Lincoln’s Log 3-21-2021

Defeating Death

“By the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who are allied with him experience it.”
Wis. 2:24

“… Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, ‘Untie him and let him go.’”
Jn. 11:43-44

As lent drives to its culmination, we hear about Jesus’ conquest of the final enemy: death. This is the final Sunday Gospel we will hear before Holy Week. The last two weeks have been building up to this weekend’s Gospel by showing Jesus’ power over sin.

  • Two weeks ago, in the story of the Woman at the Well (Jn. 4), we heard Jesus defeat sin’s power of shame and addiction.
  • Last week, we heard about the Man Born Blind (Jn. 9), which revealed Jesus’ destruction of sin’s power in the dysfunctional systems around us.
  • This week, the final enemy is destroyed.

Death enters the picture with the sin of Adam and Eve. This sin alienated Adam and Eve and us, their descendants from the life of God. “For you are dust, and to dust, you shall return” (Gn. 3:19). That is our condition. We are all going to die, and there is nothing we can do about it. We can delay death by taking care of ourselves, but all of us are mortal and we will die. Through sin, our own sin and that of Adam and Eve, we all are subject to the power of death.

Yet, today’s Gospel reading reveals that, as powerful and pervasive as death is, it is not almighty. In the Gospel we see Jesus confronting the power of death over His friend Lazarus. Jesus is victorious and Lazarus is resuscitated. This victory over the death of one person points us forward to Jesus’ ultimate victory over death through the events we celebrate in Holy Week. It is by His crucifixion and resurrection that Jesus ultimately defeats sin’s greatest power and frees us from the power of death.

This is good news!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 3-14-2021

Sin’s Structural Power

“Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to [Jesus], ‘Surely we are not also blind, are we?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind you would have no sin; but now you are saying “We see,” so your sin remains.”
Jn. 9:40-4

“‘Structures of sin’ are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a ‘social sin.’”
CCC #1869

Last weekend, in the story of the Woman at the Well in Jn. 4, we saw the power of sin revealing itself through the shame that can isolate us from God and from our community. Today, we see the power of sin expressing itself through systems and structures of sin.

The Man Born Blind, in Jn. 9, is healed by Jesus. He begins to believe in Jesus. He even starts to change his life to become Jesus’ disciple. This is a good thing. His parents and community should be excited by his healing and the positive changes he is making. But this is not what happens.

Instead of rejoicing and celebrating the man’s healing, his parents and the community resist this change. They interrogate him about why he has changed. They are suspicious of the man even though he has clearly been healed. The community tries to put him back in his place, a broken beggar who is known as a sinner. “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” they ask. Then they throw him out (Jn. 9:34).

This is one of the dynamics of sin that anyone who is trying to make a significant positive change has experienced. An alcoholic who quits drinking finds himself being pressured by friends to come out drinking with them. A person who has gotten out of a dysfunctional relationship finds that their friends or family don’t understand. Someone who starts to pray more gets harassed for being “holier than thou.” The man who starts volunteering at the shelter gets teased by his co-workers. The woman who hangs a cross in her office is pressured to take it down. An individual who refuses to gossip or tolerate racist jokes can find himself isolated.

Sin not only challenges us from within through the voice of shame but it pressures us from the structures and communities around us. The world is broken. As we grow in faith, we find that it is a struggle not only with our own hearts but sometimes with our families, coworkers, and friends. The world has a way of trying to bend us to sin.

The good news is that Jesus never abandons us. “When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him… “ (Jn. 9:35). Change is hard, but God’s grace makes it possible.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 3-7-2021

Scrutinies and Sin

“The scrutinies… are rites for self-searching and repentance and … are meant to uncover, then heal all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect; to bring out, then strengthen all that is upright, strong, and good. For the scrutinies are celebrated in order to deliver the elect from the power of sin and Satan, to protect them against temptation, and to give them strength in Christ….”
RCIA #141 [Emphasis added]

This weekend, and for the next two weeks, we will be praying the scrutiny rituals over our elect. These ancient rites remind us of the power of Sin in the world. Sin, with a capital “S” is the power of evil in the world that separates us from the love of God. It binds our freedom and leads us on the path of death. Like an addiction, sin roots itself deep in our hearts and makes us it’s slave (Rm. 7:14f). Sin also has a role in shaping the culture around us and distorts the way we see reality. Ultimately, Sin cuts us off from God, the source of life itself.

The Gospels for the next three weeks expose various ways Sin lurks in our midst, so that we can allow God to heal us and be delivered from all forms of Sin.

  • This weekend, as we encounter the Woman at the Well (Jn. 4), we see Jesus’ power over personal sin. This woman has made bad choices and given herself to false gods, but Jesus has the power to free her. She is released from the shame that has held her in bondage and is free to worship God “in Spirit and in Truth” (Jn. 4:23). We too, can be set free by Jesus.
  • Next weekend we will hear the story of the Man Born Blind (Jn. 9). We hear that we are blinded by Sin. We think we see, but we are blinded by our expectations and prejudices. There is social sin (CCC 1869), which distorts our vision and prevents us from seeing God’s Kingdom breaking in around us. Yet, as he healed the Man born blind, Jesus has the power to heal our blindness and reveal God’s Kingdom in all its glory.
  • Paul tells us “the final enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). In our final scrutiny Gospel, we witness Jesus’ power over this enemy. Jesus’ friend Lazarus has been claimed by death and rots in a tomb, but Jesus brings life which has power over death (Jn. 11).

