Our Lady of Fatima and Rejecting the Stone (Homily, 5th Sunday of Easter)
In today’s Second Reading from I Peter, we read that, “For those without faith, the stone that the builders rejected is the stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.”
What’s the big issue here? Temptation.
I remember a talk from christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias who was asked to give a talk to a team of NFL football players. After seeing their well crafted and athletic bodies (the kind of which Dr. Zacharias certainly did not possess), he wondered what he could possibly say that would resonate with these players. He lighted upon a topic: the temptations of life on the road. He travels all around the world. He give well over 200 talks each year. The temptations while on the road in different cities, different countries, different cultures are enormous, especially if you are a handsome man earning literally missions of dollars.
This should not be very striking. Over 8 in 10 Americans reported to be concerned about nation’s moral decline. The article mentions that “there is some variation in how strongly held this belief is, though. Nearly half (46 per cent) of respondents said they ‘strongly agree’, while 35 per cent said they ‘agree.’ The research pointed to differences among different groups of Americans on the topic:
- Protestant Christians (89 per cent)
- Nonreligious (72 per cent)
- Catholics in the middle (82 per cent)”
Certainly there are differences, but – still – the fact 72% of non-religious people are concerned about the moral fiber of our society is striking
Anatomy of Temptation: Examine the Book of Genesis and the fall of Adam and Eve. Eve was hungry. The food was good to eat. It was beautiful and she was captivated by its beauty. There is nothing wrong with beauty and good food. But often, this is the very nature of temptation: we find our good in someone or something other than the idea that is being offered by God or His gifts. This is similar to St. Augustine who defined sin as loving God too little and other people and things too much also known as “disordered loves.”
Source of Temptation: In spiritual warfare, we must assess our enemy. He’s real. He’s active. His intentions are murderous. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
The Fallacy of Temptation: Rules are a reflexive impulse in the face of temptation. We think that we gain control by imposing more severe restrictions on our bodies. But temptation, is too slippery and sin is too deceitful to be caught in all the traps we set. We need to understand the truth about temptation even more than we need rules.
The Built-In Confusion of Temptation: When faced with temptation, people often minimize the consequences. Charles Spurgeon wrote about the godly influence his mother had on him. She diligently taught him the Bible and prayed for him. He once wrote that he “remembered on one occasion, her praying thus: ‘Now Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish.'”
In his talk, “Is Jesus the Only Way? (Part 2 of 3), Dr. Zacharias says that sin will wound, distract, dismember, dissipate and ultimately destroy your purpose:
- Wound (You receive spiritual cuts that gets infected and goes deeper if not cleaned out.)
- Distract (Your guard is down. You are then susceptible to beauty, loneliness, hunger, envy, greed.)
- Dismember (…you from your spouse; your children; your company)
- Dissipate (…crush and explode your family)
- Ultimately destroy (… you, your job, your family, your friendships, your life)
Moralizing, teaching or right instruction won’t solve the problem. Knowing the right thing doesn’t mean the ability to do it. The solution only comes from the SPIRITUAL realm when we face up to the spiritual nature of the human being, the lost-ness of the human heart and the provision for that malady. Christ is the only hope in the midst of this reality and the Cross gives hope within the context of this reality. Thus we need to cast our hope on Christ.
Here is where “Mother’s Day” and Our Lady of Fatima comes in. Pope Francis says that, “Mothers gives life and nourishment to her children. Mothers watch over and protect their kids.” The Holy Father says that the message of Fatima “is an interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others.” This seems to echo Pope John Paul II”s message of Fatima which was “A Call to conversions and repentance – the nucleus of the message of the Gospel.”
…[this] is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization.”
Other parts of the Ravi Zacharias series “Is Jesus the Only Way?” –
Some articles about the debate concerning the difference between “religion” and “ethics/morality” and whether they should be taught in our schools:
The Bishop of Salisbury has called for the continued inclusion of worship and prayer in school environments. In a speech delivered to the Conference of the Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools on Tuesday, Bishop Nick Holtam criticized the current trend in schools towards limiting religious instruction to lessons on morality and spirituality. “Religion and morality are not the same. The religious story is richer, deeper, divine.” “It matters that we teach Christianity not just as history, philosophy and ethics, but as the lively faith of a religious community including experiences of worship and prayer,” he said.
SHOULD the schools teach morals and ethics and, if so, how? President Reagan and William J. Bennett, his Secretary of Education, have recently accused the schools of being ”value neutral,” but their plea for the teaching of moral values has aroused controversy. One faculty member, in fact, called his plea dangerously reactionary and, to undo the damage, assigned a paper on the hazards of the religious-political group Moral Majority taking over the schools. The controversy is a hangover from the 1960’s, when radical students and their adult mentors denounced the teaching of traditional values as autocratic.
The public school will be a most useful ally because it will reach the children with its ethical instruction and training five days in the week, and five hours in the day. But even then the mission of the Sunday school will not have ceased, for the Sunday school teaches religion as well as ethics as well as the relatio
n between religion and ethics – two things which the public schools decline to teach, because they are state schools separate from the church. So that the Sunday school must still for years carry the chief responsibility–next to the home–of giving the children appropriate and adequate moral instruction and training along with religious education.