Examination of Conscience
Based on today's Letter of Paul to the Ephesians (Chapter 4)
Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians instructs them in what they should be doing as Christians and in what they should be avoiding, things the Gentiles without Faith practice. These instructions are a good Examination of Conscience for us today. We each apply these to our own lives today.
Are we living:
With all humility
With patience, so as to bear one another though love
Striving to preserve the unity of the Holy Spirit through a bond of peace
Aware that we are one Mystical Body of Christ, united to each other
Aware of the Holy Spirit calling us
As if we strongly believe that we have one Lord
Aware of our one Faith given to us as a gift
Aware that through one Baptism we share the responsibility to live as Jesus did
Firmly believing that there is one God and Father of all, Who is
Over all things
Through all things
In all things, as Paul says in another of his Letters: "In Him we live and breathe and have our very being"
Speaking the truth
Being angry, but not sinning in this anger
Not letting the sun set upon our anger
Not leaving room for the devil
Doing honest work with our own hands, so we can share with one in need
Avoiding foul language and using only what is good so as to impart grace to those who hear us
Not acting against the Holy Spirit of God, doing that to which He is calling us each day
Removing from us
Being kind to one another
Forgiving one another as God has forgiven us in Christ
Have we prayed enough and asked the Holy Spirit to increase our Faith, so that we are seen by others to be different from those who have no Faith
Not living in the futility of our minds
Not being darkened in understanding
Not being ignorant
Not hardening our own hearts
So that we have become callous and
Handed ourselves over to licentiousness, which includes not only
Immoral sexual practices, but also
Materialism, consumerism and greed
(A copy of the First Reading regarding the diminishment of Religion and the growth of individual Spirituality from the National Catholic Reporter on which part of the Homily is based is found at the back of the Homily.)
A bit of laughter as should be ours, who live in Faith and Hope of Eternal Life:
1. Two elderly ladies had been friends for many years. Over the years, they had shared all kinds of activities and adventures. One day, they were playing cards when one looked at the other and said: "Now don't get mad at me... I know we've been friends for a long time but I just can't think of your name. Please tell me what your name is."
Her friend stared and glared at her for at least three minutes. Finally she said: "How soon do you need to know."
2. A speaker was asked why he only uses 3 quotes in his speech. He said: "If I used 4 quotes it would be a gallon."
3. Ole and Lena had just come home from a meal together. Their daughter came home all upset. They asked what was the matter. She said that that she was pregnant. Ole and Lena said they would be with her and help her anyway they could.
Suddenly Lena said: "Are you sure it's yours?"
4. A pastor put his three year old daughter to bed. He asked what she would like to pray about. Promptly she answered: "onions." So they prayed about onions. The next morning he asked why she wanted to pray about onions. "Because you said in your sermon that we should pray for things we don't like."
In the First Reading we examine something that Sociologists and Theologians examine and which Christian Religious Leaders fear. That is the movement away from Religion to Spirituality. Europe is now generally considered a secular society, no longer a Christian one; although there is present Spirituality which is generally an individual thing. The need and appreciation of being a member of a spiritual or religious community is no long seen as important. This is something happening in many countries today, including the United States. Given what is happening today on the national scene and in many states, it is becoming harder and harder to see Christian values at work. The same is true of the need to belong to a Community as a source of Christian life.
Although many would see the transition from Religion to individual Spirituality as irreversible, this transition is not necessarily irreversible. Much of it comes from spiritual leaders demanding obedience to and following what they say. They threaten exclusion and some sort of punishment if we do not accept what they say. They are deluding themselves, fearing that their kingship is being taken away from them. And they are right. So they seek to instill fear as the basis of Religion. They blind themselves to the fact that often we, as the People of God, have discovered our own consciences. Often we are more educated, even in Theology and Morals, than they are. So what should they expect when the People of God move out of the organization to an individualistic, but enriching Spirituality.
Religious leaders are responsible for their own "mess". What enrichment can a Religion" given when it is dictated from on high. This unnecessary drift to more individual Spirituality comes with the desire of many to live a Faith together with one another. An example is our need to celebrate the Eucharist today as a community.
To resist Religion with imposed dogmas and obedience is a good and holy thing. To seek a Community of Love, as envisioned by Jesus, simply guided by Love is the noble and necessary challenge to Christians and others today.
We like to think of the Israelites coming out of slavery in Egypt being a joyful people, the reading from Exodus shows that the gratitude and joy did not last very long. They grumbled constantly against Moses and Aaron. Basically they said that Moses had led them out into the desert to die of famine. They said they wanted to go back as slave to Egypt where they could sit by their "fleshpots" and eat their fill of bread.
God was not too pleased with this, so that He said He would test this people to see whether they would follow His instructions or not. He gave them meat in the form of quails every evening and "manna" in the mornings which they could gather and from which they could make bread.
They were to gather a little over 2 dry quarts of manna every morning for each person in their tent, except the Sabbath. On Friday, they were to gather double that amount to eat on the Sabbath. For the Sabbath was to be a "Day of Complete Rest", a day sacred to the Lord.
They were not to keep any "manna" overnight, except that reserved for the Sabbath. But some would not listen to these instructions and kept some "manna" overnight. What they got the next morning was a wormy and rotten mess.
All through the time of wandering through the desert, the Israelites continually grumbled against God, as well as Moses and Aaron.
