Sunday, February 24, 2013

Homily for Reminiscere (The Second Sunday in Lent)

H-30 Lent 2 (Mt 15.21-28)


Matthew 15:21-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; Genesis 32:22-32

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Fall of Man is many things – a fall from grace; a fall from the image of God; man’s serving God divorce papers; the beginning of the death of man – yes, the Fall of Man is many things, but above all, the Fall is a choice, in fact, man’s first act of free will as he exercised his own will in opposition and in rebellion to the will of God, the only will, that was from the beginning, manifest in the Word of God who was with God, who was and is God, by whom all things were made and are still preserved. Truly, man’s freedom of will rests in his freedom to choose and to do in opposition to the will of God, for to will anything else is not man’s will, but God’s will, which, before the Fall, our First Parents were in perfect and righteous harmony with.

It was Satan who tempted man to exercise his freedom of will, to willfully choose to do what God had forbidden. However, the serpent masked and disguised this willful rebellion, this sin, as something good and to be desired – knowledge, particularly the knowledge of good and evil. Yet, even that is telling, for if one truly had a choice between good and evil, who would not choose the good? Truly, the Fall had happened even before the choice, when the mind and the heart of Man set his will against God’s will, the only good. It was a choice that was made manifest in action, in the taking and eating of the forbidden fruit, a choice that was, itself, the evil fruit of a will divorced from the good, a will divorced from God.

To be sure, Man has his conception of what is good and what is evil, and the fruits of Man’s fallen will are lies, deceptions, and treachery, jealousy, arrogance, and pride, murders and wars, striving for power, wealth, and glory, never being sated, but hungering and thirsting ever for more to possess, more to consume, and more to control, having no pity and no mercy, having no love or compassion for brother or neighbor, unless it is self-serving, according to man’s fallen will. This is what the Fall and sin has done to you – it has corrupted your discernment and judgment of good and evil. This is because, now you discern and judge what is good and what is evil, not according to God’s will, but according to your own will, which is necessarily something different, something other, and something in opposition to God’s good and perfect will.

Left to your own devices, you, O fallen man, call evil good, and good evil. But, thanks be to God, He has not left you on your own. He has taken the evil that you call good and He has born it Himself. He has taken the fruit of your fallen free will, sin and death, upon Himself and He has born the death that you merit, giving you, in exchange, His righteousness, holiness, and life. However, even after conversion and faith, after you receive a new heart, and a new man is raised up within you who loves the Word and the Will of God and wants to think and say and do it, still there wars within you this corruption that keeps you from always doing what you know that you should and refraining from what you know that you shouldn’t do. Moreover, your fleshly mind and heart are still corrupted by sin and resist the willing spirit of God within you, hence the phrase “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

The theological term for this strong desire to think and to act in discord with God’s will is concupiscence. The LORD Himself described this condition of man prior to the great flood saying, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and […] every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” St. Paul wrestled with this condition saying, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” He even referred to a law within his members that was at war with the law within his mind and spirit saying, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Daily this old man, your sin-corrupted flesh and will, rears its ugly head. Therefore, daily you must drown him and put him to death by returning to your Holy Baptism in repentance and faith. This is a war, a struggle, in which you wrestle with God like Jacob, refusing to let Him go without a blessing. Then, God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, which means “he who struggles with God.” To be a Christian is to struggle with God – to struggle and to wrestle with His Word and His Will in faith and trust that He alone is good and true and faithful, even when His Word and His Will hurt your sensitivities, your reason, and put your politically-correct hip out of socket. Don’t give up and turn away in anger and resentment. In those times when God’s Word and Will seem to be pinning you to the floor, keep struggling, keep wrestling, and don’t let go, but hold on…, hold on…, hold on… until God turns your struggle into a blessing.

God is no respecter of what men value, what men praise, or what men consider good or evil. That’s why Jesus regularly ate with tax collectors and prostitutes and would not condemn an adulterer or shun a leper. However, God looks on the heart of a man, and that ought to put the fear of God into each of you. Therefore, you should keep in mind these three things: First, not all that appear blameless according to man’s moral code are seen as blameless by God. Second, there are no sins so great that they cannot be forgiven by faith in God. Third, there are no sins so little that they do not need to be forgiven in the Name of Jesus.

Faith keeps asking for help even if it is rejected. Faith keeps wrestling with God and doesn’t let go. “Who knows whether He will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him?” And, if He does, faith believes that it is always undeserved grace.

This is what we learn from the Canaanite woman whom Jesus proclaimed to have great faith. According to their own discernment and judgment of good and evil, the disciples considered the woman unworthy of Jesus’ attention and begged Him to send her away. And, according to outward appearances, they weren’t wrong. In fact, Jesus even told her that He was not sent for her and her kind. And, when she persisted, He even labeled her a dog. However, that was when her faith really kicked in. She didn’t argue with Jesus about His judgment upon her. She didn’t deny that she was not one of the children of Israel or even that she was a dog, but she accepted Jesus’ judgment upon her saying, “Yes, Lord.” But, still, like Jacob, she didn’t give up, she didn’t let go – not until she got her blessing. “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table,” she said. Can you feel the joy welling up in our Savior’s heart, spreading across His face in a glowing smile? I can. “O woman,” Jesus replied, “great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

O Christian, you must understand that the Will and the Law of God will kick you in the teeth from time to time. It will call you a dog and put your hip out of joint. Often it will seem to be in direct contradiction to what seems right to you, what feels right to you, and what the world and your culture tell you are right, and true, and good. That’s okay; don’t give up, hold on, and don’t let go – don’t let go until He gives you a blessing. For, His Word, His Will, and His Law is good – it is the only good, in opposition to which everything else evil. God knows that you don’t see it that way, that you can’t see it that way, because your very flesh and mind are corrupted by sin and you are bound in concupiscence. God knows that your new spirit is willing, but that it is your flesh that is weak. Therefore, accept His judgment against you, that you are an unworthy sinner and a dog. But, don’t give up, hold on, and don’t let go until He blesses you with forgiveness for the sake of Jesus Christ. For, He is the bread of life of which a man may eat, even but a crumb, and live forever. And, as you strive and struggle and wrestle with God, His Word, His Will, and His Law, He is making you holy even as He has declared you to be holy for Jesus’ sake. He will eat and drink with you, and He has adopted you to be His child, His son, and an heir to His kingdom – if you will not give up, but hold on, and do not let go. He will bless you, and He will make you a rich blessing to others to the glory of His Name.

Come, His children, to His table and eat, not crumbs, but the true manna from heaven that is the body and the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of yours sins, the strengthening of your faith, and for life and eternal salvation.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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