Saturday, July 24, 2010

Revolutionary Transformation of the Heart (long version)

In his EWTN homily on July 23, Fr. Frank Pavone talked about the Pro-Life Freedom Ride that would take place the following day. Like the Israelites, we need a revolutionary transformation of the heart.

The readings are first on the video. His homily begins at 4:45. Beginning at 15:40, he talks about the transformation of the heart needed in the Pro-Life Movement. At 16:32 he begins talking about the Freedom Ride.

Below is the longer summary of his homily that includes the readings. I posted this longer and sometimes paraphrased version because it is truly an inspired homily. Direct quotes from his homily are indented and/or in quotes.
1st Reading - Jeremiah 3:14-17 (NAB)

Return, rebellious children, says the LORD, for I am your Master; I will take you, one from a city, two from a clan, and bring you to Zion. I will appoint over you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently. When you multiply and become fruitful in the land, says the LORD, They will in those days no longer say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD!" They will no longer think of it, or remember it, or miss it, or make another. At that time they will call Jerusalem the LORD'S throne; there all nations will be gathered together to honor the name of the LORD at Jerusalem, and they will walk no longer in their hardhearted wickedness.
The prophet Jeremiah, preaching six centuries before Jesus, echoes God's great invitation to Israel - an urgent call - to return to Him. Jeremiah says,
Return, rebellious children.
The word "return" was the word Jeremiah used to describe repentance. He told the people of God, that because of the wickedness of their hearts, the Babylonians would invade their land, destroy the holy city Jerusalem and the Temple, and take them into exile. Not only that, it would be useless to fight the Babylonians because it was the hand of God.

Jeremiah was also calling the people to return now - to cease from their wicked ways NOW. To Jeremiah, the problem was not some military failure or political adversary or economic depression. The problem was the spiritual and moral decay of the people who were not keeping the covenant. The problem was a matter of the heart.
Return, rebellious children.
He was telling the people of God, "You have rebelled. That's why you have the problems you have." In chapter 17 of Jeremiah, we hear him say, 
More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?
"How on earth do we explain the wicked, crooked, absurd, topsy-turvy, up-side-down meanderings of even our own hearts? Even we who are here at the altar, who believe in the Lord, who repent every day of our sins - even we find ourselves confused and frustrated at the directions our own hearts take." 
More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?
And yet Jeremiah says there is hope. Although they would be scattered off the land, they would return. Coming back to the land was a key symbol of God's favor. And when they returned, God would gather ALL nations together in Jerusalem. Then Jeremiah says something incredible. He says, 
In those days, they will no longer say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD!" They will no longer think of it, or remember it, or miss it, or make another.
"Now we don't appreciate how profound those words are. Do you know what  it would be like  - somebody saying to us, "The day is going to come when you won't even think of the tabernacle. You won't think of the Mass. You won't think of it. You won't remember it. You won't miss it. You won't make another." We would say, "What in the world are you talking about?"
The Ark of the Covenant was a chest made of acacia wood and covered with gold, inside and out. And in the Ark were kept three sacred objects  - all miraculous signs of God's Presence and Providence
  1. the stone tablets of the law (the 10 Commandments)
  2. a jar of manna (a sign of Divine Providence to the Israelites on their desert journey)
  3. the rod of Aaron that had budded forth (a sign of authority)
And on the top of the Ark was a slab of gold and two golden cherubim. This was considered the throne of God on earth very much like our Tabernacle. Jesus is here in the Tabernacle. This is the dwelling place of God on earth - His throne.

There are numerous stories in the Old Testament about the Ark. When the Israelites fought at Jericho, they took the ark of the covenant with them in order to show the enemy the presence of their God whose power was mightier that all other gods.  
"When God's people had to go into battle, they didn't just bring their armies and their weapons, they brought the Ark. . . . The Ark of God, in other words, represented God's Power, His Presence, His very throne, His Providence. So how in the world is Jeremiah saying,
In those days, they will no longer say, "The ark of the covenant of the LORD!" They will no longer think of it, remember it, or miss it, or make another.  
"It can only be because something far more awesome, profound and powerful will have taken place. And what is it? The very throne of God will be their hearts. God will so take possession of their hearts, which as Jeremiah proclaims are more tortuous, mysterious, deceitful than anything else. God will take possession of their hearts. He will draw them together. The people themselves, gathered in the holy city ,will experience the presence of God more intimately, more directly, more profoundly than ever before so that it's not just a matter of these external things - as sacred and holy as they are. The prophets aren't saying do away with all external things. . . . The prophets aren't saying the external things don't matter. They are saying there is an internal transformation matters so much more . . . that it is even going to make things like this memories of the past.

"Now even in our faith we say something similar about the sacraments. You know that beautiful him that we sing, "Oh Lord, at That First Eucharist", . . .
So Lord, at length, when Sacraments shall cease,
May we be one with all Thy Church above -
One with Thy Saints in one unending peace,
One with Thy Saints in one unbounded Love.
"When Sacraments shall cease."

