The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes. —Matthew 21:42
Scripture is filled with stories of God using someone or something seemingly ordinary or insignificant to do great things: little David defeating Goliath, Moses’ mother weaving a bushel basket to save his life, a boy with five loaves and two fish that fed a crowd, an ardent Jew and persecutor of Christians named Paul who ended up spreading the Gospel across the Mediterranean.
FOR REFLECTION: What seemingly ordinary or insignificant thing in these past few months has God grown into something meaningful, amazing, or vital in your life now?
1 Corinthians 1:22-25
I was recently talking with my kids about why we choose as a family to eat mostly health foods and avoid more unhealthy junk foods when possible. It was a basic talk on cause and effect. When we eat junk food, we start to feel bad because our bodies need veggies and protein to grow big and strong. Something that came up was the concept of free will and human beings’ ability to choose freely for themselves which path they will take. This led the conversation to the reality that while everyone is free to choose, one cannot choose the consequences of those choices. I am free to choose to run on ice, but the nature of ice and the laws of gravity will eventually catch up to me. I am free to touch a fire, but I am not free to choose whether it burns or not.
This concept seems fairly straightforward, yet in today’s culture there is a skewed sense of freedom. We forget we are a redeemed people, rescued from the grips of death by a God who has literally chased us down to bring us back to him. This skewed sense of freedom leads to so many misunderstandings about the Ten Commandments. Are they just arbitrary rules from ancient times meant to make us feel bad? Are they still applicable today? Couldn’t we bend them to speak to modern man? But in the readings today, if we read closely, we see a different message. A message of a Father who is madly in love with his children. By following God’s commands, we experience the true freedom of children being cared for by their Father.
The first reading begins not with an admonition, but with a reminder of love: “I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” Before the Commandments are given, God reminds His people that He is a God that is on their side. They were once living in oppression as slaves, but it was God who brought them freedom. It’s important to read the following verses in this context. God doesn’t set out a long list of rules to control or harm His people, rather after bringing them freedom He shows them the way to stay within the boundaries of that freedom. The Ten Commandments are a love story of a God who wants to do everything possible to bring His people back to Him. He knows the weakness of humanity, and He guides us as a loving Father to the ways that will make us more human, the ways to live a morally upright life.
St. Paul describes this in the second reading when he says that “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.” It doesn’t make sense to our minds to accept boundaries as the road to freedom. Modern man seeks to fill the expanses of his heart by exposing himself to as much in this world as possible without realizing the things that lead him to sin shrink and narrow the heart. But even using a car to reach a far-off destination requires boundaries like the proper fuel and taking paved roads. Our hearts are made to image God. Freedom is only free if it makes us more like Christ.
In the Gospel Jesus teaches us the path to this freedom: through authentic worship at the new temple, his Body. As Fr. Jacques Philippe says in his book Fire and Light, “the Eucharist makes clear the degree of intimacy which God wants to draw us. In the Eucharist, the mad dream of all lovers is realized.” Jesus stops the money changers not because he is losing control, but because the boundaries of his love free our hearts. Authentic worship and prayer are what will free us, not using our churches as places for commerce.
In this culture of faux freedoms, God is calling us back to Himself. We are free to choose to follow Him or not, but we are not free to choose the consequence of that choice. Only in choosing to follow Christ do our hearts find the answer to our deepest longings. As St. Augustine so famously said in his Confessions, “our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. —Jeremiah 17:7-8
If ever there has been a time for us to focus on trusting and being deeply rooted in the Lord, it has been this past year. A tree needs to be deeply rooted to tap into a source of life-sustaining water if it is to survive storms, drought, fire, and pest infestations. Of course, being deeply rooted doesn’t mean the tree will avoid these threats, nor does it guarantee that it won’t endure some damage over the years. The same can be said for all of God’s faithful.
Jesus never promised to shield us from hardship, just as trees planted near water aren’t shielded from acts of nature. Maybe you have known times when you thought you might topple from the weight of pain, loss,
anxiety, sickness, or loneliness. Yet you didn’t. You are still here, and now your rootedness in God is deeper than ever. If bad weather threatens you now, continue trusting in the Lord and trusting in your rootedness to Jesus.
FOR ACTION: Do something physical today to symbolize rooting yourself in God. Sit on the bare earth for prayer time. Walk barefoot under a tree, reflecting on it’s rootedness. Get down on the ground to play with a child. Prepare a meal that includes root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, yams, beets, etc). Thank God for the rootedness that keeps you connected to our Creator.
Easter Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, reaches its high point at the Easter Vigil and concludes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. All Saints Parish invites you and your family to join us on Holy Thursday at 7:00 pm as we celebrate Mass at St. Anthony Church.
The Stations of the Cross allow us to reflect upon Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection and to experience the visual images to contemplate Christ’s love for us. Pray the Stations of the Cross online with us.
We invite you to celebrate All Saints Parish Good Friday Service, 7:00 pm at St. Anthony Church.