Summary: Putting aside our self-will is the key to evangelizing our society.

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Thursday after Ash Wednesday 2015

Joy of the Gospel

What does it profit a human being to gain everything and lose himself in the process? These words are stark and challenging, like an ice-water drenching for our minds and hearts here at the beginning of Lent. I think of pop icons, both secular and religious, who have attained the pinnacle of fame and in the process fall prey to alcoholism or drug addiction or perversion. Those of us who have attained success in life have to know–either by believing God or by learning the hard way–that pride is the worst of sins. That is because pride causes us to substitute a false god–ourselves–for the true God. When our heart turns away and our ears fail to listen to the clear commands of the Lord, when we are drawn to worship gold or gaming or our own fame, we do not attain the full stature we are designed to have. We do not attain the image and likeness of God, that image and likeness that is Jesus Christ. Here, as we begin forty days of more intense self-discipline, we are called to turn toward the Father and let Him refine and purify our minds, hearts and imaginations. This is a blessed time of prayer, study, reflection, and doing good for others. This is a time for choosing life, which means choosing death for our pride, our self-sufficiency, our self-will. Whoever would save his life for eternity will value it just as Jesus did–a gift to be regifted in service of others.

We have been following the words of the Holy Father as he speaks of the threats to the family, and our need to improve our sense of evangelization to the secular world. He warns against individualism, an exaltation of our own needs and wants over the needs of the community. ‘The individualism of our postmodern and globalized era favors a lifestyle which weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds. Pastoral activity needs to bring out more clearly the fact that our relationship with the Father demands and encourages a communion which heals, promotes and reinforces interpersonal bonds. In our world, especially in some countries, different forms of war and conflict are re-emerging, yet we Christians remain steadfast in our intention to respect others, to heal wounds, to build bridges, to strengthen relationships and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal 6:2). Today too, various associations for the defence of rights and the pursuit of noble goals are being founded. This is a sign of the desire of many people to contribute to social and cultural progress.’

Here I have to interject a philosophical point we can’t forget: Ever since the so-called Enlightenment, secular thinkers have turned the notion of human rights on its head. As Christians we know that there are a hierarchy of rights enjoyed by families and the members of those families. We also know that our right to swing our fists–whether physically or economically–end at the other guy’s face. We have a responsibility, for instance, to take care of those who are starving, homeless, bullied and uneducated. Rights and responsibilities run a parallel and supporting course with each other.

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