"When we're gathered together in heaven and we see God face to face, we won't need the tabernacle. We won't need Him hidden under the veil  - under the appearance of bread and wine! We won't need that any more. We're gonna see him face to face! His Name, the book of Revelation says, will be written on our foreheads. We're going to see God's face then. We're going to sit with him ON his throne. We won't need the ark. We won't need the tabernacle. We won't need the altar. We're going to sit with Him on His throne!

"There's only one way to get there. The heart has to be completely revolutionized and transformed. That's what the Gospel passage is talking about isn't it? Seed has been sewn in your hearts. Seed is being sewn in your hearts right now because the word is being preached to you. Seed is being sewn in your hearts by the Church and her ministries every day."
Gospel - Matthew 13:18-23 (NAB)

Hear then the parable of the sower. The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart.  The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirty-fold." 
"Is it going to be on rocky ground? Is it going to fall among thorns? Are we going to let anxieties and fears choke it out? Are we going to be selfish and not let the Word grow? Are we going to be refusing to change? OR are we gonna welcome the Word with joy, understand it, ask for the Grace of the Holy Spirit to absorb it and live it out now matter what sacrifice it takes?

"Transformation of the heart!"

Fr. Pavone also talked about the reason for his being in Birmingham, Alabama this weekend. Saturday, the pastoral team of Priests for Life were going with him for the Pro-Life Freedom Rides. It is a historic moment for the Pro-Life Movement just as the Freedoms Rides of the 1960s were important for the Civil Rights Movement. The movement ties in beautifully with the readings because it is what we are about. This country is called to a revolutionary transformation of the human heart. We have to accept the Word of God in order to bear fruit in life.

Prior to the civil rights movement, state law said that rights for Blacks and Whites were separate but equal. In 1955, a federal law was passed that said "separate but equal" did not apply to interstate travel and that both Blacks and Whites were allowed on the same buses, in the same restaurants, etc., . . . But for 5 years, the law was not enforced.

So in 1961, 13 people decided to test the law. They personally and directly challenged, in the Freedom Rides, the states' refusal to enforce the Supreme Court decision to desegregate interstate travel. They knew that   
if you separate the equal, you deny their equality. And this is what Civil Rights Movement rose up and said, . . . If we are equal, we are to be together. You treat people equally if they are equal. You don't separate them and segregate them as if one group has a disease that the other one doesn't want to catch. . . . They were talking about personally confronting the injustice. They realized it's not enough for a court to rule. It's not enough for a commission to issue a decree. What has to happen?" 
More tortuous than all else is the human heart - beyond remedy. Who can understand it? 
Continuing segregation would not change "separate but equal" into "equal." Continuing segregation was only continuing the deceitful and devious and evil ways of the human heart.
"It wasn't enough that a court had ruled. Evil still had to be purged from the heart. The only solution was to confront the injustice directly, . . . And they encountered all kinds of opposition along the way.  . . .  Why? It wasn't enough that a court had ruled. It wasn't enough. The evil still had to be purged from the heart and the only way it could be purged was when people were willing to accept the suffering that comes when you confront injustice. . . . they sang freedom songs . . . they refused to stop singing their freedom songs because those freedom songs weren't coming from a court. They were coming from the heart - hearts that had been transformed by God, and captured by the kingdom - hearts where good seed fell and fruit was being born. . . . They kept singing. . . And they kept singing. . . .They kept singing because there's a power greater than the law. . . It's the transformed human heart captured by the Word of God - and singing songs - of freedom.

"We're 50 years later. Now we don't have "separate but equal". we have something worse. We have separate and NOT equal. . . . the youngest members of the human family aren't even considered equal to the rest of us, aren't even considered to be persons, aren't even considered to deserve the protection of their life. . . . the law is slowly but surely moving in our direction. There is a law in effect in some states now that says the abortionist has to actually tell the women that the procedure destroys a whole, separate, unique, living, human being.  They have to use those exact words. That's progress, but it's not enough. We talk about the transformation of the human heart. We're not saying we don't have to change the laws. That would be a big mistake, because transformed hearts lead to transformed laws. We're not saying that we don't need good court decisions. We do. What we are saying is, it's time to ride for freedom - again. Because the human heart and the human person - each of us, individually, has to confront the injustice directly - has to stand with our unborn brothers and sisters - speak for them no matter what the opposition, no matter what the ridicule, no matter what the cost, no matter what the sacrifice.  . . . And if we think we're going to change laws and policies and eradicate this injustice - and be able to do so comfortably - think again! There is only one way out of this evil and that's for us to suffer.  You don't want to accept rejection ?. You don't want to accept persecution? You're not going to be part of the solution. Let's ride for freedom . . . It's a matter of the heart."
Return, rebellious children

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