August 1, 2008
Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, bishop and doctor of the Church
Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the house of the LORD and speak to the people of all the cities of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD; whatever I command you, tell them, and omit nothing. Perhaps they will listen and turn back, each from his evil way, so that I may repent of the evil I have planned to inflict upon them for their evil deeds. Jeremiah 26:2-3
And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.” And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. Matthew 13:57-58
Father, give us the confidence to preach your word through our thoughts, words and deeds. Jesus, give us the courage to tell everything and omit nothing. Holy Spirit, give us the conviction to omit nothing from the important message of Jesus. Amen.
Perhaps we will listen.
The Lord does not show much confidence in His people. From Jeremiah right through Jesus, when they stood up and testified about the Lord, the people turned their backs and refused to listen.
However, the Lord persists in his instructions. Tell them. Omit nothing. Let them/us choose for themselves/ourselves.
Today, we sometimes tread gingerly on the message of the Good News. Arthur Simon tells this anecdote in the Preface to his book, How Much is Enough? Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture: A Christian from Germany visited the United States shortly after World War II. “I noticed your churches have cushions,” he commented, suggesting churches of affluence. Then he added, “I notice your preaching has cushions, too.”
Simon noted that the visitor had gotten a sampling of “feel-good sermons that treaded lightly (if at all) on the expectations God has for us regarding love and justice toward the poor, and in this case especially toward marginalized African-Americans.”
Jesus instructed his disciples to preach without cushions. His approach reflected the maxim, “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Yet, as we go from our air-conditioned homes, to our air-conditioned, power-steered, and power-braking cars, to paved parking lots and air conditioned churches, it is hard to imagine the plight of the prophets who faced death when they told truth to power. How many of the church leaders backed down rather than face the fate of John the Baptist for speaking truth to power?
So we do the same? Instead of following a consistent ethic of life, do we pick and choose from the doctrinal menu what we find palatable – choosing what is easy (not queasy) on the stomach and compromising (not promising) on the mind?
As we mark the 40th anniversary of Humane Vitae, are we all ready to embrace this encyclical and its push to be open to new life through love? Or do we see it as a way to interrupt our free love?
Are we ready to side with the Pope who has opposed all recent wars on moral grounds?
Are we ready to stand with the bishops against the use of the death penalty for criminals when alternatives such as life imprisonment without parole exist?
Perhaps we will listen. Perhaps we will turn our back. Otherwise, we just might get what we deserve.
On this “First Friday,” spend a few minutes with the Lord in recognition of the devotion of St. Alphonsus Ligouri to visits to the Blessed Sacrament. He suggested the following:
Pause for a while each day, at least a half or quarter of an hour, before Jesus Christ in the Sacrament in some church. If you do this, you will see the great benefit you will derive from it. Know that the time you spend in devotion before this most divine Sacrament will be the time in your life most fruitful to you; it will be of comfort when you die and in eternity.