we commit- and that is fear. I do not mean the “fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (see Proverbs 9:10), but rather the fear of the things that do not last. The tax collectors and the prostitutes in Jesus’ day sought security in money and the attentions of other people. The high priests and the scribes and pharisees often sought security in their religious practices. Lack of trust even caused the rich young man to turn away and leave Christ because he had many possessions. Yet those who turned to Jesus found more than enough security and joy even in the midst of suffering.
6. And so it is our task to turn to the Lord, to believe in Him, to obey Him, to trust Him- to let Him live in us. It is for just this cause that Saint Paul begs the Philippians to take on the attitude of Jesus Christ- that attitude of emptying Himself and becoming obedient to death on a Cross. For in His doing of the will of the Father perfectly unto death, Jesus has obtained for us eternal life.

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