Decisions, Decisions, Decision

baptism1Did you ever have to make up your mind? Decisions surround us. All through the day we make tons of them; some we make unconsciously. According to UNC TV we make on the average 35,000 conscious decisions during a day. Psychology Today suggest that we make a decision every two seconds. I actually think a bit more than I every thought I did! And making  decision to do one thing is also a decision to not do something else. As Rolheiser put it, “Every choice is a thousand renunciations. To choose one thing is to turn one’s back on many others.”  Yet, with all of the decisions we make, they each carry consequences.

In his book, Decision Points, George W. Bush started out by addressing his alcohol problem. But he ends the chapter writing, “There’s no way to know where my life would have headed if I hadn’t made the decision to quit drinking. But I am certain that I would not be recording these thoughts as a former governor of Texas and president of the United States.”

As we are in the Season of Lent, a season where we reflect on our baptisms, or prepare to be baptized; we reflect on the greatest decision we can/will/have ever make (made)! It is the decision that changes our lives. As Pope John Paul II put it, “Baptism frees man from original sin and forgives his sins, saves him from slavery to evil and is a sign of his rebirth in the Holy Spirit, it imparts to him a new life.”

Before we made that decision to be baptized we were lost in sin. One of the most powerful autobiographies I have ever read, St. Patrick’s Confessio, started off liked this, “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers.” There is where we are without baptism: a sinner, the least of all believers. We are the least of all because we stand apart from God.

But, there was good news in the form of the Gospel of God, the Gospel about his Son. The ‘gospel,’ euangelion <Greek>, was a proclamation. Usually it meant a royal proclamation such as a royal birthday, or a new king had ascended to the throne. In the case of the gospel of God, the gospel about his Son, the proclamation was that something had happened on the cross that first Good Friday by six o’clock in the afternoon. And, as a result the world was now a different place. And as sinners, that new world is the place that our baptism offers to us. Three days later when Christ was resurrected, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it gave us the proof of what happened on the cross that Friday afternoon. The world changed. That was the proclamation. For us the proclamation is that we can take part in that new world. And, it is through baptism that we take our place in that new world.

In our baptism we take part in the death of the Christ. St. Paul wrote to the church in Rome, we who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were indeed buried with Him through baptism into his death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).  As Paul continued, ‘our old self was crucified with Him so that our sinful body might be done away with” (v.6). Baptism changes “My name is Patrick. I am a sinner,” to, “My name is Patrick. I am a child of God.”

Baptism saved us (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism clothed us in Christ (Galatians 3:27). Baptism filled us with the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:28). Baptism allowed us to walk in a newness of Life (Romans 6:4). While there are many sacraments, baptism is THE sacrament. For without it it is impossible to partake in any other sacrament.

Lent is a time to reflect back on our baptism. And while we may make 35,000 decisions a day, while we may make a decision every two seconds, and while with each decision we make there is a renunciation of a thousand other possible decisions, every decision we make pales in comparison of that one decision we made to be baptized. While Lent is a good time to reflect on that decision, it should also be remembered with every other decision of the year because “By Baptism we are made flesh of the Crucified” (St. Leo). As St. Maximilian Kolbe put it, “The soul is regenerated in the sacred waters of baptism and thus becomes God’s child.” Decisions come and go. But one decision, the decision to be baptized, should transform our lives like no other.

 

Until Next Time May The Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

SIGNATURE 2

Station One: The Christ, The Sadmann, The Mob

christpilateWe live now in a world where whatever the mob mentality wants, the mob mentality gets. Our world is constantly changing through mob mentality. Speakers who have a point of view that differs from the narrative of the mob are shut down through mob mentality, mobs that get violent! Children are allowed to be killed after they are born, under the guise of women’s healthcare, due to mob mentality. A spark becomes a forest fire in 2019 due to mob mentality.

Take the case of Nick Sandmann. He stood still. He said nothing. He did nothing. Well, he did smile. But, yet, he become a racist due to mob mentality. Silently he stood there. And in all of ten minutes the mob ruled him guilty. The mob labeled him a racist. The mob yelled prosecute. The mob ruled. The facts meant nothing. Print media, visual media, talking heads—social media was agog—were ready to crucify this kid all of 15 years old. They knew the truth. He was guilty! Then the facts came out. Truth can be relative; facts are not. The facts were that the whole encounter was twisted to make this young man who was actually innocent to be guilty. The facts were the facts. The mob rule was wrong. The mob had twisted the facts to come up with a truth to fit their narrative that was far from the facts.

But, let it be understood, mob mentality is nothing new. While we can say the Messiah was born to die; he was born to go to the Cross, it was mob mentality that sent him there.  And now during the season of Lent, as we look at the Stations of the Cross, we look back to the First Station. We look back 2000 years on mob mentality at its finest. We see the Christ condemned to death.

