Dear Ascension Family:
We have a Catholic School in our area – St. Adalbert Catholic Academy. But majority of Catholic children are in public schools, deprived of religious instruction because they have no one to teach them. We can achieve greater progress as a community if our children are spiritually rooted. Thus the need for Religious Education Program in every parish. We acknowledge, however, the need for catechists.
Next Sunday, October 3rd, the classes of the children in Religious Education in our parish will start. To set the tone of the entire Catechetical Year 2021-2022, we begin with spiritual activities. So the first day of classes will be in the church. Christianity is not simply a set of doctrines to be memorized or prescribed prayers to be recited.
Christianity is a way of life that Jesus commanded us to live. The gospel reading for this Sunday gives us an idea of what it means to live the Christian life.
Cut your hand off? Pluck your eye out? Is Jesus recommending mutilation? No! Mutilation is always and everywhere immoral. The words of Jesus represent a typically Semitic (Jewish) way of stressing a point. And that point is: in our journeying to God, we have to be ruthless against obstacles. Jesus also used the same language in laying out the condition for being his disciple: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple”(LK 14:26). Hate father and mother, wife and children, sisters and brothers? Hardly. He whose whole life was love could not possibly be counseling genuine hatred. It is a striking Semitic way of getting a message across. The message is clear in Matthew: “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me”(Mt 10:37). Nothing, no one, comes before Christ.
Similarly, whatever causes us to sin or leads others into sin, whatever replaces God in our life, we must get rid of it! Whatever the cost – even life itself – we must let it go. This is a basic to our Christian spirituality, for it echoes the first of the Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.” It also echoes what Jesus called “the great commandment” in the law: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus uses the most graphic images imaginable to dramatize that we must be willing to root out from our lives whatever threatens our relationship with God. Rooting it out may be painful like cutting out part of our own body.
This basic spirituality was summed up by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius starts with two general assumptions for Christian living: 1) You and I and all human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by so doing attain our eternal destiny with God. 2) Everything else on this earth is intended by God to help us achieve this end. The inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that we are to use the things of earth in so far as they help us towards that end, and rid ourselves of them in so far as they prove a hindrance. By the words “cut it off” and “pluck it out”, Jesus meant that our commitment to God must be so total and so radical that we are willing to sacrifice even things as precious as hand, foot, and eye if these things, however good in themselves, stand between us and God.
An all-important question for each of us: What claims top priority in my life? What sits on that throne, commanding me “Go!” and I go, “Move!” and I move, “Do this!” and I do it? If it is not the God who made me, the God for whom I am made, then I am putting in danger not only my salvation but the salvation as well of the people around me. Difficult demands! For unaided human nature they are too difficult, if not impossible. But in God all things are possible. May God bless all of us.