Fr. Daniel Gifford
JESUS, DELIVER US
This weekend, our Gospel introduces us to a man who simply wants to see Jesus. For this reason, I think it is good to take a moment and follow the counsel of Saint John Paul II and “contemplate the face of Christ.” In particular, I invite you to consider the image
of Christ the Pantocrator that hangs in Harkrader Hall (front cover). The literal
translation of the title of this classic image, which has different forms and renderings, refers to Christ as “All Mighty” or “All Powerful.” The connotation to this has also taken on different forms in different instances and points in history. On one level, it speaks of the dimension found in the New Testament of Christ as the All Powerful Judge appointed over humanity, the judge who is both merciful and just. As He is a judge who is gentle and merciful, you may notice that His hand is lifting in a gesture of blessing. However, this gesture of His hand also symbolizes the act of teaching. This fact, along with the presence of the book, indicating His identity as the Word Made Flesh, begins to explain why another variation of this image is titled "Christ the Teacher." The encounter with Zacchaeus in this weekend's Gospel shows that He reveres Christ in this way. As both Teacher and All Powerful Judge over humanity, Christ has authority to direct our actions and the course of our lives. Zacchaeus exemplifies this in that he makes an act of genuine repentance, vowing to make right whatever in his life has deviated from God's will. This is worth considering when we pray the words that conclude the Our Father: Deliver us from evil. If we are to ask the Lord to deliver us from evil in a manner that is consistent with the kind of humility, selflessness, and surrender to the Lord's will that the rest of the prayer has taught us, then we must be willing to consider the ways that our own choices are giving evil any foothold in our lives. When we pray this petition to the God who is both All-Mighty and Powerful, and our Loving Father who desires our happiness more than we desire it our ourselves, we should be ready. We should expect that it will not only arouse our emotions (as our hopes are lifted in hope of being delivered), but also our consciences (awakening us to begin to recognize things in our life that need to be changed and wounds in our hearts that need to be healed). Maybe we are truly suffering due to some evil outside of ourselves and that is what is on our minds when we pray for deliverance. Nonetheless, we cannot make this prayer with the mentality of a totally innocent and helpless victim. Consider this analogy. If we were gathered in some sort of safehouse, preparing for the imminent attack of an enemy, would we not consider the stronghold we find ourselves in and examine it for any weaknesses and vulnerable spots? Is this not where we can expect the enemy to attack us and to seek entrance inside? We should not be indifferent to the evil around us. But, neither should we be indifferent to the evil in our own choices. At the very least, we ought to be able to see what folly it would be if we were to ask for deliverance from evil, while still compromising the Law of God and perhaps even our convictions, thus tolerating the evil in our own choices. The fact that the petition is introduced with the conjunction “but” reinforces this, since it tells us this petition is closely connected to the previous petition regarding temptation. Clearly, then, the primary evil we are praying for deliverance from is moral evil. Yet this connection to the previous petition also gives us a hint of how the prayer ends on a grander and more hopeful note. We don’t stop merely by praying that we might not fall into temptation, but go on to pray for final deliverance from evil. It ends on a hint of the final victory of Christ, which we see in the Resurrection. Practically speaking, it is possible to successfully resist a given temptation, but still be caught within the clutches of an affection to that same sin. The final deliverance we pray for is the hope of being so completely free of the clutches of evil that we have a healthy hatred of sin and a healthy love of goodness and virtue. This hope of final deliverance should motivate us, so that when we pray for deliverance, we might truly mean it. Let us turn to our Loving and Powerful God and invite Him to set us free from all of the evil in our lives, even that which we have chosen. Let us allow His Mercy to heal the wounds in our hearts, as Christ the Teacher shows us the Way to this True Freedom.
SERVER TRAINING: As you may have seen mentioned in last weekend’s bulletin, we will soon be having another round of server training. It is indeed a great honor, to which our young parish servers enthusiastically live up to, to serve at the altar of the Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I am very grateful to all of our altar servers for the reverent and faithful service at the altar, and am looking forward to adding a few more to their ranks with a new round of trainings. If anyone who is in 4th grade or higher is interested in being trained for altar serving, please sign up on the sheet on the information table outside of Harkrader Hall.
BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE: With the arrival of November, we will be beginning our usual month of prayers for those who have gone before us in this life. The whole Universal Church sets aside the month of November for these intercessory prayers, so please do not hesitate to ask us to pray for someone specific. You can do this by writing the names of any loved ones who have passed in the Book of Remembrance, which will remain in the front of the Church throughout the month. Every Mass, these names will be included in the intentions of Mass. The names will not be specifically read aloud, but I will include “those whose names are written in our Book of Remembrance” in the spoken intentions more often than not. Please know that if you attend Mass and I don’t remember to say it aloud, it is still in my intentions.
In Christ through Mary,
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!