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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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More Wailing & Grinding of Teeth

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Matthew 13:47-50 – “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

Our Lord made his disciples into fishers of men so that men might know the truth and be saved; the angels will also be fishers of men but they will have an additional role as judges for Christ.

The bait on the hook of Christianity is the resurrection. The appreciation is that there is time to proclaim and to receive the Good News. Men might yet repent and believe. This is not the case on the Day of Judgment. There is an old expression that if a person is wicked or troubled, he is called “a bad fish.” These bad fish will be separated from the good. This imagery is not unlike that of the harvest and separation of the wheat from the weeds. Another image that is used in Scripture is the separation of the sheep from the goats. What comes to my mind is a film, (the name escapes me), where a guy is fishing. He gets all excited when he hooks something and he pulls it ashore. Unfortunately his joy turns to sadness when the big catch is not a fish but an abandoned tire. Instead of something good and alive, he gathers junk instead.  God would grant us value.  Apart from God, we would be reduced to junk.

Matthew 22:11-14 – “But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

The analogy used in this passage is that of a wedding garment and being properly dressed.

Many of those initially invited made up excuses for not coming. Similarly, many among us make excuses for failing to be the saints they are called to be. They put off for an uncertain tomorrow the good that should be done today, imagining that there is still plenty of time. However, either upon our death or at the consummation of the world, there will be no more time for repentance, conversion and good works. Christ is rejected by many of his own and yet, by the movement of the Holy Spirit, many of the Gentiles come to believe.  Given that the original group in the parable turned down the king’s invitation, those on the streets are now invited. All are called so that his house might be full. He encounters one guest without the customary wedding garment. The king has him restrained and thrown out. The man fails to wear the garment, not because he is poor, as the garment is complementary and is offered at the door. Rather, he refuses to wear it as a sign of disrespect to his host. As believers we are offered the wedding garment of the Lamb of God. It is symbolized by a white garment at baptism. We also see something of it in the chasuble a priest wears at Mass. Finally, it is signified by the white pall placed over the casket. We are called to put on Christ. We do so knowing that the Father will thus see his Son in us.

Matthew 24:46-51 – “Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. Amen, I say to you, he will put him in charge of all his property. But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is long delayed,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and eat and drink with drunkards, the servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish him severely and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

As believers we have been appointed sentinels or watchmen for Christ.

Like the wise virgins who await the coming of the bridegroom, they keep a supply of oil so that their lamps might not go out. The foolish ones abandon their vigil to find more oil and find themselves locked out. We must remain awake. Our faith must be active and alive. Note that the wicked servant is assigned a place with the hypocrites. These are the men and women who should have known better. Every sin a Christian commits constitutes hypocrisy. We claim to be one thing while we are another. This is the sin that most infuriates Christ who demands that we be either hot or cold.

Matthew 25:24-30 – “Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I did not plant and gather where I did not scatter? Should you not then have put my money in the bank so that I could have got it back with interest on my return? Now then! Take the talent from him and give it to the one with ten. For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’”

Do we make use of the gifts that God gives us or do they go to waste?

Christian faith is never playing it safe. It demands investment and risk. Our investment in the kingdom might cost everything that we prize in this world. That is the reason why the rich man invited to be a disciple goes away sad. Many today also think that the price of being a Christian is too high. That is why they compromise the faith. They are afraid when they should trust the Lord. The sadness about this parable is not just about a poor standing at the final judgment. There is a poignant melancholy associated with ordinary regret and loss. The person will never fulfill his or her potential. A life wasted or lived in vain is a terrible prospect with which a condemned soul will have to accept. This does not mean that we must be successful in our endeavors. Many have suffered and died for Christ while seeing little or nothing in the way of reward or benefits. Parents lament as much, even those who are faithful in forming their children in the faith. They are at a loss for words when children fall away. What happened? What could they have done differently? St. Mother Teresa appreciated the truth about this. She stated, “God does not require that we be successful only that we be faithful.” Failure in the sight of the world but fidelity before God means a share in the victory of the Cross. One can gain the whole world and yet forfeit his immortal soul.