Deut 18:15-20/1Cor 7:32-35/Mark 1:21-28
In today’s world we face many challenges living and proclaiming the Gospel message and handing down authentic faith to our children. It seems from every angle we are faced with tests and trials that can either strengthen our conviction or break us. Today’s readings call us to task in knowing how to maneuver through the culture while staying true to Christ.
From the Book of Deuteronomy we hear the words of Moses, saying to his people, “A prophet like me will the Lord raise up from among your own kin; to him you shall listen.” St. Paul warns the people of Corinth they can be easily distracted by the pleasures of this world, so much so can they lose sight of their destiny—which is holiness and the path to eternal life. Mark’s Gospel tells of the healing of a man with unclean spirits that takes place in the synagogue in Capernaum. Jesus recognizes the spirits and calls him out of the man. I always find it interesting that it is the unclean spirits who know Christ’s identity while the people are blind, not being able to easily discern the holy from the sinful. Sounds a lot like today’s society, doesn’t it?
Who are the prophets of today, put into our world to call us to a life of holiness? Who are the men and women of faith that we can trust to be the voices in the wilderness, calling people to Christ much like John the Baptist?
We may think there aren’t any. It seems there is no hope. We live in a culture of death and it seems evil and sin are ‘winning.’ Everything is “going to hell in a handbasket.” To think like this denies the existence of the very mercy and love of Jesus.
Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical letter Spe Salvi, (Saved by Hope), opens the document with the following questions:
According to the Christian faith, “redemption”—salvation—is not simply a given. Redemption is offered to us in the sense that we have been given hope, trustworthy hope, by virtue of which we can face our present: the present, even if it is arduous, can be lived and accepted if it leads towards a goal, if we can be sure of this goal, and if this goal is great enough to justify the effort of the journey. Now the question immediately arises: what sort of hope could ever justify the statement that, on the basis of that hope and simply because it exists, we are redeemed? And what sort of certainty is involved here? (SS, #1)
Later on in the same document Pope Benedict challenges us by asking:
Is the Christian faith also for us today a life-changing and life-sustaining hope? Is it “performative” for us—is it a message which shapes our life in a new way, or is it just “information” which, in the meantime, we have set aside and which now seems to us to have been superseded by more recent information? (SS, #10)
Archbishop Timothy Dolan (soon to be Cardinal), president of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and member of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, has been vocal regarding President Obama’s Federal Health Care Plan which will, if carried out in full, cause Catholic employers and institutions and those who do not believe in abortion, sterilization, and contraception, to pay for such services in health care plans. He is one such voice crying out in the wilderness for Catholics and people of good conscience to be properly formed and stand against such policies and laws that erode our freedom of religion.
The sad reality is few Catholics are standing with him. Rather, they sheepishly follow the mindset of the culture and publically denounce their Catholic leadership. Rather, they choose to follow what suits them best—or worse yet—think that none of this affects them, so why bother?
Edith Stein, canonized as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was born in Germany. She was raised Jewish, turned atheist, then after study and life experiences, realized the beauty of the truth, which she had sought all her life. That Truth was Christ—to whom she ultimately dedicated her life to as a Carmelite nun.
Edith lived as an adult in ramping up of the Nazi regime during World War I & II. She was a constant voice crying out. Seeing how people were systematically being desensitized to a whole race of people, her voice was a cry to the conscience of those who knew the truth. She was eventually taken to Auschwitz and killed in a gas chamber. While her voice was silenced, her writings remain. Writing to women in particular, she pleads: “The nation…doesn’t simply need what we have; it needs what we are.”
We are Christians with a message to proclaim. We are believers who know the Truth. We are not made for this world, but are called to transform this world as we grow in holiness on our journey to heaven. Let us never forget it is our vocation as disciples of Christ. We are to be the voice in the wilderness of today’s society, recognizing the unclean spirits and helping people find their way to Christ.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) lived by these mottos—let them become for us guiding words as well:
My longing for truth was a single prayer.
Whoever comes to me, I want to lead to Him!