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Monday, August 29, 2005

Readings for 28 August, 2005

 First Reading: "Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it." (Jer 20:7-9) Psalm: My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.(Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-90) Second Reading: ".. offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship." (Rom 12:1-2) Gospel: "'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.'" (Matthew 16:21 - 27) Commentary, from DailyGospel.org: St. Augustine warns, "You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s.".
The homily in our parish today began with a stark, simple but often neglected truth: to be Christian today is difficult. I still find it odd when a friend of mine, an Evangelical Protestant, stops and reminds me that we need not think about the cross of Christ anymore. To him, the crucifixion of the Lord is a done deal, and we should only think of the risen Lord. We need to remember, however, that our salvation begins with the cross, and that the incredible love of God for us is made manifest on the cross. I suppose that there is a natural tendency to avoid talking about unpleasant things. But it should be increasingly obvious that the reality surrounding Christians today carries the threat of crucifixion. Our faith is increasingly held up to ridicule, contempt and open hostility, albeit with limited violence. To be Christian today is very hard. In such surroundings, having crosses to bear is a given. What sustains us is that these crosses are united with our Lord and Savior who took up the heaviest cross of all. We must form an attitude towards suffering and adversity so that the cross ceases to be a cross, as St. Josemaria Escriva has written. This is crucial because the wrong attitude will blind us to the existence of our cross or cause us to abandon our crosses. The cross is a given. Either we take them up or we turn our back on Christ. In anti-Christian surroundings, the seemingly easy life, one without a cross, should wake us up in alarm and cause us to think deeply, because this is of utmost importance. We must be wary of the perils of having become friends with the world, as St. James warns, when it is clear that the world did not love Christ and has no reason to love Christians. Something else that must be said is the need to be aware of how each and every one we meet has got his/her own cross to bear daily. It would do no good to focus on our own crosses to the point of losing our compassion for others around us whose crosses may just be heavier than ours.

4 comments:

Lito said...

It is sad that so many of my Evangelical Protestant brothers sometimes divide the work and person of Christ. This is the reason I'd rather be identified as Reformed Protestant rather than Evangelical.

The gospel of Jesus includes both, his death, burial and resurrection. There is no resurrection w/o death, and death is meaningless w/o his resurrection. They are one and the same. If Christ did not rise then we have no proof that his sacrifice has been accepted by the Father.

I think what he means is that the sacrifice is finished. It is finished - this Jesus said to mean that there is no more need to be done on man's part. You can not do your part, it has been done. Because if you have to add something to it, then it is not finished, it contradicts Jesus's promise. Besides even if you can add to it, you do not know if what you have added is sufficient already. There is always an unknown. This will not help us.

The good news is that his death is FOR YOU, it is FOR ME, not in theory but literal actuality. It is payment for your sins and mine. It is yours by trusting that fact as attested by Scripture - by agreeing with Scripture, that his death was payment for your (my/our) sins. When we treat this statement of scripture as fact to our comfort, then fact has become faith. Then the Bible says we have peace with God because Jesus obeyed perfectly the Father. He won that obedience and paid for what I can not fulfill, thus God treats us as righteous on account and for the sake of Christ. God looks at his own seed (Christ) and is satisfied. The Father becomes our Father.

Lito

Jeff Tan said...

Lito said: I think what he means is that the sacrifice is finished.

Agreed! But we who are saved by grace must nonetheless told to hear and obey: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' These require action, not to save us, i.e., to pay for our sins, because salvation has been paid for already. Our deeds now must be to love and to serve. Christ is not just our savior: he is also our Lord. Hence, all our actions and being must conform to discipleship. Ours must be a living faith, one that is actively in loving service to God and our neighbor. We were told to take up our cross and follow Christ, and he has forewarned us about tribulations, persecution and suffering ahead, but we have also been assured that this is no cause for despair, but a challenge to trust and to hope.

Here's a link to a Protestant page which points out a list of some of the Lord's commands that we must observe. And again this is not to save us who are already saved by grace. This is in order to sanctify us, to bear the fruit that we are now capable of by grace, to be co-workers of the Kingdom, and to love and please our Father in Heaven.

Lito said...

Jeff,

The outshoot of Jesus is Savior will automatically produce the notion of Jesus is Lord to be obeyed out of gratitude because he has conquered us by his love. After all that is what his name signifies - Yahweh Saves.

It is part and parcel of receiving the gospel - so the reformers taught. A heart of flesh replaces a heart of stone such that the believer wants to follow the Lord. This is something produced by the HS through the gospel, He creates this love for God in the heart of the believer. We love him because he first loved us. Taking Jesus as Lord does not seem to be the problem to me, the problem is taking him as Saviour, that was what Reformers struggled with. They were pounded that he was Lord and King but not that he is the believer's sacrifice and priest

Jeff Tan said...

Then you'll be shocked with some of the things that well-meaning (we hope!) Christians can get up to, such as arguing from some legalist perspective as if the roles of Christ as Savior and Lord were at odds with each other. I can understand perhaps the need to clarify the boundaries between salvation and justification/sanctification. But the cited page seems to go overboard for me. In an effort to emphasize that salvation is "as simple as" accepting Christ the Savior, the message has to emphasize that action is not only unnecessary but that lack of action has no ill effects. The result seems to be the oft-noted OSAS doctrine: once saved, always saved. Strangely enough, that brings us right back to what the blog was about: "take up your cross and follow me!"

I think you're quite right to emphasize that it's all about response. God loved us first. It's all up to us to respond. But God's love is given to us everyday, and we have to respond in gratitude and love. Does that mean we end up with works-righteousness? Pride is always a danger, and it goeth before the fall. Nevertheless, the key, I think, is to keep our perspective, never abandoning humility, for example, which should dispel all delusions that anything we do is worth bragging about.