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04/22/18 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

The fall of Adam and Eve came about as a result of their lack of trust in God - this was original sin.  As the Catechism explains (#397), "Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. "This is what man's first sin consisted of. "All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness."

Jesus Christ came to win back that lost trust, so as to lead us away from our self-centered, fear-filled, sin-wounded lives and back into his faithful flock.  By giving up his own life to atone for our sins, he showed that the Father is worthy of our trust, that he will forgive us, protect us, and lead us to rich pastures. God will never abandon us in our need - never. The passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are his proof. Though the wolf (the devil) attacked and scattered Christ's disciples on that first Good Friday, Christ did not flee. Instead, he gave up his own life, freely suffering what in truth we, because of our sins, deserved to suffer. He freely obeyed with the total obedience that Adam and Eve had lacked. Because of his docility in embracing the Father's will, the Father rewarded him by raising him from the dead. Christ was faithful to his mission, even knowing what it was going to cost him, and that mission consists in saving us from sin and estrangement from God. He is the good shepherd, the one we can trust, the one who cares more about our lives than we do ourselves, the Lord who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for ours (cf. Matthew 20:28).

The Eucharist is one of the great proofs of God's trustworthiness - Christ faithfully present through the ups and downs of twenty centuries.

A true story about a missionary illustrates this well. Fr Meehus was working in a small village in rural China during the Sino-Japanese war. As Japanese soldiers neared the village, the priest led his congregation of orphans into hiding in the nearby hills. Safe in a cave, he counted eighty children - everyone was there. Then one of the boys spoke up, "Father, someone is missing." They counted again - still 80. But the boy insisted. The priest asked, "Who is it, who's missing?" The boy answered, "The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity." Father moaned - in his rushed escape, he had forgotten to bring the Blessed Sacrament. He made a quick decision. He had the children smear him with mud, telling them that he was going to be a commando (which they thought was fun). Then he went out, slipped through enemy lines, crept to the church, and tip-toed up to the tabernacle, praying in the silence of his heart:"Jesus, I'm sorry I have to come for you this way; you might not recognize me with all this mud... I am in disguise now, but this is really and truly the one who has held you in his hands many mornings at Mass." And in his heart, the priest heard God answering him: "Of course I recognize you... I am in disguise too. A lot of people don't recognize me either; but in spite of appearances, I am Jesus, your friend, and I hold you in my hands from morning until night." When the soldiers left, the priest and his congregation carried Jesus in a triumphant procession back to the tabernacle.

When trusting God is hard, a glance at the Eucharist - the sign of God's faithfulness - can make all the difference.

Will we renew our trust in Jesus Christ, our good shepherd, today?

Our Lord is hoping that we will.

He wants to be the solid, rock foundation upon which we can build a stable and meaningful life, as St Peter mentioned in today's First Reading.

There is an easy way for us to know whether we are really building our lives on the rock of Jesus, or whether we are just pretending to.

It's like a litmus test for the health of our faith.

It is this: do we fully accept and make an effort to understand more and more deeply the Church's official teachings, like the Catechism and the encyclicals?  For the last thirty years, many groups that call themselves Catholic have been openly rebelling against official Church teaching, especially in areas of morality, but also in the areas of dogma and liturgy. These groups have caused confusion even among faithful Catholics. They have even opened the door to a situation in which high-profile Catholic politicians, artists, and business leaders are in direct opposition to Church teaching on issues as fundamental as abortion. We should each ask ourselves if this cafeteria Catholicism - in which you pick and choose among Catholic teachings depending on personal preference - may have seeped into our own minds. If so, then we may be following the path of those Jewish leaders St Peter was preaching to, the ones who preferred their own version of the Messiah to the true Messiah, and ended up crucifying Jesus because of it.

As we continue with this Mass, let's lift our hearts up to our good shepherd, the Lord risen Jesus, thanking him for his patience and mercy, and promising that we will never leave his side, even if he guides us up steep and difficult paths.

 

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