Sunday, February 16, 2014

24: The Catholic Version

Among the things that I've discovered since becoming a university chaplain is Netflix.  Who knew that such a thing existed?  And among the shows on Netflix that I find myself enjoying is 24.  In every season of 24, the main character, Jack Bauer, is thrust into some impossible situation.  He is given a mission of critical importance, and despite continuous setbacks and treacherous and sinister forces working against him, Jack is mission driven.

Sometimes, in our Christian life, we forget that we have been given a mission.  We live our Christianity without a sense of moving towards something. It is a "blah" type of Christianity.  We do a good deed here, say some prayers there, attend Mass most of the time, and will occasionally go to a penance service if it fits into our schedules.  But all of these activities can become disconnected from any ultimate purpose or meaning unless we are living our Christian life with a sense of mission.

Our mission is to love God with all of our heart.  The opening prayer for today's Mass reminded us that our hearts are meant to be the place where God abides, but that they must be prepared by his grace. We are called to live our life with a purpose, to love God above all things.  In the readings today, the Lord says that he is putting a choice before us: Life and Death, Good and Evil.  This is unambiguous.  It requires of us to make a decision; to stretch out our hand to one or the other.  Whichever one we choose, that is what will be given to us.

Pope John Paul II often preached to young people about the demands of true love.  Where some might shy away from such clear and unambiguous challenges, John Paul II understood that young people want to be challenged.  They want to know that their life has meaning, that there is some ultimate purpose for which they were created.  They want to know that they have a mission.  They want to know--I want to know--that there is indeed a choice to be made; a choice which, though demanding, will accomplish something truly great and lasting.  This is the choice for Christ and his way of life.

In the Gospel today, Jesus puts before us a clear challenge.  If we are to love God and have him abide in our heart, then we must reject all that is contrary to that mission.  Specifically today, he mentions anger and lust.  He says that these things are obstacles to the true love of God.  We cannot accomplish our mission of loving God if our hearts are filled with hatred and impurity.  If our hearts are filled with resentments, gossip, and hatred, then they are not fit to be the abiding place of God.  Similarly, if our hearts are filled with lust and our lives are filled with impurity, then we not able to fulfill our mission of loving God with all of our hearts.

This is why Jesus is so graphic today.  Cutting eyes and cutting off hands is another way of saying--do whatever it takes to uproot sin in your life so that you are able to love God and fulfill your mission.  Let nothing stand in the way of this.  This challenge can cause us to be somewhat afraid.  This does not mean that we may not stumble along the way.  In the Screwtape Letters, one of the demons is perplexed by God's love for humans and he is perplexed by God's patience with humans.  He says, "If only the will to walk is there, He is pleased even with their stumbles."  God wants to help us complete our mission--and even if we stumble along the way, this is okay.  But, we have to see clearly that we have a mission and we should set out to accomplish it.

I love on 24 when they are about to perform some important mission, they go to the back of their SUV and open a drawer that is filled with all sorts of armaments--handguns, machine guns, hand grenades etc.  They need to go into battle prepared.  We Catholics have our own arsenal of spiritual weapons.  Do we struggle with anger or lust?  Are we tempted to hate our enemies, gossip about those who have harmed us?  Are we seduced by pornography and sexual temptation?  Do these things stand in the way of our loving God and fulfilling our mission?  No problem!  We have everything that we need.  What is in our arsenal?  We have the Eucharist!  When we receive the Eucharist frequently and with devotion, we are strengthened and fortified.  We have the Sacrament of Confession.  In this beautiful Sacrament, Jesus picks us up when we have stumbled.  He lifts us up and restores us so that we can advance in our mission of loving Him.  We have the Rosary. I am always moved when I walk into the chapel before daily Mass and see students gathered praying the Rosary together.  The Rosary is a great weapon!  We have fasting and works of charity.  We should use these weapons and train ourselves how to use them effectively to defeat our enemies.

When I was younger, we'd watch re-runs of a TV show called Mission Impossible.  I'm sure you've seen some of the movies.  There would always be a scene where the agent would receive a message with his mission.  It would say, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it is . . . ." We have also received a message today in the readings.  We have been given a mission--a mission to love God with all of our heart and for our heart to be His abiding place.  We have to accept this mission.  He has placed before us good and evil, life and death.  If we choose life--if we choose love--He will give us everything we need to accomplish this mission.  No more wasting time.  Let's live our life for the mission.

No comments:

Post a Comment