Sunday, December 14, 2014
Advent Conversion: Assume you are a Pharisee - its the Only Sure Way to Prepare for the Word to Heal You
This is one of the most difficult but most healing sermons. Stop and pray for openness to the Holy Spirit before proceeding.
In today's Gospel, we read:
“By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus said to them in reply,“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me,
then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. ...
So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”
He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Today, and really time Jesus in the Gospel for the day has interactions with the Pharisees try this: assume you are a hypocrite, the one who is contradicting Jesus' authority, the one trying to stop him from acting, from being God, the one opposing God.
Because guess what?
You are not perfect. Yet. God has a lot of work to do on you. It is therefore very safe to say that there is probably a high degree of self-delusion and opposition to God going on in your life. Right now.
Wait a minute!
I pray a lot. I pay my taxes. "Thank God I am not like other men, adulterers, extortioners, unjust" (Luke 18:10ff):....wait a minute, you recognize that self-justifying voice come up when I said you are a hypocrite? That is the Pharisee who was praying next to the Publican. Guess which one went away justified. By the way it wasn't I who said it. Listen to the Word of God: "You hypocrite!" (Matthew 15:20; 22:18 etc etc etc).
Usually if a person accepts the authority of God it is because they have accepted his love. Only the Love of God can give you the real courage of love, which we call humility, to accept that there is anything that is not of God, hypocritical, deluded, blind, and in-need-of-conversion in us.
So, according to the Gospel for today this is what I do. I test God. I go to him and ask him why I have to convert. His Holy Spirit has been calling me for a while and is turned up the heat this Advent, but I still am attached to the safe hypocrisy that I know and am afraid to give up things that I am attached to that somewhere deep down I know my life would be much better if I would only make the step.
So I (we/you) test God. I challenge his authority to preach the Gospel to me, which demands a radical abandonment of my pride and everything I know to follow him to places I never have gone before.
I will answer your question if you answer this question, i.e. I will grant you the grace to convert and be happier, healthier, and holier, if you just accept that what I am demanding of you is in divine authority. Let me be God and I will lead you.
But wait. It's too much. I cannot surrender that much. I am afraid I won't be protected if I assume that I am blind and hypocritical.
Are we at an impasse?
That is when it is time to go to Our Lady. She is the spoon full of sugar that helps the medicine go down. She obtains for us the extra graces, the special graces, the grace we don't deserve because we still cling to our blind hypocrisy, our foolish pride, or games and armor, and brings us to Jesus Christ in a totally new way.
When I go to Our Lady, seeking to find a cure for my blindness, knowing that I need conversion but might not yet want it, I know that she can obtain for the me the grace to want it, or at least the desire to desire to want it.
The sinless Virgin Mary never opposed God. Ever. She submitted wholly and fully to his Holy Will so much, obeyed him so perfectly that he obeys her perfectly. Anything she asks him God grants. This is the same with us. The more we stop opposing God's Will in our lives, when we ask him for graces and blessings, he will be more freely permitted to grant it to us because it will come from a person who is not opposed to him and therefore not asking him something that is displeasing or opposed to what is best for us.
Until I am deeply submitted to his perfect Will...I habitually place myself in the chair of the Pharisee, or rather move down to the floor and see myself as the broken woman who was washing his feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. Unitl I know that is who I am before God, guess what? Yep that is right. I am the one opposing him.
May Our Lady obtain for us Light, Jesus Christ, our God and Lord to free us from our presumptive delusions, and may we see Jesus Christ be born in our lives in a new and profound way this Christmas.
O come O come Emmanuel...