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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Basic training: Origins and Destiny

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There's a lot of excitement about DNA tests nowadays, especially the new mail-in tests that you are able to do yourself and get results back regarding your ancestral heritage.  I've heard of many people being surprised to learn that their genetic makeup shows them to be connected with areas of the world they would not have guessed. In fact, our locally-produced Catholic medical radio show "Doctor, Doctor" just dedicated an episode to this topic that I found very enlightening.  The question of why this was so popular was presented to the guest by the two doctor hosts, and the priest-doctor's response was simple: people like to know about where they are from, to discover more about themselves. There is a sense that knowing where you are from gives your life today some meaning, purpose, direction. It grounds you in a story bigger than yourself.
For us today, at the first Sunday of this Lent, we sort of do the same. We look at where we came from in the first reading, and in a certain way, from the other readings as well.
The story of Genesis chapters two and three helps us to understand our own lives. Instead of being a history or science book, this reading today outlines the important theological truths about the human person: we are created in God's image and likeness; sin is not natural to us; our human nature is disordered by sin and the deceptive lies of the devil; and the world is good but fallen from the same cause.

The father of lies wishes to do anything he can to corrupt our sense of reality.  He wants to confuse us about the world, about ourselves, and above all, about who God is. One of Lent's goals is to get back to the basics, uproot any of those lies, and let the truth of God's goodness seep into us as water into tilled soil in the Spring.

Today the Church throughout the world begins the period of preparation for those entering the Church at Easter known as "Election," and those Catechumens who are on the road toward baptism are to be the "elect" when they go through the process of enrollment of names with Bishop Rhodes on Sunday afternoon.
In this beautiful moment for our Catechumens, we all stop and reflect on this core truth of our own identity: We are created by God for a relationship with Him. He "elects" or "chooses" every one of us to be His own.  He chooses us all to exist, and our existence is most importantly so that he can shine the light of His love upon us.
Relationships require time.  Prayer is that giving time for God, as well as obedience to His commands, fasting from the good things of this world, and almsgiving - which are all prayer put into action.
CS Lewis' Weight of Glory - a beautiful sermon given at the end of term in Oxford, 1942.
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you may talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare.

All day long we are in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. ...
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
This is the point, then, of the season of Lent: to redirect our desires to the things that we really should be desiring.  Not to destroy desire itself, but to set it on the proper object: God alone. Thus Jesus spends 40 days in the desert, not for himself to re-orient, but to be an example for us of how important this must be in our lives.  Everything it less important. Nothing else matters, not even food, when compared to the great "weight of glory" that God wishes to share with us. In the desert, we connect with our true identity in God and discover where we really come from.  At the same time, we are called forward to where we are really headed. May we follow Our Lord's example this Lent and draw close to the Lord, our true origin, and our ultimate destiny.

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