“Then the high priest tore his robe” (Matthew 26:65).  The mob was getting ready to cry out! “He has uttered blasphemy.” The mob grows. They not only become more in number, they become more intense that this man, the Savior of the world was guilty. “What further witness do we need?” We know it all. They knew the truth; why should they even worry with the facts? “[They] have now heard his blasphemy.” Armed with truth, regardless of the facts, they knew “He [deserved] death.” The mob was riled up. The mob would get even more intense as “they spit in face” and as they “stuck him and slapped him.”

As the Christ stood before Pilate the yelled, “crucify him.” When Pilate asked what evil he had done, the crowd yelled “crucify him” all the more (Mark 15). It seemed Pilate wanted to let him live; but the mob mentality was overruling him. “But the chief priest stirred up the crowd.” One bad actor and the mob mentality was ready to act. The mob was ready to send an innocent man to his death.

Jesus stood before Pilate an innocent man. Yet, because of the mob mentality, stirred up by just a few, he stood there condemned to death. A guilty murderer is released and an innocent man, the Savior of the world is condemned to death on a cross. The Messiah is scourged and “[Pilate] delivered him to be crucified” (Mark 15:15). Condemned by the mob; delivered to the mob. He was an innocent man condemned by mob mentality. He stood silent; ” He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). 

As we visit the first station of the cross the season of Lent. Let us move away from mob mentality. Let us follow the facts that lead to truth. The mob mentality was willing to kill the truth: [Jesus] is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). Are you letting mob mentality keep you away from real truth? Are you condemning the Christ because the ‘in crowd’ thinks He should be cast out? Are you following the mob of 2019 that has again condemned the Christ and tried to keep him out of all forms of public life?

Collect for the First Station of the Cross and St. Patrick’s Day:

God, my God, omnipotent King, I humbly adore thee. Thou art King of kings, Lord of lords. Thou art the Judge of every age. Thou art the Redeemer of souls. Thou art the Liberator of those who believe. Thou art the Hope of those who toil. Thou art the Comforter of those in sorrow. Thou art the Way to those who wander. Thou art Master to the nations. Thou art the Creator of all creatures. Thou art the Lover of all good. Thou art the Prince of all virtues. Thou art the joy of all Thy saints. Thou art life perpetual. Thou art joy in truth. Thou art the exultation in the eternal fatherland. Thou art the Light of light. Thou art the Fountain of holiness. Thou art the glory of God the Father in the height. Thou art Savior of the world. Thou art the plenitude of the Holy Spirit. Thou sittest at the right hand of God the Father on the throne, reigning for ever —St. Patrick

Until next time may the God Lord Bless and Keep You!

SIGNATURE 2

Lint, Lent, Belly Button Scent

March 6th marks the beginning of Lent 2019. It’s that period of time where we fast from ashwednesdaythings that keep us from drawing closer to God, in hopes that we draw closer to the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Just as we would, hopefully daily, we would clean the lint from our belly, during the 40 days of fasting in Lent we would clean the lint from our lives. We attempt to say goodbye—remove that unclean lint—to the things that keep us from the new life with God. Or, as N. T. Wright put it, “we say a firm goodbye to everything in us that still clings to the old!”

As Ronald Rolheiser said, “It is no easy task to walk this earth and find peace.” But, when we clean away our lint, during Lent with the hope that it stays away, walking this earth becomes easier due to our walking closer to God.

Our Ash Wednesday service takes on a journey both backward and forward. We have the sign of the cross made on our foreheads in ashes. These ashes take us both back in time and into the future. We can look back at all the people in biblical times that mourn, our showed their grief by sitting in ashes, or placing ashes on the heads. So, our ashes will symbolize the ‘junk’ we’ve removed from our own lives. But, they show a bit more!
The sign of the Cross points to something better than what we are leaving behind. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that when he was with them he vowed to know nothing but Christ, and [Christ] crucified. It was all about that cross. When we ‘survey that wondrous Cross’ we find that there, our new life begins. It was there that the New World began. It all happened on that old rugged cross. The earth was there to be forever changed. Then, three days later came the resurrection; the proof that what happened on the cross was real, that the world was forever changed.

Our foreheads are marked with those ashes—symbols of those things, our past, that we are giving up in order that we may more fully be closer to God and do his work—in the sign of a cross—identifying us with the New World that began on a Friday with the death of the Christ. The ashes then look back on what we’ve left and forward to the life refined by the fire given to us  through the work of the Lord on the cross!

Let your Lenten fast draw you closer to that Cross. Clean you bellybuttons so to speak so your lives will be a sweet scent going up to the Lord!

 

Until Next Time, may the Good Lord Bless And Keep You!

 

SIGNATURE 2