Posts Tagged Gospels

What if?

The great “what ifs”, there are so many of them. “What if” is used to inspire writers. “What if” is often used to get us to think. There are websites and blogs that are dedicated to just looking as the “what ifs” of the world. Some of them are very interesting.

What if money grew on trees? If that were true, there would be a lot of us climbing trees. And what would we tell our children when they come asking for money, since we couldn’t give them the old, “Do think money grows on trees?”

Another one I like a lot is, “What if the world was flat?” Well if that were true our friend Christopher Columbus in 1492, would have been looking for a reverse in that boat of his when he reached the edge.

And my favorite is what if we could change the world? (We’ll come back to this one later).

What if, can make us think, and despite what my wife may say, I do think, well at least sometimes I do.

Recently I was reading in the Book of John the 20th chapter…

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. Then they went home.

Did you notice that last sentence? “Then they went home.” What if they would have stayed at home? What if they had never told others about Jesus, his teachings, his sacrifice, his resurrection? If they had stayed home, we wouldn’t have the New Testament, because no one would have known about Jesus.

But they didn’t stay home, later in that same chapter we read that Mary told the other disciples. And then they told others. They told the world about Jesus and his teachings, they told the world that Jesus died on a cross for everyone, and that he arose and lives. Then it was written down for everyone in what we call the “Gospels” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).

Now the “what if” we need to think about is, what if we stay home and don’t tell anyone? Just like Mary, Peter, and John many of us know about Jesus, his teachings, the crucifixion, the resurrection. But are we taking what we know and staying at home?

There are a lot of hurting people in our world, there are a lot of people that need to know Jesus, and they need to know that he lives. What if we told them? What if we convinced them of the truth, that Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them?

What if we did that? Remember that question that I said we would come back to, “What if we could change the world?”

If we would tell the world about Jesus, we wouldn’t have to ask the question, “what if we could change the world?”

We would change the world.

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Scriptures, Alive or Dead

Thomas Linacre was the king’s physician to Henry VII and Henry VIII of England.  He was a prominent scientist, he was founder of the Royal College of Physicians and friend of the great Renaissance thinkers Erasmus and Sir Thomas More.  Late in life he was given a copy of the Gospels to read for the first time.

The Bible, of course, was not being mass produced at this time since the printing press was just coming into existence.  So, the Bible was something that only the Church and the clergy had access to.  This was a time that saw many problems both inside and outside the Church.  Reading the 4 Gospels for himself, Linacre was amazed and troubled.  “Either these are not the Gospels,” he said, “or we are not Christians.”  “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”(Mt 7:24)

The point is that there are plenty of very eloquent things that are said about holiness, but unless a person practices what they preach, it becomes nothing more than a lot of hot air.  To be a good Christian takes more than just prayer and fasting and going to Sunday Mass.  God has to find us faithful like another Abraham or Job in times of tribulation; when the rain is falling, the floods are coming and the winds of life are blowing against us!

In the first reading, (Dt 11:18,26-28,32) Moses warns the Israelites that they will be blessed if they obey the commandments of the Lord, but cursed if they reject God’s words and go after pagan gods.  The commandments can’t be something that we talk about or hang on the wall or post in front of buildings.  They have to be lived in our lives.  They have to be seen in the way we act day in and day out.  That’s what it means to build our house on the firm rock foundation.  We have to be more than just hearers of the word of God, we must be doers of the word of God.

The sad part of this is that I wonder how many of us are even hearers of the word of God.  Think about it for a moment.

I would venture to guess that the vast majority of Catholics only hear the word of God when they come to Mass on Sunday.  I would go even further and speculate that most of those people aren’t even really listening to the readings carefully enough to remember them when they leave Mass.  And if this is true, then how can we expect to put those words into practice in our lives.  We are more attentive to reading the newspaper or listening to the news on TV or reading all sorts of stories on the Internet then we are to listening to the Scriptures.  But, how in the world are we ever going to be able to be doers of the word of God unless we know what the word of God says?

I think part of the reasons are marriages are failing at such a high rate today is because people don’t have the rock foundation of the Scriptures to teach them what to do to be successful in their marriages.  Spouses don’t know that they have to put into practice loving each other the way Jesus wants us to love, forgiving each other the way Jesus teaches and becoming servants of one another the way Jesus was to everyone.  If we are a phony family with no Christian foundation, we will be fighting like cats and dogs.  Friends show up and we will be nice to them and kind to each other, but as soon as those friends leave, we can fall back into an icy cold relationship.

As a priest I get to see everyone on their best behavior most of the time.  But, when Fr. leaves, then we can get back to having fun!  But does that make us people who listen to the words of God and act on them or are we just Catholics on the surface with no real foundation in Jesus?

In schools, students will blame teachers, coaches, guidance counselors instead of taking responsibility for not having studied enough or practiced enough or met the dead lines that were clearly indicated.  Is that much of a rock foundation to stand on?  Every one of us is building a house. It’s a lifetime job to build a house of personality and character.  Everything we do, every word we speak, every thought we cherish goes into the structure of the life we build.

As Catholic Christians striving to have a strong foundation for our house, we need to be hearing and doing the words of Jesus.  That means that we ought to be LISTENING attentively to the word of God when we are at Mass and taking the time to read the Scriptures in privacy to allow them to become a part of our hearts and acted out in our lives.  We need to listen to the preaching and teaching of the Church and the Sacraments and the lives of the saints.  It is not enough to simply believe in Christ’s teachings.  If they are really the rock foundation of our lives, we must put them into practice.  Perhaps a good Lenten exercise might be to pick up the 4 Gospels and read them.  It might be a startling encounter where you say to yourself:  “Either these are not the Gospels, or I am not a Christian.”

 

** Due to time commitments, Father Grassi is unable to take blog comments at this time.  If anyone has a question of faith, please feel free to call Father Grassi at St. Thomas Catholic Church or speak to him after Mass.

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