The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

22nd Sunday Ordinary “B”

When you hear the name of Jesus what do you think of? What sort of picture comes to your mind?

I know that when I picture Jesus in my mind - I often think of that man with a gentle face carrying a lamb around His shoulders.

For me, it’s a nice picture. A smiling, reassuring face. That is the Jesus I often think of. Or at least that is the way I prefer to think of Him. A gentle, compassionate, loving and forgiving God. And He is all that and more.

But the picture I get from today’s Gospel gives me quite a different picture.

I see Jesus talking to a large crowd and then suddenly confronted by the Scribes and Pharisees who hope to embarrass Him and make Him lose credibility.

How does Jesus handle the situation? Here we have a Jesus who seems more human that I want Him to be. He appears angry and not only that but He actually engages in some name calling.

When He was asked by the Pharisees and scribes “Why do your disciples not live according to the traditions of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?

Jesus said to them “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written “this people honours me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. In vain do they worship me”….

And then Jesus goes on to tell the other people who are standing there listening to this exchange - that there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile a person but the things that come out of a person are what defiles them.

For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.

When we look at people isn’t it true that we often look at the success they have achieved in their lives rather than the good they may have done in their lives?

And here we can think of many movie stars and politicians whose personal lives and examples leave a lot to be desired but they are stilled admired by millions of people.

In education don’t we often attach more importance to the head than we do to the heart? Don’t we make more fuss over a smart child than we do over a good one?

A kid could be the best behaved and kindest kid in the world but isn’t it often the case that the child who has the highest grades – that’s the one who gets the most praise. That’s the child who gets their picture in the paper?

In the world of business and politics don’t we reward cleverness, political correctness and achievement rather than goodness?

And yet when you listen to the words of our everyday language we seem to acknowl­edge the primacy of the heart over the head. At least we seem to say that we know where our priorities should be.

For example, we judge a person by the heart.

One of the most damning things we can say about anyone is that 'he has no heart', is heartless, is hard hearted or that 'he has a cold heart'.

But then again one of the best things we can say about anyone is that 'he has a heart', or 'he is warm-hearted', or 'he is soft-hearted'.

We judge the degree of a person's commitment to something in terms of the heart. We say, 'his heart is not in it', or 'that was only a half­hearted effort'.

As a result, we’re thinking that he’s probably going to quit. Or we think that even if he stays, he will not put his best effort into it. He won’t put his whole heart into it.

On the other hand we could say 'his heart is in it', or 'his effort is whole­hearted'. Meaning that he most probably will not only persevere but will put his best effort into it.

It’s the same when we want to express sorrow and joy in terms of the heart. We say, 'her heart was broken', or 'she went with a heavy heart'. Or we say, 'her heart over­flowed with joy', or 'she has a light hearted way of speaking'.

We often describe burdens and wounds in terms of the heart.

A 'heavy heart' is the most wearisome burden of all and a 'broken heart' is the most painful wound of all.

There are many more examples that could be given. But, let’s just look at two more examples from today's Gospel.

The first example concerns the worship of God.

The most damning thing that can be said about someone's worship is that the person's heart is not in it. In which case it is mere lip-service, like that of the Pharisees.

And one of the best things than can be said about someone's worship is that the person's heart is in it. That their worship of God comes from the heart.

The second example concerns badness and goodness. A corrupt heart is the worst form of badness. It means to be bad at the very core of our being. A pure heart is the best kind of goodness. It means to be good at the core.

The Gospel places great emphasis on the heart, and we can see why. As Jesus says the heart is the source from which all our thoughts, words and deeds flow.

If the heart is clean, then all that flows from it will be clean, like water flowing from a cool, clear, pure mountain spring.

In the Gospel, the Pharisees paid more attention to the outside than the inside. They were more preoccupied with having clean hands than having clean hearts. Appearances rather than worshipping God.

What if Jesus came in person and talked to us today? What would He say about our worship? Do we practice what we preach?

Do we come to Mass every Sunday, greet each other sincerely, listen to the Word of God, receive Holy Communion and sing our hymns of praise to God?

Do we then leave this place this place of worship and share our heartfelt love and our life with our brothers and sisters throughout the remainder of the week?

Or after seeming to praise God do we leave this place and live our lives the rest of the week as though we had never heard of Jesus Christ?

Jesus says that it's the heart that matters. Where is our heart on the matter of abortion, the killing of innocent unborn babies? Does our silence condemn us?

Where is our heart on the matter of euthanasia and assisted suicide? The killing of the elderly, the depressed, the suffering?

What do you think Jesus would ask us to do about it – This Euthanasia, this so called mercy killing? This killing of fellow humans through assisted suicide??

Do you really think that Jesus would want us to start killing off our elderly, our misfits, our depressed, those whose lives we want to shorten because we think they are dying anyway and some of them are suffering terribly?

Don’t we love them too much to continue to just watch them suffer? Shouldn’t we just put them down in a humane way and end it all? Shouldn’t we do for them what God does not appear to be willing to do?

What do you think Jesus would do?

What do you think He is asking you to do about it?

We are all aware of Bill C-384. A Bill being introduced into the House of Commons to make Euthanasia or so-called mercy killing and assisted suicide, not only legal but easy to accomplish in Canada.

In the coming weeks we will hear more on this subject. We will hear all about how humane we would be when we end or help to put an end to someone’s suffering. We do it for dogs why can’t we do it for humans?

Don’t get me wrong. All of us have probably stood by the bedside of a relative who was suffering terribly in the last few days of their lives. If only God would take them now and end this suffering.

It’s hard for us to stand there and watch helplessly. We’ve all had these thoughts. And now this bill will seem to make it possible for all that suffering to end quickly and legally too.

But our chief Shepherd Archbishop Smith has addressed the topic in the latest issue of the Western Catholic Reporter.

If you haven’t read it – please do so. We need to know as much as we can about Euthanasia and assisted suicide. Archbishop Smith tells us what Jesus is asking us to do.

What does this bill really propose to do for us? We need to see it for the evil that it really is. We need to see the wolf hidden here in sheep’s clothing.

And then what we are asked to do is act on this information. We are being asked by our Archbishop to make our voices heard. And we can do this by writing a simple letter. A short letter.

All it takes is one little sheet of paper addressed to the Prime Minister or Blaine Calkins or both.

Simply telling them in one or two sentences that you do not approve of Euthanasia or assisted suicide.

No need for a long explanation. It will be the number of letters received that will count. Not the arguments for or against. A hand written letter is best.

Then simply sign your name and mail it. Postage free. You don’t even need an address – simply Blaine Calkins – House of Commons, Ottawa. It will get there.

My brothers and sisters if we say we are Christian then we must act like Christians. We cannot say one thing and do another. We cannot profess our faith and then deny it.

Our Archbishop is asking us to speak up on this issue and to speak up now. We mustn’t wait for someone else to do it –

How does that saying go “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

We always think of the gentle Jesus’ – the God of Love and compassion. But here in today’s Gospel Jesus’ use of such strong language sort of shocks us.

The use of the word hypocrite flung in the face of the Pharisees should give us a strong hint of what He thinks of hypocrites and Jesus is not afraid to speak up. Archbishop Smith isn’t afraid to speak up either. And neither should we be afraid.

My brother and sisters, only God can see what is in our hearts. And only God can change our hearts into what they should be.

Let us pray that many Christians today will act on what is in their hearts.

Let us not be hard hearted or heartless. We may not be able to change much by writing that letter but at least they could not then accuse us of being hypocrites, can they?

For we have acted on what God has written on our hearts.

Deacon Bernie Ouellette

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