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THURSDAY HOMILY: They Picked Up Stones to Throw at Him

By Deacon Keith Fournier
March 22nd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We can move from being men and women walking in the freedom of the truth which comes through living faith to becoming "ones who had believed in Him" all too easily. All it takes is sin. We become spiritually blinded, lose our freedom and fail to recognize the Lord in our own lives. In fact, we can end up throwing rocks at Him; at least figuratively.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic online) - Over the last two days we have heard St John's account of the encounter between Jesus and people whom he refers to as  "the Jews who had believed in Him." (John 8:31 - 42) In Wednesday's passage Jesus promised them, "If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." However, rather than receive the promise and find the freedom He offered, they turned on Him.

In today's continuation of the encounter (John 8: 51-59), we again meet those "who had believed in Him".  However, their pride continues to blind them. They fail to see who is standing before them. They say to the One whom all the angels in the universe adore, "Now we are sure that you are possessed." St. John tells us "they picked up stones to throw at him."

Those "who had believed in Him" have by now become the ones who throw rocks at God Incarnate. Then, they moved from confronting and disrespecting Him to driving Him out of town. It was not Jesus who had changed, it was them. How did it happen? Gradually. Can it happen to you and me? Yes.

As I proclaim the Gospel this morning I am mindful of my proclivity to such fickle behavior, without the grace of God. I can all too easily become blinded by sinful pride. I can all too easily begin to live like one who "had believed in Him" instead of one who DOES believe in Him, if I grow apart from His living presence.

Yesterday's relationship with the Lord is not sufficient. Yesterday's prayer cannot keep me in the presence of the Lord. I need to cultivate an ongoing relationship with the Lord if I hope to see clearly with the eyes of living faith. I need to regularly and continually talk to Him. 

For the Christian, prayer is about an ongoing encounter with the Lord which changes us. It is about living in Him and welcoming Him to live in us. Prayer helps us to see ourselves clearly and to recognize our own need for repentance. Prayer draws us into an experience of transforming grace.

Olivier Clement, a lay orthodox theologian, explains in his excellent resource book entitled "The Roots of Christian Mysticism, Texts from Patristic Era with Commentary" that prayer is not something we do but Some -One we encounter. "It is Some-One who comes to us in the sovereign freedom of His love. Grace does not come to order. We can only prepare ourselves to receive it, making ourselves attentive to the possibility of a meeting."

We need to pray every day to stay in touch with this Some-One. Otherwise our capacity to exercise our freedom rightly, to choose what it good and what is true, begins to suffer. We can become influenced once again by what the Apostle Paul called the "law of sin" (Romans 7:35) and begin to view the world, oursleves, and the Lord, in a distorted manner.  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that "In man, true freedom is an "outstanding manifestation of the divine image". (CCC #212)  Our choices not only change the world around us but they change us. What we choose either humanizes us further or leads us, ultimately, into slavery.

Saint Gregory in one of his homilies cited in the Catechism opines, "Now, human life is always subject to change: it needs to be born ever anew. But here birth does not come about by a foreign intervention, as is the case with bodily beings, it is the result of a free choice. Thus we are in a certain way our own parents, creating ourselves as we will, by our decisions."

The Catechism teaches that "The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to "the slavery of sin." (CCC #1734) It also cites the Apostle Paul's use of that phrase. (Romans 6:17) That same Apostle reminds us that "it was for freedom that Christ set us free". (Gal. 5:1)

We can move from being men and women walking in the freedom of the truth which comes through living faith to becoming "ones who had believed in Him" all too easily. All it takes is sin. We become spiritually blinded, lose our freedom and fail to recognize the Lord in our own lives. In fact, we can end up throwing rocks at Him; at least figuratively.

Olivier Clement's invitation to "prepare ourselves for the possibility of a meeting" requires that we learn to silence the clamor of the age, stop the ever accelerating pace of the futile quests that so often occupy our hearts, and live in the eternal now by surrendering ourselves - and even our best aspirations- to the One who created us -and now re-creates us- in His Son Jesus Christ.

It is there, in the emptied place, in the stillness of the eternal now, where we prepare a room for the King of all hearts. And, in that encounter, we soon find the longing of our heart fulfilled. Grace does not come to order. Rather, it is freely given, lavished in fact, upon those who learn to live in God and live as though God lives in them.

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