Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Sinner and Savior
Separation and Salvation

Father John J. Lombardi

'Our will only becomes free when we enclose it in the will of God'-Bl Elizabeth of the Trinity

Poet Francis Thompson called God the "Hound of Heaven"-because He keeps tracking us down-like a "spiritual blood hound," to save and sanctify us. He is relentless. That's called "Bridging the Gap". Huh? Read on. A couple recently heard a Franciscan priest speak of the need for Catholics to share wealth with, and befriend, the poor: "If you have an extra coat in your house-it belongs to a poor person," the bearded preacher said. The couple went home and began planning for a dozen people to go to Nicaragua--to make housing for the poor. That's called "Bridging the Gap". I suppose there are two kinds of "gaps": between Heaven and Earth and the separation between peoples on earth. So, thus, Our Lord counsels: "Love the Lord with all your heart and…love your neighbor as well" ( Mk. 12:30-31 ). He came to both fill in the Gap between us and Him and teach us to do the same: no separation.

What is God's design for mankind and His Divine Desire? The Bible answers: "For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). Jesus prays to the Heavenly Father, about us: "That the love with which You loved Me may be in them and I in them" (Jn. 17:26). He wants unity. Oneness. Our human will, hopefully, may succumb to first accept God's Will and, more mystically and beautifully, align with His will.

What are the ABC's of Divine Unity? Funny you should ask! A is for Awaken to this Divine Love-get out of your slumber of disunity, ignorance and sin. Jesus says of one soul:" But I am going to awaken him" (Lazarus-Jn. 11;11). B is for Believe in it-in all your thoughts: "Whatever is true… just…holy…think about these things"-(Phil 4:8). C is for Commune with Him, especially thru prayer, but also thru "iconizing" (spiritually imaging) Him in the world to others in service: St Paul exclaims- "Christ will be magnified by my body whether by life or death" (Phil 1:20). Oneness.

This Sunday's Gospel (Lk 19:1-10.) illustrates Emmanuel-"God is with us" (Cf. Is 7:14ff). Zacchaeus, the tax collector (aka chief sinner) "was seeking to see who Jesus was" (Lk. 19:10). In Jewish eyes, Zacchaeus seems the worst outcast because he is a traitor due to his a tax collecting, esp. from Jericho where millions of Jewish pilgrims passed and paid taxes at the time of Passover. This story, then, is "code-illustration" for Mercy, God's Hound-of-Heaven-like-Love: The Lord-God goes out searching for, and saving, the worst-among-us. Luke's Gospel is known as "Gospel of Mercy"-for obvious reasons, like parables including The Lost Sheep and Good Samaritan -cf. Lk. 15; the humble tax collector- penitent-18:9ff; etc) . Some say: at the heart of Christianity is the sinner. Thus: Our Lord comes to "Bridge the Gap"-to bring the lost home, the sinner to the Savior and Salvation to the separated. Salvation literally means healing. What was divided has now become one, whole and unified.

Now, think: Who are the worst sinners in this world (besides ourselves, of course!): -abortionists- esp. those who practice partial birth abortion; terrorists who murder the innocent; rapists; torturers; pornographers and abusers of children; those who hate God; those who have and who do not give to the have-nots (cf. Gal. 5:19ff on serious sins and Hell)…Now, instead of condemning them, pray for them -even frequently. God wants to go right for them-to save and sanctify them, just as He did after Zacchaeus. And, perhaps, He may want you to help save them. How? -I dunno' know, I'm just suggesting-you figure it out. You're a Catholic-we're all responsible for other's salvation (cf. Ez. 18:10ff; 14:10ff). There are plenty of famous sinners who become saintly, including: Bernard Nathanson who murdered 70,000 babies thru abortion, but after conversion into believing that any pre-born is a "life," is now a Pro-Lifer and Catholic…St Margaret of Cortona rebelled against her parents, moved in with a man for ten years, and married him outside the sacramental Church, eventually reformed, joined the Franciscans and led a contemplative and penitential life, thereby attracting many followers…A man who once lived a homosexual lifestyle in actions and has testified about the darkness for other's help, began studying the Bible and is now a Christian minister, leading a compassionate help-group for such seekers... The man who stabbed St Maria Goretti later repented, became a secular Franciscan and, even led a devout life…….Anyway…

One of the main illusions in life is that we can be cut off from God. This is wrong. Until Hell, we can never be completely estranged from Jesus (cf. Rm 8:38 ). There is always a time for repentance, for the Good Shepherd to find us-if we are looking for Him and His Mercy. However, there are, in this life, Degrees of Separation from Him and others. The Bible is one, continuous history of how: 1) Satan attempts to separate souls from God; 2) how the selfish self obstructs Communion with the Lord; and 3) how the sensual world divides spirits from God. But, also, the Bible is also a continual triumphal history of the Soul's Union with God, and to the Kingdom.

So, then, What are the Degrees of Separation?

1. Between Soul and God: our souls are the immortal, Divinely-designed and -created animating principles and spirit-aspects of our lives. Jesus says: "Remain in Me as I remain in you" (Jn. 15: 4), and: "The Kingdom is within you" (Lk. 17:21). Satan, oppositely, has come "to steal, slaughter and destroy" (Jn. 10:10)….So, regarding the Indwelling Trinity and Kingdom, how do you cultivate this beautiful, supernatural reality of God's-esp. within? Or, do you negate or neglect it? Ultimately, this Holy Relationship can only be destroyed by Hell-which is mortal sin infinitized-any evil, willed, conscious choice to irrevocably turn form God (cf. I Jn. 3:9; 5:15). But God "Bridges the Gap" of separation and dis-unity thru Sacraments (His "Spiritual Seals" to us and Church); esp. the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Can you-will you-receive these more frequently and Bridge the metaphysical Gap between God and soul? Remember: Union.

