I Thought You Should Know | Each of us is called to be a witness, reach out

If Adam and Eve had not sinned, life would be a bowl of cherries, but the fact is that they did sin, and life is not a bowl of cherries!

Mankind's fall has been profound, but even more profound has been God's response to the fall by giving us Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. The stakes are high, God or Satan, my will or God's will! That is why God is so relentless in pursuing us.

Today's first reading recounts the many abominations practiced by the Israelites. It then states, "Early and often did the Lord, the God of their fathers, send his messengers to them, for He had compassion on His people and His dwelling place."

Because of their disobedience to God's commands, the Israelites were carried away into captivity. Their enemies tore down the walls of Jerusalem, destroyed the temple and burned the palaces.

The responsorial psalm tells us, "By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. On the aspens of that land we hung our harps." It goes on to say, "How could we sing a song of the Lord in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand be forgotten!"

It was there in exile that the Israelites saw their folly and repented. God responded by raising up a secular King, Cyrus, who not only restored them to their homeland, but also help them rebuild the temple. They learned obedience through intense suffering.

God never has a problem reconciling sinners who come back repentant and ask for mercy. However, His hands are tied with those who refuse to repent and who refuse to acknowledge their sinfulness.

In the second reading we see St. Paul celebrating the spiritual riches that have come through Christ's death and resurrection. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you, it is the gift of God."

In the Gospel, Jesus tells Nicodemus, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life."

Faith is a gift that is offered to all. We are free to accept it or to reject it!"

Jesus goes on to say, "Whoever believes in Him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God."

Just as in the Old Testament, today, the Church, early and often, tells us what we must do to be saved. Some believe and are saved. Some refuse to bother and are condemned.

The Israelites were carried away into captivity for their refusal to believe and live God's words.

As a nation, we are no better than the Israelites. In fact, we have far more revelation to guide us. We have very explicit teachings of Jesus Himself to guide us. We have the Church's infallible teaching ministry to help spell out exactly what the Lord is asking of each of us. Jesus has even given us His Body to eat and His Blood to drink, and yet it seems that so many Catholics do not even believe in His real presence in the Holy Eucharist.

So many Catholics have ceased to attend Mass on Sunday. So many Catholics apparently practice abortion and artificial contraception, and many do not even have any guilt for doing so! Many of our Catholics support political leaders who not only tolerate, but even promote the slaughter of innocent children. Now they suddenly find themselves in a quandary as to whether they can also support an administration that is attacking religious freedom.

It is obvious that this is a problem of faith, where culture trumps religious practice, where political affiliations are much stronger than religious affiliations.

Far from discouraging us, we ought to see this as a great opportunity to deepen our own faith and to encourage others to do the same. We can deepen our faith by studying Catholic teachings and returning to Catholic practices of worship, reception of the sacraments, daily prayer and devotions!

The secularists in our midst are doing a better job of winning converts to secularism than we are of winning people for Jesus.

This ought to wake us up! This ought to inspire us to encourage those weak in faith to return to the faith.

All parishes are welcoming home Catholics. Many parishes have a wonderful program entitled "Catholicism" by Father Robert Barron. It is an excellent audio-visual series, which presents in vivid colors the riches of the Catholic Church. No Catholic can watch this series and not be extremely proud of what the Catholic Church has to offer.

This is not the time to become discouraged by what the secular world is doing, but to deepen our own faith and understanding of our beliefs and then to live those beliefs in such a way that it makes a difference to others.

Pope Paul VI told us that what the modern world needs even more than teachers are witnesses to the Gospel. Each of us is called to be a witness. We need to begin by deepening our witness to Jesus in our prayer and sacramental life. As He transforms us, He will use us to reach out to others with joy, inviting them into a personal relationship with Him.

This is a great time to be alive. It is a great time to be a Catholic, because so much is at stake for our families, for our children and for our nation, and for ourselves. It is through our lived faith that we will make a difference.

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