The Flame: January & February 2005

Dear Readers of The Flame,

“The yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed…” (Isaiah 9:3)

These words from Isaiah are not only read at Midnight Mass. They are also the first reading for Third Sunday in Ordinary time, January 24. They prophesy of the victory of Jesus Christ over those things that enslave us. The good news is that Jesus Christ has come to set the captive free!

This message is timely. Many people in our day are enslaved to various things and behaviors. I recently read an article that described the brain’s physiological response to pornography. The article described the brain’s response to pornography as similar to its response to cocaine or heroin. I would venture a similar reaction happens in the brain to the person who becomes addicted to gambling. A person’s brain becomes hardwired to gravitate toward compulsive, addictive, self-destructive and sinful behavior. These things used to be called “vices” because they held and squeezed the life out of them.

Can Jesus Christ set these captives free? I resoundingly say, “Yes!”

However, I would quickly add that their freedom, won at the cost of the blood of Jesus Christ, most often requires some sweat equity. What I mean is this: those burdened by the taskmaster of addiction need to do certain things to live in grace Christ and maintain their freedom. They need to:

1. Really want to be free. If they do not want to really be free, than they need to pray for the desire to really want to be free!!! The light of the Lord will point out how futile, deceitful and crippling sin really is! When we see it, we are much freer to seek out grace!

2. Be willing to be accountable to someone or a group on a regular basis. Part of humility means being completely open to at least one other person who will call us on. A regular confessor can be that person. For many a twelve step group is helpful and necessary.

3. Pray and rely on God. It is only the Lord who can save and empower us to live freely as God’s children.

4. Not only resist the compulsion but reorient their life fruitfully in the Lord. It is not just about getting free. It is about the glory of God! It is about serving Jesus Christ in power of his Holy Spirit.

St. Paul begins the his letter to the Romans by referring to himself as “a slave of Christ Jesus.” (Romans 1:1) He went on to instruct the church in Rome :

Do not let sin reign over your mortal bodies so that you should obey its desires. And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness. For sin shall not have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14)

With St. Paul , we have a new “taskmaster”. His name is Jesus Christ. His yoke is easy and his burden light! (Matthew 11:29, 30) May this New Year finding us offering Him the “members of our bodies” (eyes, ears, hands, feet-every part of us) as weapons for doing what is good and just. It is in consciously serving our Master Jesus Christ that we are free!

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. Bob Franco 

PS: We’re on the road again. See our list of traveling charismatic masses. If your parish is interested in hosting a mass, please call me at 440-934-4227.