The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Today we find in the readings on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception a peculiar story of Ahaz. Ahaz wasn't a particularly pious king of Judah and in the Book of Kings is known simply as one who "even immolated his child by fire, in accordance with the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites." (16:3) Simply put, he sacrificed his child to a foreign god-idol that promised peace and prosperity. But as if this wasn't bad enough, he also frequently asked for help from Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, instead of relying on God's own armies.
And so we read that the prophet Isaiah tells Ahaz to "remain calm and do not fear; do not let your courage fail", and to "ask for a sign from the Lord, your God" (Is 7:4,11). Isaih is telling Ahaz to turn from his idolatry and pray to God for help. Ahaz, in his defiance, says "I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord" (v12), essentially responding that he will not trust God, but rather in his own power and allies, the Assyrians. Further on, Isaiah then responds that in this case, the Assyrians will shave the Israelites, rendering them powerless and in suffering - "on that day a man shall keep alive a young cow or a couple of sheep, and from their abundant yield of milk he shall eat curds; curds and honey shall be the food of all who are left in the land...every place where there were a thousand vines shall become briers and thorns" (v21-23).
What does this mean for us? First of all, in the light of our current crisis, let me say that God, the author of goodness, does not in our time inflict evil on His children. Suffering is a fruit of man's pride and selfishness, and though God can and will save us, He will allow suffering as a refining fire to burn away our own idolatry. Just as Ahaz refused to give up self-control to God and desired instead to trust his idols and powerful allies, we will often choose to refuse God's help and instead rely on our own powers and allies in a time of crisis.
So, what are our idols?
But, even in the face of God's merciful judgement on Earth, we still have to choose to trust in Him and follow His commandment to love our neighbor. We must see the ways in which God is burning away our dependencies and idols so that we may 'burden Him', not trusting in powers and idols, as Ahaz did when Isaiah asked him to trust in the Lord. We must not sacrifice the lives of our at-risk brothers and sisters - the poor, the elderly, and the frail - to the idol of economy and money, as Ahaz did to his own sons in the name of prosperity. We must use this as a time of repentance for all that we worship in place of the Lord God Almighty who is all good and deserving of ALL of our love.
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
by Jason Wilde
I watched the scenery from the back of Padre Carlos' tiny hatchback on our way to Mass at a distant Puebla on a rainy Sunday morning. As we slid through the muddy back roads, I noticed that the scenery was changing. The rough, unfarmed greenery was slowly turning into flat, grassy ranches lands spotted with cattle and an occasional horse. Another 20 minutes later, Padre pulled his car up to a tiny little store and we made our way to the even tinier chapel perched on a hill on the other side of the road. The locals were just starting to arrive by truck and by foot, and I noticed that the men were relatively well dressed compared to other pueblas that we'd visited. Most had clean blue jeans, boots and cowboy hats; they were clearly ranchers.
The Gospel reading that Sunday was about Jesus as the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-18). Padre Carlos was a very popular homilist, and he didn't let us down. He started by asking the men standing in the back of the chapel how they called their herds. We listened as each one whistled in his own unique way, and the crowd of about 20 people giggled each time.
"If I could imitate one of you"...(whistling feverishly)..."would I be able to call your cattle?", Padre questioned.
"No!", the cowboys all responded in unison.
"Similarly, then if Jesus is the 'Buen Vaquero', do we listen to His call?" Padre continued.
Everyone laughed and seemed to nod in agreement.
"....or do we also listen to others? Do we listen when strange gods call us - gods of money, drugs, alcohol, gossip, TV, internet...?"
The still silence was deafening.
I keep reflecting back on this homily as we stand on the precipice of another season of lent, trying to decide how we are going to prepare ourselves to receive the Good Shepherd whom we all claim allegiance to. But, we live in a world of gods: gods who are loud and in our faces, gods who all vie for our attention and for our support, gods who want us to follow them, to be like them, to reject all others. And while we might claim to only serve one God, in reality we all struggle with this, and unfortunately, our God is a jealous God. He doesn't like when we listen and follow the calls of those other gods:
Interestingly, when push comes to shove, it seems that the faith claims and institutions of one's political party generally trump those of one's religion.
Lent is a time to remove ourselves from the presence and grasp of those other gods. It is a time to clear away the noise that distracts us from His calling. Usually, this means we must sacrifice something that makes us uncomfortable so that we can feel His healing presence. Every year, I struggle to find 'what I should give up', but in reality, I should be working to free myself from the calls of these gods so that I can hear the angelic whistle of the Good Shepherd.
by Jason Wilde
Getting a degree.
Finding a wife
Finding a job
Buying a house
Having a kid
Getting a graduate degree
Getting a promotion and a raise
Buying a new car
Opening an investment account
Having another kid (or two)
Becoming a doctor
Buying a bigger car
Finding a bigger house
Losing 40 pounds
Feet in the Sand
Making 6 figures
Paying off the car
Not worrying about money, but thinking about it all the time.
Living the American dream
Then why is it that I sit in our empty bedroom, staring at the air mattress on the floor, feeling happy and at peace?
I had it all, a textbook success story. No worries, Life is Good, Golden Happiness...so why does it feel like such a relief to give it all up?
Tonight we opened our last bottle of wine - a bottle that had quietly sat on the top of our mantle for the past few years as a celebratory goal - a trophy that was to be enjoyed whenever we reached the threshold at which I could retire from my engineering career and...well...do something else. Little did I know that this "something else" would come so soon, and that it would involve literally giving up everything we had thought made us successful (except the kids and wife, of course). Would I have believed if I knew my next employer's benefit plan included eternal success in the form of forgiveness, mercy, and personal sacrifice? And would I believe that I willingly, joyfully, and happily did it all without second guessing myself?
So, here's to my failure in the worldly sense, happily conceded for the least of my brothers.
Here's to constant prayer for someone with an impossible sickness.
Here's to sacrifice so that I can provide clothes for someone else.
Here's to the fear that I must fight in order to welcome the stranger.
Here's to the sickness that I will feel when I see the hungry child suffering.
And sadness when I see the tortured prisoner from the other side of the bars.
For I know that eternal success lies beyond our flesh, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where my treasure is, there also will my heart be. (Mt 6:20-21)
On a Mission
Two passionate parents and their four children are excited to bring His Word to everyone in need while living a life of Gospel poverty as missionaries. They invite you to join them on a journey to encounter our global neighbors that Jesus commands us to love through works of charity and service.