Friends, Advent peace!
GOOD, BETTER, BEST
“Good, better, best, never let it rest; till your good is better and your better best.” As we enter into Advent this little bit of wisdom which I memorized, by the way, in first grade at St. Ann’s School in Neponset, more years ago that I would like to tell, may sum up a key idea for this holy season.
But, first, judgment. There will be a judgment for each of us at the moment of death and then the General Judgment at the end of the world, as the Advent Gospels teach us. Some truths: let’s agree that there is sin, despite what the wise of this world tell us. For if there is not, then Christ came for no reason. Check I Peter 2:24-25. Peter teaches that for the forgiveness of our sins Christ died on the cross. And judgment? God has placed obedience to His law as a responsibility on each of us: Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 6:4-9. The New Testament is very clear: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he/she did in the body, whether good or evil” (I Corinthians 5:10).
Lest we focus only on judgment, let’s remember that Our Lord Himself often speaks of reward, calling those who have had zeal for Him and for His Kingdom “good and faithful servant(s).” See Matthew 25:14-30. At the very start of His public ministry Jesus speaks of reward. In the great Sermon on the Mount, He completes every beatitude with a promise of reward! (Matthew 5:1-12) How wonderful that God has planned to save us! Indeed to reward us! The road may be rough and narrow but Jesus is the way, the road. So like Robert Frost in his poem, we are they who are on “the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
I have had times when challenging people, with humor, about salvation has been really appropriate. It is rare, but the moment arises and I ask some if they go to Mass. Kindly, lightheartedly I play the priest, I challenge. Because, you see, my responsibility is not whether the President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives should receive Communion. My pastoral task is the calling of Rockland’s Catholics. It is my love which challenges everybody here to stop the baloney, come to Church regularly and receive Holy Communion in the state of grace. My failures I check first: confess my sins? Of course. Christ lays that on me too. But, like you, once sin’s hurdle is cleared then comes God. He is first. No one else rates the attention He must get from me and you. The increasing, half-hearted practice, the abandonment of regular celebration of Mass is not loving God with all my heart. It just isn’t! Not coming to Mass will have to be explained to the Judge. And there are good excuses, of course. But if I haven’t any good ones then death might be tricky. There’s no fooling the Lord. See Galatians 6:7-8. The handiest approach is this: repent today, confess, be absolved and begin to live a “firm purpose of amendment.” As with anything relating to Jesus, honesty is the best, the only policy.
LEAD KINDLY LIGHT
As I have mentioned to you before, I have been greatly blessed by Blessed John Henry Newman’s poem, “Lead Kindly Light.” Blessed John is on the edge of being declared a saint so for me his honesty is strikingly relevant. What Newman says of himself I also have had to say: “I loved to choose my path...I loved the garish day, and spite of fears, Pride ruled my will.” But then John says to God, “Remember not past years.” He acknowledges that throughout his life God has continually blessed him. So, though a sinner, his fundamental prayer is very simple and here I paraphrase his words: ‘Lord, lead me. You lead, please! I do not ask to see the future. No. Just give me one step at a time. You lead. You be Lord, my Lord. Not me.’
And then? “Good, better, best; never let it rest; till your good is better and your better best.”
God bless! JFH