Opening of the Lenten Mission at St Peter Parish in Naples, FL
February 21, 2016
Genesis 15, 5-12 & 17-18 ✠ Psalm 27 ✠ Philippians 3,17-4,1 ✠ Luke 9, 28-36
This event that Luke has recorded for us is about glory. It is not just about something that happened to Jesus. What happened on that mountain provided for those present a glimpse of what they might dare to hope for themselves. If we were to sum up all the work of Jesus on this earth it was simply to restore us to glory; to give us the glory of being a chosen race, a holy people who live in the presence of God. When ever Jesus encountered anything that robbed someone of glory it had to go. If someone was blind or lame, a leper or a sinner and Jesus came along, he restored them to glory not just to health. Anything that robbed someone of the glory for which they were made had to go.
On that mountain Jesus came into the presence of God just like Moses came into the presence of God in burning bush on the top of a mountain. The Bible tells us that after that experience the face of Moses was glowing and reflected the glory he had seen, but it didn’t last. It faded the moment he saw his people worshipping a golden calf. Now, the mission of Jesus Christ is to take us into the presence of God. His mission was to restore us to the glory that was ours at the beginning as God intended; the glory experienced in paradise before it was traded for something less. Today one look at the human condition, the human family makes it clear that there is not a lot of glory about us most of the time. There is then a lot of work to do. What keeps us from glory is SIN. Our failure to live up to the glory that is ours is as tragic as the unhappiness evil causes. But we don’t like to talk about sin these days unless it is someone else’s. Most people today don’t have sin, they have “issues”, and instead of facing head on the fact of sinfulness, we frequent psychiatrists and take pills. While this might be appropriates for some chronic illness, it is sometimes a way of avoiding and denying the reality of evil and consequence of our sinful choices. When Pope Francis was interviewed a year or so ago and asked by the reporter who he was, he responded without a pause, “I am a sinner.” The Holy Father went on to say that our humanity is wounded. We know how to distinguish between good and evil. We know the difference, but we often choose the evil. We make choices, and we can choose our glory.
We are living through an age of serious moral decay. Cheating and lying are a way of life today. Although anger doesn’t make most of us murderers, lust doesn’t make most of us rapists, and greed or envy do not make most of us outright criminals, together with gluttony, arrogance, and sloth, there isn’t much glory in us, and those who have to live with us are miserable.
Every deadly sin fuels harmful social phenomena: lust-pornography; gluttony-substance abuse; envy-terrorism; anger-violence; sloth-indifference to the pain and suffering of others; greed-abuse of public trust; and pride-discrimination.” As long as there is any trace of these evils in our lives there is no glory in us. We are less than human and less than what God has made us to be. Yet, we have in our faith a treasure of wisdom and tradition, teaching and revelation that leads us to a life of virtue and balance, holiness and joy; that is glory! It is not that pleasure is inappropriate, but real glory comes from character and virtue, and a right relationship of one’s self to others and to God. That is where we find pleasure, and that kind of pleasure leads to glory.
So, I am inviting you to spend three nights this week reflecting upon “The Seven Deadly Sins”. Unlike our bodies influenced by our genes; our souls, our spirit, and the lives they animate are free to be shaped by our choices. We can choose to be whole. We can choose glory. We can repent and change, and that is what this Lenten season which we have just begun is all about. There is more and better in us than we have chosen to become. One of the startling facts of life in our times is that no one wants to admit to sin and take any responsibility for its consequences. Lent is the time to do that, and this mission may well provide some time and insight about what we can do.
We have been given our nature, but we choose our character. When we say someone is a good man or a good woman, we do not suggest that they are people in whom there is no inclination to evil, but rather that they are people who have wrestled and still wrestle with it and never give in because their quality and their goodness comes from the struggle. I think that is what Jesus learned in that desert as we heard last weekend. It is what gave him what it took to really withstand the temptations that come later in his life. People who learn from the struggle are truly noble. These are people of virtue, character, and nobility. The work of Jesus and his expectation that we change leads us to glory, to Easter, to virtue and nobility.
The glory of Jesus Christ came from his willingness to suffer in obedience to the will of his Father. Calvary was no short – cut to glory. There isn’t one. We will have no glory and no Easter from short-cuts either. I want to propose to you over the next three evenings that while there are seven sins (not issues) that lead us to death there are seven virtues that when taken seriously lead us to life. I invite you to give some time with me this week for the sake of the truth and for glory; three times in this church for the sake of life itself, your life. Tomorrow night we shall reflect upon Pride and Envy, Tuesday night Anger and Sloth, Wednesday night it will be Greed, Gluttony, and Lust. I always save the best till last! So I hope to see you again for prayer this week when we might begin to consider how it is that we restore that glory that is ours by God’s plan, and let Christ Jesus lead us deeper and closer into the presence of God.