Friday, January 21, 2011

Cleanse Our Consciences

January 22, 2011
Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation, he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God. Hebrews 9:11-14

He came home. Again (the) crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind." Mark 3:20-21

We need Houses of Hospitality to give to the rich the opportunity to serve the poor.

We need Houses of Hospitality to bring the scholars to the workers or the workers to the scholars.

We need Houses of Hospitality to bring back to institutions the technique to institutions.

We need Houses of Hospitality to show what idealism looks like when it is practiced.
-- Peter Maurin, co-founder of The Catholic Worker Movement

The notes in the New American Bible tell us that there were those even – among the relatives of Jesus who must have been closer to Him than most – who disbelieved what he had to say. Even among his closest relatives, there were those who regarded Jesus as out of his mind. So early in his ministry, how had people already come to think Jesus was so far off the mark of conventional wisdom?

Jesus was at home. Rather than meeting up with expected hospitality, Jesus encountered hostility and rejection. He was at that same home in which people – strangers – had gone to the roof to lower down their paralytic friend for healing. Yet some of his relatives thought he was out of his mind while distant neighbors had faith and turned to Jesus for healing. Jesus did not just grant healing to those who sought it. He forgave sins. He took healing to a new level beyond the merely physical and went to the spiritual. People had a hard time understanding this.

The Letter to the Hebrews notes that if the blood offerings of dead goats, bulls and cows could sanctify those who had sinned, then how much more could the blood of the Lamb of God cleanse our inner conscience – our very minds, hearts and souls? But this is hard to comprehend today let alone in ancient Palestine. If it could not be comprehended, it was dismissed by those who could not understand what Jesus was doing or why Jesus was doing it this way.

When Jesus had come home again, rather than finding a supportive audience, he still had to overcome the skepticism rather than meet with faith.

The Catholic Worker Movement has a special tradition in which people gather to hear talks and reflections which are called “Clarification of Thought.” This is an age old tradition which stretches back to what happened at the Sermon on the Mount. These talks and discussions build discipleship through dialog. The members of the community come together just like they did at Jesus’ home to learn about issues pertinent to following Jesus.

Learning is the process of a lifetime. If we close our minds based upon what we already know, then we cease to keep learning. Jesus challenges us to keep our minds open and to continue to be open to encountering him in all that we meet.
Such talks also are a feature of our Cursillo movement. The talks on a weekend prompt us to discussions at tables and in walks about how our lives are challenged by this itinerant preacher and carpenter from Galilee.

Whether in a Catholic Worker community, a Cursillo weekend or in a parish listening to a homily or a religious education program, people of all persuasions must enter into dialogue, to explore the causes for the present “disorder” and to find a way from where we are to where we ought to be. This opening to God and to ideas which challenge our existing perceptions and the status quo remind us that these qualities need to be a part of our lives and our response to the Gospel.
What issues challenge you in the Gospel? How can you seek clarification and understanding? What takes you out of your comfort zone? Where is Jesus leading you today? How will his sacrifice cleanse your conscience and move you closer to putting your love into action?