Saturday, February 7, 2015

Choose Life

LENT 2015

Dt 30, 15-20
Ps 1
Lk 19, 22-25

The Catholic Peace Fellowship
Deacon Tom Cornell

          “I have set before you life and death, a blessing and a curse.  Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live,” the parting words of Moses to the Hebrews as they prepared to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land.  “Choose life!”
Today’s psalm doesn’t square with our experience.  “Happy the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked. ...He is like a tree planted near running water.  . …Whatever he does prospers. …Not so the wicked.  They are like chaff which the wind blows away.”  Would that it were so.  Often good people suffer and the wicked do just fine; we know it.  Look at the halls of power anywhere.  In our own country a council of the wicked invites a mass murderer to address a joint session of Congress to instigate war against Iran!  They all ride in state, so far!  “Pride goeth before a fall.”  In the end, the First Psalm will be vindicated. 
There are contradictory themes in the Bible.  The trials of Job and Ecclesiastes’ cry of, “Vanity of vanities and all is vanity” tell a different story than the First Psalm.  We read in Exodus that “The sins of the fathers will be visited upon their sons…. The fathers eat sour grapes and the sons’ teeth are put on edge (Ex 34,7).  On the other hand, “Each is to die for his own sin.  Every man who eats sour grapes is to have his own teeth set on edge” (Jer 31, 10   In the end, all will be put right.  That is our hope.  Christ is our hope, who broke down the wall that separated us, Jew from Gentile. “Happy are they that hope in the Lord.” 
We have to hope and trust in the Lord in the face of all that threatens life today.  The nuclear threat has never receded; we can’t bear to face that reality.   The Cold War is back, and a real danger it will turn hot.  Who could imagine in this day and age horrors such as IS and Boko Haram visit upon innocent people?   Then there is climate change.  The overwhelming consensus of scientists from all over the world blames human activity for environmental degradation and predicts extinction of species, even our own unless drastic steps are taken to reduce green-house emissions.  Our hyper-individualistic culture calls for abortion on demand, at any stage of pregnancy or even delivery.  “If we will not spare our children, whom will we spare?” asks Mother Theresa. We are all affected by a spreading culture of death.  We don’t have to go far to look for crosses to bear.
We enter Lent today, a somber time of fasting and prayer and almsgiving in anticipation of the joy of Easter.  Here are some suggestions for fasting, prayer and almsgiving.  Fasting: no meat on Fridays of Lent, and on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and only one full meal and two light meals for those between ages 18 and 59 and who are well.  You might voluntarily adopt a stricter discipline, especially if that will help you get back into clothes you have outgrown in girth.  You can fast from other things than food.  Fast from distraction.  Turn off the TV and the radio.  Establish a zone of quiet around you that will facilitate prayer.  Prayer: try reading The Liturgy of the Hours, especially the Office of Readings every day, with selections from the ancient Fathers; they are so very rich. Or plan to go through the New Testament by Holy Week. 
Read the works of Fr. John L. McKenzie, the foremost Catholic biblical scholar of his time and unsurpassed to this day.  He was an original sponsor of the Catholic Peace Fellowship.  I keep his Dictionary of the Bible by my bed.  His The Two-edged Sword: An Interpretation of the Old Testament and The Power and the Wisdom: An Interpretation of the New Testament will deepen your insight into Christian radicalism.  It was he who said that if you can’t understand from reading the New Testament that Jesus was nonviolent, then you can’t understand anything about him.  Dorothy Day said of Fr. McKenzie, “I thank God for sending me men with such insight as Fr. McKenzie.”

Almsgiving: dig deep and help the Catholic Peace Fellowship.  I will not embarrass our staff people but just let me say they work hard for what we all believe in so deeply at real personal sacrifice.  Help them to help those who call upon our services.  Pray about it.  And choose life!  W