Sunday, July 12, 2015

So They Went Off and Preached Repentance

A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his subjects, “Look how numerous and powerful the people of the children of Israel are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase; otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave our country.”  Exodus 1:8-10

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”  Matthew 10:37-39

Father, we are too interested in finding our life comfortable.  Help us to give us those creature comforts that are obstacles to following Jesus.

Have you ever gone out to preach to someone to change their behavior?  Maybe they eat too much, drink too much, exercise too little, spend money frivolously, waste time in front of the television, or spend all their time with their eyes on little screens and not on the prize.

“So they went off and preached repentance.” 

Preaching is an act that is not usually or always accepted.   Chances are pretty good that the disciples encountered the same reluctance and fear and opposition that we might face today.  Preaching repentance/change can be a threat.  Certainly, the way the children of Israel were growing threatened the pharaoh.

The reading from Exodus shows that the growing faith community of the Jews in Egypt threatened the king.  The notes in the New American Bible for the first reading explain that “The idea may be not simply that a new king came to power who had not heard of Joseph but that this king ignored the services that Joseph had rendered to Egypt, repudiating the special relationship that existed between Joseph and his predecessor on the throne.”  By forgetting any special relationship, he could then inflict whatever punishment on the Jews with impunity.  Pharaoh’s next order is to slaughter the innocent boys born to Jewish families – a foreshadowing of Herod’s order after the birth of the Christ-child. Doing so, he firmly acts against God’s will and promise to Abraham -- for the Israelites to multiply.

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Capital Punishment.
Birth Control.
Environmental Destruction.

The list could go on but the Catholic Church has numerous positions on issues like these which put it at odds with the direction of civil society not just in the United States but also in Europe, Latin America and around the world.  Sometimes, it seems like these positions are still voices crying out in the wilderness.

Sometimes, these positions also cause discord within the members of the Church as well. 

Pope Francis just finished a trip through three Latin American countries.  Some see this as a dress rehearsal for the kinds of messages which @Pontifex may deliver in September when he comes to Washington, DC and Philadelphia. 

Pope Francis concluded his South American visit with a stop in Banado Norte, a village near Paraguay's capital Asuncion where about 1,500 families live in extreme poverty.  He also will visit the halls of power and poverty when he comes to the U.S. this fall. 

Among the messages he delivered while going out to preach was what America magazine dubbed his strongest call yet for “structural change” in the way the world’s economy is run.  Pope Francis said that the present system “runs counter to the plan of Jesus.”  And he appealed to people everywhere “in the name of God” to mobilize to protect “our common home.” 

How have you been reacting to the preaching you hear from Rome and from home? 

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