The Prophets throughout the Old Testament were constantly correcting these people who were the so-called "People of God" for their stubbornness and disobedience.
Do we today listen and obey our God Who sent His Only Son to die for us? Do we accept that the Holy Spirit is present to guide us in the following the Commands of our God?
We are probably the same type of people as the Israelites because we are human beings like the Israelites. So now we enter the time of the New Testament and find Paul correcting the Church of Ephesus, as found in our Examination of Conscience.
One easy way to see how easy it is to forget our God and what He commanded us to do is to look at our Sundays. The Sabbath was to be a "Day of Complete Rest", a day sacred to the Lord. Yet we go shopping on Sundays without thinking of this day to be : as stated in Exodus - a "Day of Complete Rest", a day sacred to the Lord. The Third Commandment says this very clearly: "Keep holy the Lord's Day."
Certainly we start this day with the Celebration of the Eucharist. But we should put aside work of any kind. We should make it a day of rest and recreation. A day of celebrating with family, neighbors and friends. And we should set aside some extra time to commune with our God, with His Son and with the Holy Spirit.
The reading from the Gospel of John deals with the same theme of God feeding His People. The Jews demand a sign in order to believe, such as the feeding of their ancestors with "Manna" while they were in the desert.
But Jesus ups the ante by telling them that He is the "Bread of Life". That "Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood has eternal life and will be raised up on the last day. That "My Flesh is true food and My Blood is true drink so that whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me and I remain in them.
This is something very hard to believe in. How can we really eat His Flesh under the form of bread and really drink His Blood under the form of wine?
To understand this we begin with some sort of understanding about the Mysterious God. We can accept that there is an eternal "God" because the choices are limited. There is either an Eternal Intelligent Being Who can create or there is some sort or form of "Eternal "Matter" which was able to start some sort of organizing Itself into the Universe we see today.
The next step is a big one, namely that this Eternal Intelligent Being : in our language : gave birth to a Son Who is His Perfect Self-Image or Word. Because He is this Perfect Self-Image of the Father, He is one with the Father, yet a separate Person. While we can have a hazy view of this through the analogy of every one of us having a self-image, it remains only a limited analogy. In its fullness, this is a matter of Faith.
Following this is the mystery of the Holy Spirit "proceeding from the Father and the Son", Who is the Love uniting the Father with the Son, thereby being one with God, yet a separate Person. Again a hazy analogy exists in our own ability to love, but essentially this is a matter of Faith.
From the Mystery of one God in Three Persons, we move on to the wondering of how the Son, an eternal Spirit, can become Man while retaining His Divinity. A matter of Faith, but certainly a reality to the Apostles after the Resurrection of Jesus.
From the Mystery of the God-Man, we reach today's "My Flesh is true food and My Blood is true drink. Whoever eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood remains in Me and I in them". Again this is a matter of Faith.
That this was what Jesus actually meant if found in the fact that a great number of His followers could not accept this and left Him. But the Twelve stayed with Jesus, as Peter said: "Master to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that You are the Holy One of God." It is their Faith and the working of the Holy Spirit that the early Church and we : in the present : continue to accept this, as we celebrate the Eucharist and receive Communion today.
FIRST READING / 08/05/12
This First Reading is taken from a book review in the recent National Catholic Reporter. The Book is titled CHRISTIANITY AFTER RELIGION: THE END OF CHURCH AND THE BIRTH OF A NEW SPIRITUAL AWAKENING. The book is by Diana Butler Bass, a researcher and author on Christianity.
It is no secret that Christianity is in decline in the West. A Newsweek cover story in March 2009 reported that 86 percent of the U.S. population self-identified as Christian in 1990. By 2009, the percentage dropped to 76 percent, while the number who claimed "no religion" doubled to 16 percent in that same period. Among those under the age of 30, the figure declaring "no religion" was close to 30 percent. If the trend continues, the "no religion" plus the "non-Christian" categories will outnumber Christians by the year 2042...
(The author) basically agrees with commentators on religion, such as Harvey Cox and Phyllis Tickle, that we are witnessing the end of Christian dominance and the beginning of what has been called the "emergent church". In this new kind of church spiritual is the dominant word. How often have we heard people say, "I'm spiritual, but not religious"? In polling data, half of the U.S. population describe themselves as "spiritual and religious," while one-third describe themselves as "spiritual" only.
The word religious has come to be identified with organized religion. We associate "religion" with institutions, organizations, buildings, dogmas, rules and hierarchy...
Furthermore, polls show that the public generally sees religion as a system promoting beliefs about God, instead of advocating faith in or love of God. People today want to belong to a community that is more interested in spiritual values and practices than in believing doctrines that seem meaningless and unconnected to their lives. They want contact with the sacred without the intermediary of an institutional or doctrinal structure. Dogma, the "spiritual" generation says, is on life support and the plug needs to be pulled...
Fear-filled religions stand out starkly against any spiritual awakening. The bad news is that many religious leaders today show increasing fear of expanding their vision. Witness the present religious battles over marriage equality and women's health. The good news is that there would be no hostile reaction if there were no spiritual awakening (taking place)...
A (SECOND) READING FROM THE EPISTLE OF PAUL TO THE EPHESIANS, CHAPTER 4:17, 20-24 is used as our EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE.