From the Indiana Jones Movie series, my favorite movie is Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In this movie Dr. Jones goes on a wild adventure to find the Holy Grail, pursued, of course, by evil Nazi henchmen. In the final scene of the movie the Nazi wants Jones to go and retrieve the grail, so to get him to do so, he shoots Indiana’s father, and now, only the grail can save him. So Indiana defeats the traps protecting the grail and enters into a chamber filled with chalices, and a very old knight. The final challenge is to choose the correct chalice, if you drink from the wrong chalice you die a horrible death.
The evil Nazi chooses poorly, and crumbles into dust, but Indiana remembers the humility of Christ and chooses wisely, and goes on to save his Father as well.
The readings today speak to us about THE CHOICE that we need to make in our life – have we chosen wisely or choose poorly?
Readings help us to choose wisely in 3 ways
The readings today help us to understand that there are 3 ways in which our action of choosing Christ changes the world.
- We choose when we confront our sin.
- We choose when we speak the truth of God.
- We choose when we place God above all else.
The challenge of today’s readings is can we choose wisely in each of these areas?
THE FIRST WAY – CHOOSE TO BE FREE OF SIN
Since we are surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses…
The choice that we need to make is this – do we choose Christ, or do we choose other things? In the second reading St. Paul reminds us that we live our lives in the presence of the saints – “Since we are surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses…” Do we have this awareness in our lives?
Do we surround ourselves with reminders of the witnesses?
Think about our houses – do we have reminders of our faith in our house? My grandparents used to have a picture of the Last Supper in their dining room, so that each time the family sat down for a meal that they would recall the Eucharistic banquet, as well as the fact that Christ was also present at each meal with them. We have pictures of our parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren to remind ourselves that we are living in the presence of people who will witness to our faith, witness to our choice for or against God.
Are we competing with a burden?
St. Paul goes on – “let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.
Perhaps the first choice that we make is in the silence of our hearts when we need to choose between sin and virtue. Paul reminds us that we are in a race – like at the Olympics. Would Michael Phelps choose to swim with an Anchor tied to his right leg? Would Simone Biles try to perform her gymnastic routine with her right arm taped across her chest? Then why do we seek to choose to follow Christ while weighed down with sin.
For many of us, sin is a perennial and pernicious challenge. Do we take the time in our lives to seek out the grace of the Sacrament of Confession? It is through that Sacrament that we are lose the anchor of sin, and free our arms so that we can truly compete well.
The first way that we choose Christ, is when we choose not to sin in our lives. That choice affects us, and then through our living a life of virtue has an impact on the lives of the “great cloud of witnesses that surround us”.
So persevere in your struggle against sin, hope is not lost, because the fight continues. Paul reminds us that Christ endured the opposition of sinners to get to the Cross, and he asks us – “Have you opposed your sin to the point of shedding your blood?” If not, do not lose hope but persevere, and Christ will conquer sin for you!
THE SECOND WAY – JEREMIAH CONFRONTS THE WORLDS THINKING
In the first Reading a group of princes are upset that Jeremiah is prophesying their doom. Jeremiah choose Christ, was obedient to God and the King, and then shared with the world the truth that he heard from God. This upset the princes so they threw him in the cistern to die – and he sank into the mud.
Are we willing to choose Christ, to proclaim the truth that Christ teaches even when the world is adamantly opposed to it? Are we willing to suffer the condemnation of the world for the sake of the Gospel? If we are, then it will be an opportunity for us to embrace the Cross.
An example – teaching on sexuality, life and marriage
We live in a world today that is opposed to the Churches teachings about the sanctity of life and sexuality. It has become the news that the world does not want to hear, even in our churches when we preach on the teachings of the Church and of Christ in these areas we have the opportunity to hear about how we are wrong, and how we do not know or understand the Gospel.
Can we take this witness into the world, into our places of work, our schools and to our family members who are in need of a witness to the truth? Are we willing to bear the consequences of this choice?
In our witness God preserves what is essential
There is a sign of hope in the first reading – while we may suffer for speaking the word of God, He will preserve us through all of our sufferings. See that while Jeremiah was cast into the mud, God moved the heart of Ebed Melech the Cushite to right the injustice of the princes.
When we choose to God and face the persecution then we walk the way of the Cross. This type of choice begins to form our souls into the image of Christ.
THE THIRD WAY – OUR CHOICE ILLUMINATES THE WORLD
This past summer I found a tabloid version of the Bible. It really is a clever way to express the scriptures to those who would not normally read them. I can imagine that in the tabloid Bible, today’s reading would be proclaimed with the headline “Son of David opposes family – says he is here to divide them up!” To leave the mass today with this simplistic understanding would be a disservice to the Gospel.
Christ is a Binary Choice
Christ is a binary choice. Either he is an evil or crazy man who deceives others into thinking that he is God, or he is God. We have to study his actions and choose. If he is evil or delusional, then we should leave now. If he is who he said that he is, then everything that Christ says and does is of the utmost importance. This is at the heart of the choice that we have to make.
The greatest love that we can experience is from God
What Christ is saying is that he has come to illuminate the world. To open our eyes to the darkness of sin, and to share His love with us. Christ is in agony until he can share the depths of his love with us. The depths of his love with us is to know that the greatest love that we can experience in this life is not the love of our spouse, or of our children or of our parents, but the love that God has for us. This is at the heart of his message.
The division that Christ speaks to is the division that is a consequence of choice. Whether it is our personal sin, what the world thinks of Christ’s teaching or even what our family thinks of us, we have to make a choice. Do we choose to follow Christ into eternal life, or to choose a different path