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I am glad everyone survived Winter Storm Pax. It was a little more peaceful this time then the last storm. By the way, “pax” is the Latin word for “peace.” I kept my eye on the weather map on my computer watching how we’d be effected, which zone we were in: Green, blue, pink, white which corresponded with rain, freezing rain, mixed, and snow. I think we went through all levels but ended with pure snow here in Cedartown, which was beautiful, and a lot of fun for the kids. It was much better than the sleet or the sheets of ice that others experienced.

In the Gospel today, Jesus gives us a forecast, not of the weather but of our salvation, as we continue to hear from his Sermon on the Mount from last Sunday where he describes what the life of the Christian should look like. Jesus tells us that we have to be transformed into something more. We can’t think we can just stay like we are and expect to enter Heaven. But he doesn’t want to take or abolish our life but to fulfill it. Like a water droplet that turns into snow, the water is not destroyed but transformed into something new, something more beautiful. And for the snow to last, it can’t remain in the same old environment. It needs a new environment. As with the Christian: We cannot live the same way as before. We have to follow the Commandments but more than just a set of rules. Many think that since they don’t kill anyone they’ll go to heaven. But Jesus says we kill someone if we hate them with our hearts. He tells us that keeping the 6th commandment is also keeping custody of the eyes and how men look at women, whether in public or the privacy of home with the internet. Jesus also says that there can’t be a true marriage with a person if there was a divorce from another marriage. He says this is also adultery.

Although Jesus is very clear many want it both ways…they want to live their old ways and still have the benefit of being a Christian. Some want to change the commandments to fit their lifestyle. But this cannot be, even if it is hard. Even if the change means cutting off bad habits or improper relationships so that we can follow God. Our bad habits feel like a part of us but Jesus says we have to cut them off, which may feel like we are severing a limb from our body! But there cannot be a mix. It is dangerous for our soul. We can imagine our Christian faith being measured by a spiritual radar and displayed on a map. We don’t want to find ourselves in the green zone where there is no change, nothing new. Or in the blue or pink zone where there is a mix between our old way and new. Again, think of the storm last week: Those in the icy or mixed zones were not having a good time. Many lost power. It was very dangerous. But for those who had the pure snow it was enjoyable. And even though snow there is an adjustment to a new climate and everything slows down, there is more peace and quiet, kids play and laugh, making snow angels, and families spend more time together. That’s like the effect our Catholic Faith has on us. It doesn’t really work if we live it only partially or mix it between our personal opinion and what the Church teaches. It’s not really enjoyable until we have fully converted, completely changed. Until we become like pure snow. That’s what Jesus is helping us to do. To make us perfect in a very imperfect world.

I mentioned last Sunday about the Little Sisters of the Poor plight against our government and the U.N.’s pressure on the Church to change her teachings. Now this past week, coincidentally, a Survey from Univision found that most Catholics in America reject the Catholic teachings on Divorce, Gay Marriage, Contraception, Abortion, and women ordination. What does this mean? Does it mean that the Church should change her teachings based on the survey? Well, imagine what our Church would be if our beliefs were based on surveys that asked what most Catholics believed. Imagine if a baseball coach took a survey from his players before each game on the plays they should use. Or if children were given a survey from their parents on going to school or what they should eat. Imagine if Jesus came to earth and he sent the apostles out two by two, not to preach the Good News, but to take surveys of people in order that he would build his Church on public opinion. So I think what Univision survey reveals is that most Catholics are in the mixed zone, they accept some teachings from Jesus and reject others.  

But the teachings of Jesus are not to make life easier here on earth, but help to make us holy so that we can go to heaven. If our salvation was up to our own opinion, why would Jesus die for those things he taught and not just make them optional for us to follow. Why would he say: “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” That is why the Catholic Church guards these teachings and commandments and passes them down from one generation to the next so that the wisdom of God can continue to be spoken to those who seek him. Certainly, our beliefs will be different than a sinful world because they are based on God’s wisdom. St. Paul says to the Corinthians in the Second Reading: “We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.”

So the Church doesn’t make up teachings or the commandments. They come from God. They help us discern if something is coming from the Good Spirit or the bad spirit. So it is up to us to see them as truth. We need to have the faith to accept the Church’s teachings as the very teachings of Christ, so when the rulers of the world or our own government start demanding we follow their teachings against the Church’s, we can make a clear choice. It is the most important choice as the first reading from Sirach explains: “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” Thanks be to God that he loves us so much that he gives us the choice to love him back by following his commands. Love empowers us to do things beyond our human strength.  

But people have different reactions toward the commandments of Jesus. Some see them as rules he gives to make our life a burden. Others accept the ones they agree with and rebel against the ones they don’t agree with. But there is no conversion in this. But others see them as a blessing from God, a loving gift that frees us from living just for the desires of the flesh. Remember Jesus wants to save us. From what? From the wrong answers that the world gives us. From the deception of the evil one, and ultimately from Gehenna which is Hell. Now his answers aren’t easy to follow but they are the ones that will save us. We have to trust them, all of them. Think of a weather forecaster who only says good weather is coming because he is too afraid to report the bad. Would we say he is a good or bad weatherman? Well, if a storm hits then we certainly would no longer think that he was a good weatherman. So we want to allow Jesus’ teachings to challenge us, change us, to perfect us, and make us holy so we can enter the holiness of God in Heaven. Either we are right and Jesus is wrong or Jesus is right and we are wrong. The choice is clear.

But God knows it is hard. The reality is that this way of perfection is impossible to follow based on our own strength. That’s why so many reject them. But that is why Jesus died to give us the grace to follow his teachings. Grace is a divine power that increases the power of our soul and strengthens our will to follow God’s ways. When we love God he makes his grace available to us. And we grow in grace every time we pray, study the bible, read the catechism. And most especially when Jesus strengthens us with his very own Body and Blood in the Mass. And he knows that we are going to fail, and that is why he gives us the Sacrament of Confession to forgive us. It is a great plan of salvation! We just have to follow it. Then our righteousness will surpass that of the scribes and Pharisee as Jesus said. Then our “yes” will mean “yes” and our “no” will mean “no.” Then our spiritual weather maps will show that we have fully converted to become pure as snow. And then living our Catholic Faith won’t be a burden but a true joy! And no matter how bad the storms in life are, we will always have the peace of Christ in our hearts. Amen.

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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