(Homily notes for a Novena service, Advent 2013 by Fr. John Gishler in St. Vincent)
The question I was assigned is “Do you believe that the deepest meaning of the liberation of a person lies within the service of God.” It is tempting to say yes and sit down – but there are two other sub-questions:
- What about those who do not?
- What is your message to them?
So the short simple answers to the three questions are:
· They are toast and
· Turn or burn.
Let me try and answer these questions in a little more Biblical and loving way.
Many people have a very superficial understanding of God. Their idea of God is a white haired – or possibly black haired old man who is somehow responsible for the mess of creation and will punish them like a rather angry and judgmental father. This is not the kind of god they – or anyone else would want to serve. The problem is that in trying to escape serving God, they end up in slavery to self. It is like going from the frying pan into the fire. To understand how this works we need to understand what we mean by a ‘person’ A person has a body, soul and spirit:
- Body is the physical part with all its desires and passions – the things we want that can enslave us to materialism and other addictions
- Our personal spirit is the part of us that is in communion with God – where the Holy Spirit can live if we create a holy environment
- In between our body and personal spirit is our soul - our memory, reason and emotions.
- Our lives are a constant struggle as we are being pulled on one side by our bodily desires and emotional needs– and on the other by our personal spirit natural with its desire for a relationship with God.
Our ‘liberated self has two additional challenges:
- Self-deception – our mind’s ability to filer out information that may cause us stress. Our brain protects itself b filtering out information that challenges what we believe is true.
- Spiritual beings – demons, that deceive us and confuse us
The bottom line is that ‘liberated’ people get into messes and often become enslaved in addictions to power, control, materialism, drugs or alcohol. In contrast those who love and serve God are liberated from self-centeredness and live lives of real love, joy and peace. Their souls find rest (Ps 62.1-3).
2. What about those who do not serve God?
The choice between serving God in a covenant relationship of protection and prosperity is given by Moses in Deuteronomy 30.15-20) People are often unaware of the spiritual battle raging around them. If bad things happen they may assume it is just chance. For me, the discovery of real spiritual forces of evil at work in the world made the Bible blindingly clear.
- There are consequences
- There is the possibility of personal spiritual death and a real possibility of not inheriting eternal spiritual life
3. So what do we say to those who choose unwisely?
I have noticed that many people are unhappy. Their lives have no meaning or purpose. They do not know real love. My sense is we have to wait for the right moment then ask them if they are really happy. It has been said that Christianity is caught more than it is taught. For me it was a series of personal experiences of emotional healing that made God real for me. This is what the Alpha Course is based on, getting to know Pippa -and the reason I am here. Let me tell you the story of brother Alphonso who lived in a monestary…