“…Seek good and not evil, that you may live; Then
truly will the LORD, the God of hosts, be with you as you claim!…”
Amos 5:14-15, 21-24
“Why do you recite my statutes,
and profess my covenant with your mouth, though you hate discipline and cast
my words behind you?”
Psalm 50: 7-13, 16bc-17
“The demons pleaded with him,
'If you drive us out, send us into the heard of swine.' And he said
to them, 'Go then!'”
In being assigned today’s readings, I agonized for a while over
the Gospel passage about Jesus expelling demons and allowing them to go into
a herd of swine. A couple of years back, I had read this same story
although it might have been in Mark’s Gospel, and I got hung up on why Jesus
allowed the demons to go into the herd of swine. My spiritual director
told me I’d taken my eyes off Jesus. I never really did figure out
what he meant, and gave up trying; and so I felt this story had come back
to haunt me when I read the words again. After reading Collegeville’s
commentary and a friend loaned me his bible reference works by D.J. Harrington,
S.J., there was alot of speculation about those details; I began to see why
my spiritual director had told me I’d taken my eyes off Jesus. Of course
in conjunction with today’s other readings, it started to make sense.
In the reading from the prophet Amos we are advised in a most serious way
not to say one thing, and with our actions present another. In other
words pay more attention to the person you are in the inside, the part that
God sees, instead of the exterior signs you present for the world to see.
This theme is followed up in the reading from Psalm 50 we don’t perform
all of our sacrifices for the Lord’s sake, for the world belongs to Him.
But, rather we perform those sacrifices for our own sake, to help us with
the construction of becoming a better human being. If we think otherwise,
the offering will have no effect on our interior life. The sacrifice
is to have its effect deep down inside and bring us closer to the heart of
God. I could relate to the phrase “though you hate discipline”.
There remains in me a strong feeling of the relief I felt when I left home
and did not have to live under the disciplinary rules of my parent’s household.
Unfortunately, ignoring discipline has helped me to grow lazy in some respects.
Even though I can see examples that with discipline, I have become stronger,
i.e. a better bike rider. Yes discipline can be uncomfortable, but human
beings fare better with it, than without it. Exploring discipline applies
to all dimensions of our life.
Finally, I read the Words of Matthew’s Gospel in the eighth Chapter, with
new understanding. As the Psalm challenges us to seek good and not evil;
the lesson in the Gospel for me has come down to how powerful Christ Jesus
really is. Not only did He resist the devil’s temptation when He went
into the desert for 40 days; He has the power to expel demons. Therefore,
no matter what we have gotten ourselves into; maybe we have pursued evil
instead of good; but by getting back to Jesus we can be assured of being rescued.
Catholics recognize in the outward sign of the sacrament of Penance a deliverance
of Grace, the power to follow Christ in our lives, to help us resist evil.
By making a good confession and from deep inside wanting to make a change,
and in doing the penance the priest asks us to do, we can get back on the
right path towards healing. If we fall down again, we go back to the
well of Jesus, in this sacrament, in order to get the strength to direct
our will power to resist the evil the next time. To me the small sacrifices
made during Lent have helped show me how to restore my will power, and with
the help from heaven above in the Sacrament of Penance, I have been able
to shed some of my old patterns and sins, even those that were with me a
long time. Yes, I have still other hills to climb, but I do so with
more hope. Like by bicycle training, you have to do some things
that are difficult in order to have the strength to make it through the tougher
parts of your ride; riding up a mile and a half incline, into the wind is
made possible by pushing your way through all those weeks of training on
smaller hills. It is true God didn’t make junk the human being/body
is truly amazing. For the Christian we walk with hope, even though ours will
not always be the easy route.