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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

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Our True Treasure

A few years ago, I recall watching a re-run episode of the old series, The Twilight Zone, which I think might help us to appreciate God’s Word. In it, three robbers made an incredible heist of gold bars. It was worth a fortune. However, the gold was too hot to handle. So, one of the men, being a scientist, devised a way for them to go into suspended animation or sleep, to wake up healthy and rich a hundred years hence. They bet their lives on this proposition for wealth. A hundred years later, they awaken from their slumber. Sometime during their stasis, a rock had fallen and had broken a glass cylinder containing one of their friends. He was dead. There were only two left; so much the better. They would be richer for it — they thought. The remaining two men exited their cave in the desert with their loot. The sun was hot. Civilization was no longer where it used to be. The truck they had counted upon broke down. They fought with each other. Greed set in. The water became scarce. A tussle broke out and suddenly, there was only one man left. He laughed. He was rich beyond avarice. He carried the heavy bars in the hot desert sun. Just when he thought he was finished, he met a couple of people in some kind of futuristic hot-rod. He fell to the ground. “Water, water,” he begged, “Give me some water and I’ll make you rich beyond your dreams!” He held out the gold. One of the people whom he met pitied the dying man but found him very curious. For everyone knew that in the latter twenty-first century, gold was easily accessible and virtually worthless.

The story may be science fiction, but the plight is one which has always faced us. It is the need for the proper priorities in our lives — and in the case of the Scriptures, the rightful place of God. Reading Isaiah 55:1-3, the question is asked, “Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?” We can be like Midas and have everything we touch turn to gold, but if that is our only treasure, we’ll starve and die. We as Christians also believe that unless the body and blood of Christ nurtures us as our spiritual food, our souls will weaken and possibly die. Isaiah uses the image of our natural need for food and drink to make more clear how we need the life-giving nourishment of God. Without him, we are nothing. Without him, our other treasures are valueless. Without him, we cannot be totally the people we are called to be. Without him, we are deranged ants going nowhere, fools without a purpose. Without him, no amount of food or water will keep us alive, for death comes for us all.

In Romans 8:35,37-39, the theme is continued, Paul shows in his questions how absurd it should be that anything might separate us from Christ. Christ, unlike gold or earthly wealth — Christ, unlike power or prestige — Christ, unlike fads and fashion — Christ does not lose his value for us. Paul says that neither death nor life, neither human nor angelic power, neither present nor future, neither persecution nor hunger — shall separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus.

We are called to him, to drink and eat of the presence of his love. But, do we always accept the invitation? We might ask ourselves a lot of questions to find out. When we travel, do we attempt to locate churches where we might fulfill our obligation for Sunday Mass? Do we faithfully fulfill it at home? If we have children, have they received the sacraments, learned their prayers, and studied their catechism? When we go to Mass, are we in a state of grace to receive communion or might we still need Confession? Do we needlessly avoid communion when we might be permitted to receive it? Do we pray at home? Do we share our faith with friends? In the day-to-day living, do we live lives of charity to help clothe and feed others — not only materially, but spiritually with Christ? All these things and more are among the questions we might ask. I think a sign of Christ’s priority in our lives is revealed in how readily we want to share him with others. Some people might be more willing to offer a cigarette or a piece of gum than Christ. That shows sometimes just how low on the list we place him. The irony is, that each and every one of us is on the top of Christ’s list. He underwent all the pains of our treachery for each and every one of us personally. By name he calls us. By name he dies for us. By name, he now calls us forward and even offers his own flesh as our food and his blood as our drink.

We notice in Matthew 14:13-21 the multiplication of the loaves and fishes; it says that everyone ate their fill. No one was forgotten. So it is at our altar table. We might try to bring someone to Mass who has been away for awhile or who is searching for meaning and might find it in the midst of the Church community.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.

God Does Not Forget Us

“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15).

Isaiah 49:14-15 has a deep meaning full of touching significance. They are words which can offer great consolation in times of hardship, if only we would really believe them. Jesus lived these words. As the reflection of the Father and His love in our world, he embraced the outcasts and made them his friends; he touched the sick and made them well; he went out to sinners and offered them forgiveness; and he became our brother in dying, so that we might share his new life. In all this, God did not forget us even though His children might turn their backs on Him. Jesus makes reference to these words of consolation, when on his way to the Cross. Those of you who pray the Stations of the Cross will well remember it. He tells the women of Jerusalem not to fear and weep so much for him, as for the children to be born of them. He foretells a time when love will become sterile and the barren womb blessed. He can well say this, for he has realized in his own flesh, indeed, his very person, the love which is eternal and yet which is rejected.

If the Lord is our foundation, if it is his love and constant care that matters to us, then this kind of trust will help us a great deal in the uncertainties of life and in the fickleness of human friendships. Of course, some relationships by their very nature seem to reflect the human/divine fellowship more clearly. Not too long ago I was in the hospital with an elderly man who got to see his wife a few moments before serious surgery. He said to her as he touched her face, “You know who loves you, don’t you?” And then, ever so softly, with tears in her eyes, she responded, “I know, you do– I love you, too.” For half a century they had loved and cared for each other. I don’t know about you, but that says something to me about my commitment to love as a Christian and as a priest. Most important of all, it gives me a glimpse of just how much God loves and never forgets a single one of us– not even for a moment.

He is our rock, our salvation, our hope, our strength, and safety. We are to surrender our lives to him in trust and love– for he loved us first. Apart from him, we would have nothing. No, we would be nothing.

In Matthew 6:24-34, Jesus practically begs us to trust the Father and his unceasing love and concern for us. So much more important are we than the birds of the sky or the lilies of the field. We can respond to God’s love with love. He desires for us to discard our fears and believe in his saving power. How often we must fail him? We worry about so many things. The money is short. The children are difficult to control. The job is boring or too straining. School work is piling up and the studies for tests are driving us crazy. A special friend or even a spouse in their distance to us, might be a cause for fear or loneliness. Our worries are many, too many. We kill ourselves with worry. The Church, having the mind of Christ on this matter and yet so very aware of our tendency to fret over things large and small, even daily petitions the Lord in the Mass, following The Lord’s Prayer, to DELIVER US FROM ALL ANXIETY. Notice the English translation says, not SOME, not UNNECESSARY, but ALL ANXIETY. It is not from God.

No matter what comes, God will be there with us– even if his presence is hidden behind the veil of pain and his will glimpsed only piecemeal through the flickering haze of human history. If everyone we love should abandon us, either through death, pain, or neglect, he will never abandon us. The Lord is our Everlasting Friend. A sign that we truly believe with all our hearts and minds in this friend and in the Father who sends us both his Son and the Spirit who is Love Personified, is that we trust as Christ himself trusted– not just externally for others to see– but to be at PEACE in ourselves.

Our Lord in his Gospel says to those weak in faith: “Your heavenly Father knows all that you need. Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides. Enough, then, of worrying about tomorrow; let tomorrow take care of itself. Today has troubles enough of its own” (Matthew 6:32-34) — wise words. The troubles may come. But along with them, faith, hope and love remain possible in Christ. If we find it lacking, then let us ask for it, pray for it, live for it. It will be given.

For more such reflections, contact me about getting my book, CHRISTIAN REFLECTIONS.