I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Find Christ beyond our compulsions

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All three readings for the 13th Sunday in Oradinary Time speak about the paradox of losing life in order to find life. In the first reading, the prophet Elisha meets a woman of influence who persuades him to dine with her. Later, whenever the prophet passed by, he would stop to dine there. She and her husband agreed to fix up a room for him to stay every time he passed by. On one occasion the man of God said to her, "This time next year you will be fondling a baby son."

The woman and her husband gave away the use of this upper room to this prophet. They could have rented out the room for a cash payment, but they decided to give it away for the man of God to use. In exchange for their loss, Elisha promised this barren couple a young son.

In the second reading, Paul speaks of suffering death in baptism so that we can experience Christ's life flowing through us. "We were indeed buried with Him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life."

To say "We were buried with Him through baptism into death" simply means that Christ, by His death, overcame sin and won for us new life in Him. This doesn't mean that we're free from all temptation, but it does mean that Christ, by His death and resurrection, has merited for us the new life of grace. We have His life flowing through us. His life in us helps us to overcome sin and to live in union with Him.

For example, it is likely that when we watch the evening television news we end up sinning by anger and negative thinking. This same action could lead us to intercessory prayer and to experience new life flowing through us from Christ's death and resurrection.

This is what Jesus is talking about in the Gospel when He says, "Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me." He goes on to say that "whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

When we grow up, we discover our heart's desires, and we proceed to use our natural talents to enhance our natural lives. This is our striving for all that natural man can strive for. Yet, we leave everything we acquire and achieve behind when we die.

Our unredeemed compulsions move us forward in our role as natural man. Unless we move beyond these unredeemed compulsions, we don't have the life of Christ flowing through us.

In baptism we have died to our natural compulsions. That does not mean that we have lost our attachment to sin, but that we have the power to welcome Christ's new life into our unredeemed compulsions so that they are transformed into virtue.

What happens in our hearts as we listen to the evening news? What are those movements in our hearts? Are they all redeemed and peaceful thoughts? Does the evening news lift us up to God with joy?

If we are honest, we will admit that the evening news, more commonly, fills us with thoughts of anger and resentment and sometimes perhaps hatred.

What is the answer? What does it take to make us happy when we are surrounded by so much negativity? Would we suddenly be happy if, by a divine miracle, God's truth broke out in Washington, and all government leaders and news media would print nothing but edifying truth? Would that make us happy?

Do we sometimes watch the news only to be relieved that there are greater sinners out there than we are? If virtue were the only thing reported on the news, would not we, as the public, be threatened by the good deeds of others, which would put us to shame.

If you want life, instead of death, flowing through you as a result of the evening news, try this: Watch 15 minutes of the evening news, then turn off the TV and pray the Rosary or do the Stations of the Cross and offer it up for the very people who ticked you off! This type of prayer stirs up the new life of Christ flowing through us. The life we lose by getting angry at newsmakers will be replaced by Christ's joy flowing through our hearts as we intercede for our country and for the world.

On Calvary, Satan darkened the hearts of the mob by inciting them to curse Jesus. Jesus, on the other hand, with his lightening prayer of forgiveness to the Father, struck a fatal blow to Satan with His compassionate intercession for the mob. As a result, the centurion said, "Surely, this was the son of God," and the Good Thief said, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Try this experiment for one week: Listen to a portion of the evening news, and then shut it off and do 15 minutes of your favorite devotion as intercessory prayer. You will be losing a negative life of anger, resentment, hatred, self-hatred, and you will be gaining a life of peace, joy, hope and compassion for those lost in darkness.

It will also improve the quality of your sleep, and you will wake up with a sense of hope and confidence that Jesus will be with you all day long. 

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