2. Separation of Soul and other souls-we are called to love others-heroically. Cain said to God about Abel: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Gn. 4:10). This is a form of sinful individualism, of separation. Read St James on need for loving our neighbor-- "Faith without works s dead" (Jas. 2:17). We Americans live with a paradox-we are known as "rugged individualists (other western and certainly Eastern societies are much more communitarian, social), and yet Ameirca helps the rest of the ailing world far more continually and consistently than any other country. Now, do you help others-and "Bridge the Gap" between souls? Are you doing more than writing a check? Think: God left His heavenly, celestial, blissful Home! Are you Bridging the Gap-sacrificing-for-union? Read about the Good Samaritan (Lk. 15) and Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy. "It has been thought:

A thought without Action, is merely a state of mind. An awareness without Action is MINDLESS; for what is the gift benefit of awareness without action? We MUST beware of unawareness and act with Prudence; for we may not know the day or the hour before it happens." (Ed Chambers) . Be ready to be judged upon your thoughts and actions!

3. Soul and Souls in Afterlife: this modernist myth-that we live in separate compartments of reality is cutting us off from the Church Triumphant-in Heaven, and the Church Expectant-in Blessed Purgatory. The materialist myth is that there are no alternate spectrums of Reality-such as Blessed Purgatory and Heaven. Only what is visible is believable, the modernist dictates. Unfortunately, some modern Catholics have swallowed this, ot they believe there is no communion between Afterlife and this life.

You may "Bridge the Gap," especially in these Feast Days of All Saints and All Souls…Background on Purgatory and the Mystical Communion-from Fr Tony Kadavil: "1) II Maccabees, 12:46 The passage describes how Judas, the military commander, "took up a collection from all his men, totaling about four pounds of silver and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering" (II Macc. 12: 43). "If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them." 2) St. Paul seems to have shared this traditional Jewish belief when, on the death of his supporter Onesiphorus, he prayed: "May the Lord grant him mercy on that Day" (II Timothy: 1:18). 3) Matthew 12:32 hints at the possibility of sins being forgiven after death, when Jesus refers to the impossibility of forgiveness of sins against the Holy Spirit "in the age to come." St. Augustine and St. Gregory interpret this phrase, "in the age to come," as a reference to purgatory. 4) In I Corinthians 3:15, St. Paul speaks of a "test by fire" after death to prove the worth of our work in this world: "But if your work is burnt up, then you will lose it; but you yourself will be saved, as if you had escaped through the fire." Several of the early Church Fathers considered this a reference to a process of purification after death. 5) The Fathers of the Church also interpret the statement in Zachariah 13:19 as a reference to purgatory: "And I will test the third that survives and will purify them as silver is purified by fire."

Reasons why we honor saints-

They put their trust in Christ and lived heroic lives of faith. St. Paul asks us to serve and honor such noble souls. In his epistles to the Corinthians, to Philip and to Timothy, he advises Christians to welcome, serve and honor those who have put their trust in Jesus. The saints enjoy heavenly bliss as a reward for their faith in Jesus. Hence they deserve our veneration. 2- They are our models. They teach us by their lives that Christ's holy life of love, mercy and unconditional forgiveness can be lived by ordinary people, of all walks of life and at all times.3- They are our heavenly mediators who intercede for us before Jesus, the only mediator between God and us (James: 5/16-18, Exodus: 32/13), (Jer. 15:1, Revel. 8:3-4,).4- They are the instruments that God uses to work miracles at present, just as He used the rod of Moses (Exodus), the bones of the dead (II Kings 13/21), the towel of Paul (Acts: 19/12) and the shadow of Peter (Acts 5/15) to work miracles.St. Augustine accepted this challenge when he asked the question: "If others can become saints, why can't I?" (Si iste et ista, cur non ego?)". (Source: AKadvil@mobis.com) …How will you bridge the Gap between Souls- on Earth or in the After-Life? Pray and Sacrifice.

Another Degree of Separation and false duality is the supposed Wall between religion and Government…Archbishop Charles Chaput , of Denver, wrote in the Oct 22 NYT: "The theologian Karl Barth once said, "To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."

That saying comes to mind as the election approaches and I hear more lectures about how Roman Catholics must not "impose their beliefs on society" or warnings about the need for "the separation of church and state." These are two of the emptiest slogans in current American politics, intended to discourage serious debate. No one in mainstream American politics wants a theocracy. Nor does anyone doubt the importance of morality in public life. Therefore, we should recognize these slogans for what they are: frequently dishonest and ultimately dangerous sound bites."

Your religion should affect your thoughts and voting political issues-just as abolitionists freed slaves. There are five non-"negotiable issues," which are inherently evil and which separate and disunify: abortion and euthanasia, stem cell research on children, cloning and "same-sex unions"- since they are gravely against natural law-what God has written in our hearts. They dis-figure God's intention for human life. They are all forgivable and amendable, too. Pray for conversion-and vote! You can "Bridge the Gap' when voting and form unity and God's just Order.

As Catholic voters, too, we need consider the poor, sick and dying, education and social policies. Vote for life-in all its divinely designed forms and Bridge the Gap. Fold your hands, pray, subvert the world, build unity out of separation. Be a Holy Catholic!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi