TUESDAY HOMILY: Christ's Amazing Authority
Year of Faith is how do we respond to the Lord's teaching? Are we amazed by it? Grateful for it? Astonished at the authority? Do we follow it, ignore, or resist the Lord as he teaches us in Sacred Scripture, or through his Vicars on earth, or through the successors of the apostles? Do we trust in our own opinions more than we trust what he has said, done and established?
Everyday in the Office of Readings of the Liturgy of the Hours that priests, religious and many lay people pray, we begin with Psalm 95, in which the Lord through the inspired text tells us, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts."
Lack of astonishment to the teaching of the Lord is not a function of a hardened brain, but a stony heart. It's not a thing of inadequate intelligence, but of insufficient love. Those who love God are astonished and amazed by him and what he says and does.
That's where we need to begin.
The psalm says that many of the Israelites had hardened hearts "even though they had seen my works." God has done far greater works for us than he did for the Jews in Egypt, but sometimes, just like our spiritual ancestors, our hearts harden through sin, self-centeredness, and lack of love such that we have no amazement toward God and the gifts he gives us.
Today, moved by the Gospel, is an opportunity for us to stoke our amazement and authority at Jesus' teaching, which is a great gift. Jesus teaches us today, just like he did during his own day.
Even though sometimes we might pretend otherwise, Jesus knows that we don't know it all and he speaks to us day-by-day, subject-by-subject through prayer, through the Word of God, through the school of the Church, to help us overcome our ignorance, the ignorance that really does harm us. Ignorance is not bliss; it's misery.
It's the same way in the faith. When we're immature spiritual ruffians, we would prefer to call the shots ourselves. When we grow up spiritually, however, we recognize how little we know, how much we need to learn, and how grateful we are for the education in faith and life Christ gives us.
The real litmus test as to whether our heart is hardened or astonished and amazed is how we respond to the gift of God's teaching.
All of us who read have our favorite authors whose works we generally devour. For me, I love to read Peter Kreeft, CS Lewis, Scott Hahn, Prof. Robert George, George Weigel and Archbishop Charles Chaput. Anything they write I want to read because they give me lenses to see things I don't notice, understand or appreciate on my own.
Those who like fiction generally can't wait until the next book comes out from their favorite authors. Each is us is called to have more zeal for what the Holy Spirit writes us through the Word of God and the teaching of the Church than kids in recent years have had for the Harry Potter books.
We - you and I - need prayerfully and enthusiastically to read the Bible with astonishment, particularly the Gospels. We can hear a little bit of the Word of God at Church, but if we never study the Word of God on our own, we're no better than a student who never does homework. None of us is a "spiritual genius" with all of this knowledge infused. We're called to ponder what Jesus teaches us with authority in Sacred Scripture.
We also have to ponder what he teaches us through the Church he founded, through the Catechism of the Catholic Church, through the writings of the Popes and the bishops. We need to overcome the spiritual immaturity of thinking we learned everything we need to know about the faith by the time we were confirmed. It's simply not true. There's so much to learn, and this truth will set our lives free. But we need to begin with that astonishment and amazement of heart.
In this Year of Faith, let's ask for that gift for ourselves and for others!
Father Roger Landry is pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River, MA and national chaplain of Catholic Voices USA. His homilies and articles are found on catholicpreaching.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Year of Faith, Fr. Roger Landry, Jesus Christ, Gospels, authority, magisterium, Second Vatican Council, Catechism of the Catholic Church
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