For these next three weeks, the Gospels expose Sin and we pray, invoking Jesus’ power to free, heal, and conquer death itself. As we approach the great Mystery of Easter, let us turn to Jesus, our source of life.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 3-12-17

“When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them saying, ‘Rise, and do not be afraid.’ And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.”
Mt. 4:11

“We… look upon the transfiguration above all as the celebration of that presence of Christ which takes charge of everything in us and transfigures even that which disturbs us about ourselves. God penetrates those hardened, incredulous, even disquieting regions within us, about which we really do not know what to do. God penetrates them with the life of the Spirit and acts upon those regions and gives them God’s own face.”
Kathryn Spink

Every year, on the second Sunday of lent, we hear the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus. It seems like an odd time to hear this story which so clearly foreshadows the resurrection. Some scholars speculate that we read this story near the beginning of lent to give us the courage to persevere in our lenten discipline.
I have a different theory, at least for this lent as we focus on being forgiven.
Read as a story of forgiveness, the Transfiguration takes on new meaning. Jesus reveals His glory to Peter, James, and John. He also reveals their need for forgiveness. They are confronted with Jesus’ majesty and see how pitiful they are in comparison. They fall short of their calling. Jesus glory confronts them with their sinfulness. They fall prostrate and are overcome by fear. They see their brokenness for what it is. In the light of the Transfiguration, sin is exposed for what it is.
But the story doesn’t end there. After revealing His glory (and the disciple’s sinfulness), Jesus comes to them with the healing words, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” They are forgiven. There is still a long journey of healing and transformation ahead, but Jesus assures them that he will be with them. He is not a judge, but a savior. He does not condemn but forgives.
What is true for Peter, James, and John is also true for us. Jesus brings us face to face with our sin. He does not let us off the hook. The close we come to His glory, the more we realize our need for forgiveness. But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus also assures us that He is our savior, not our judge. He releases us from fear and invites us to continue to follow Him.
We are forgiven. Let’s follow Jesus!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

 

 

 

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 3-5-17

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“At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.”
Mt. 4:11

“The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a ‘delight to the eyes’ and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death.”
CCC 2847

What is the difference between undergoing trial and being tempted?

Trials are different than temptation. Trials happen to us. Trials come upon us. They are beyond our control and affect us from the outside. Trials lead us to depend on our strength. Trials reveal our weakness. Through trials, we develop our character and can become stronger, holier, better people. Trials are endured. “… affliction (trial) produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint… “ (Rm 5:4).

Temptations also happen to us. However, temptation works from the inside. Temptation asks us to consent. It asks us to give our heart over to the temptation. Temptation asks for our cooperation, not merely our endurance. Temptation invites us to sin by freely choosing evil. Temptation makes evil look appealing. Temptation has a moral component to it. It engages our will.

Because God has made us with free will, temptation can be consented to or resisted.Eve and Adam were tempted by the devil, they consented. Jesus was tempted in the desert, he resisted and overcame. We are all tempted when something we know to be wrong or evil appears good. Our minds twist and we justify what we know to be wrong.

The good news of Jesus’ overcoming temptation in the desert is that with Him we can overcome temptation as well. The closer we follow Jesus, the greater our ability to overcome temptation.

When temptation strikes, turn to the Lord. Remember that He has conquered all temptation. Trust that He will get you through. In resisting temptation, by God’s grace, you become free!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 9-15-13

His Father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast…’”

Lk. 15:22-23

In the parable of the lost son (Lk. 15), the father welcomes his younger son back with open arms. This is the son who asked for his inheritance early and left his father behind to pursue his own selfish ends. It is for this son that the father throws a party.

Like the father, Jesus embraces those who have left God behind to pursue their own desires. And that is a great gift to us. We, the church, are like that younger son. Each one of us has chosen to leave God behind in some way. Jesus welcomes us to the divine feast. That’s grace.

But grace doesn’t stop there. The grace of God’s mercy cannot be contained. If celebrating our own salvation becomes all we do, we have turned salvation into another selfish goal. We have owned it and forgotten that it is a gift. It is true that we have been included in the Father’s feast, but God’s mercy flows beyond our selfishness.

Like the servant in the parable, God’s grace empowers us to prepare the feast. When God’s mercy touches a human heart, we, the church, are there to rejoice and celebrate. We aid the repentant sinner and embrace them, showing them a new way of life. That’s grace. But God’s grace doesn’t stop there.

Imagine the end of the parable. The elder son is standing alone while the party continues inside. He hears the joy and laughter but can’t bring himself to go in. Imagine the younger son coming out of the party to embrace him. He and the father listen to him and meet him in the midst of his anger and pain. After hearing him out, they apologize for their own failings and invite him in to share the feast. That’s grace.

God’s grace has been poured into our hearts…. but it doesn’t stop there. It has been given to us to be shared.

Peace,

Lincoln A. Wood

Healing

I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.

And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.

I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self,

And wounds to the soul take a long, long time,

Only time can help,

And patience, and a certain difficult repentance,

Long, difficult repentance, realization of life’s mistake,

And the freeing oneself from the endless repetition of the mistake

Which mankind at large has chosen to sanctify.

“Healing” by D.H. Lawrence

Do we want to live forever?

Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life, because of sin… began to experience teh burden of wretchedness in unremitting labour and unbearable sorrow. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing.”

St. Ambrose, quoted in Spe Salvi (10)