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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Allah the Fatherless Creator has no Son Amongst Men

Gossip about the Prophet
Forms the Basis of the Quran

by Lawrence Fox

Mohammad is not your father, neither is Allah. Within the Quran there exists the recital, “Mohammad is not the father of any man among you.” (Surah 33: 40) What does this have to do with Divine Revelation and the life of Muslims? Like most verses in the Quran, it has very little context apart from the life of Mohammad as found within Islamic Tradition, according to Christian convert from Islam Mark Gabriel PhD., Jesus and Mohammad, Profound Differences and Surprising Similarities. (p.221) 

Without context, the passage seems benign and yet it touches upon lust for another man’s wife, the nature of marriage, divorce, polygamy, and the fact that Allah has divinely nullified human adoption. That’s right, the Muslim god has said there is no adoption. If you take orphans into your home, do not give them your name. They do not have the inherited right of son or daughter. 

This is a catastrophe of epic proportions for all of humankind’s relationship with God as Father. For Islam — with 1.6 billion adherents —  is the second largest religion in the world. Without God as Our Father, man devolves into practical agnosticism because there is no relationship in
religious practice. Instead religious practice is oriented to oneself and not to God, who is our Creator and final end.

Allah’s decree that Mohammad has no son (natural or adopted) has ethical and theological consequences. Developed monotheism focuses on character development, but Allah promotes both divorce and polygamy. Let us also  look at passages in the Quran where Mohammad has no son (Surah 33: 40) and where Allah has no son. (Surah 2:110) Allah’s negation of human adoption seals the deal on the manner in which Muslims relate to Allah in the Quran. Allah cannot be worshipped as father by creation nor by divine adoption. So why is Mohammad not the father of any man? Let us dig through the gossip, which is the religion of Islam.
  
Context is Everything. Mohammad desired to marry the beautiful wife of his adopted son, Zaid, according to Gabriel (pp. 178-9) and Counter-Jihad specialist Robert Spencer (The Truth about Muhammad, Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, pp. 59-60). There are problems with such desires even in the desert of Arabia. 

In order for Mohammad to marry the wife of his adopted son, three things must be revealed and resolved: 1) Mohammad’s adopted son must divorce his wife, 2) Allah must not recognise human adoption, and 3) Allah must reveal from all eternity he willed that Mohammad marry Zaynab, the wife of his adopted son Zaid.

 Allah tells Muslims, “Forbidden to you are married women, except those who are in your hands as slaves.” (Surah 4: 28) It should be clear here that married Muslim men are granted
permission by Allah to take possession of enslaved married women. But Zaid’s wife is not enslaved by Mohammad, although Zaid was a freed slave. (Spencer p. 59) However, as an adopted son, Zaid’s status is tenuous. 

Moses on Mount Sinai revealed to the people of Israel the command, “You shall not commit adultery” and “You shall not
covet your neighbor’s wife.” (Ex. 20:1-17; Deut. 5:1-22) Zaid is as close to the Judaeo-Christian concept of  neighbour as one can get. Yet Mohammad is coveting his neighbour’s wife.  

When the children of Israel are ready to enter the promised land, the Lord God warns the people, a King “must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” (Deut. 17:17) The message is clear. Multiple wives demean the institution of marriage and lead to idolatry. But what about adultery?

In the Quran, the spoils of jihad redefine adultery. According to Allah, woman captured as slaves can be used for sex amongst married Muslim men. Five centuries earlier, Jesus of Nazareth said bluntly,“But I tell you that
anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28) One can overcome one’s desire by practicing virtue, OR one can  manipulate his circumstances to get what he wants. Adultery is only one problem; Mohammad faced another challenge, incest. 

This following passage was inserted into the Quran after Mohammad’s indiscretion. It strictly limited the definition of son to one’s biological children: “Forbidden to you are your mothers, and your daughters, and your sisters...your step-daughters, and the wives of your sons who proceed out of your loins.” (Surah 4: 27) This whitewashed Mohammad’s behavior toward his adopted son’s wife. 

Take the Wife of Your Adopted Sons. This is the revision of the Quran. Zaid was a free slave. His original name was Zaid bin Harithah and with adoption he became Zaid bin Mohammad. Zaid had a beautiful, but older wife named Zaynab bint Jahsh, who married against her will in order to show equality among Muslims. She was of the noble class while Zaid was the son of a slave adopted by Mohammad. (Gabriel pp. 178-9, Spencer pp. 59-60)

By Islamic tradition, Zaynab was not pleased with the arrangement and had to be reminded by Allah, “It is not for a believer, man or woman to have any choice in their affairs, when Allah and his prophet have decreed a matter and whoever disobeys Allah and his apostle (Mohammad), sins with palpable error.” (Surah 33: 36) So, according to the Quran, both Allah and Mohammad decreed the marriage between Zaynab and Zaid, and Zaynab should have quietly submitted herself to the arrangement. But Allah and his revelations change when the Prophet no longer wants to be bound by it.

Islamic tradition states that one day Mohammad went to the shelter of Zaid only to encounter Zaynab alone. (Gabriel p.179, Spencer pp. 59,60)
She invited him in and he left in haste muttering, “Praise be the one who changes the hearts and sights.” 

That was not a good sign. As a result of this encounter, Mohammad now has a torn heart. Surah 33:4 states, “Allah has not given a man two hearts within him....” Mohammad wants Zaynab, but she is married to his adopted son. He quickly runs back to his own shelter with these thoughts.

Mohammad’s demeanour towards Zaynab changed. It was no longer father and daughter-in-law. It is argued by Islamic Scholars that Mohammad’s desires were noble. Yet, the Quran reminds Mohammad, “It is not permitted for you to take other wives hereafter, nor to change the present wives for other women, though their beauty charm thee, except slaves whom your right hand shall possess.” (Surah 33:53) Mohammad’s attitude toward women matched those of King Solomon, “But king Solomon loved many strange women…" (1 King 11:1) (Note: Before Mohammad died, he had 11 wives at one time.) So what was Zaid’s response to these events?

Some traditions suggest that Zaid was not happy with the marriage; others suggest that Zaid continued to love his wife. (Gabriel p.179, Spencer p. 60) My opinion is that Zaid was simply dedicated to Mohammad and was grateful to have a
beautiful wife. The argument that Zaid did not love his wife is meant to protect the prophet.

A movie made in 1985 about King David shows Uriah the Hittite as cruel towards his wife Bathsheba with whom David has an affair. The purpose of this bit of fiction is to whitewash King David’s adultery, making it look like he was rescuing her. 

King David’s adulterous affair and his orchestrating the death of Uriah in battle is history; the cruelty of Uriah is revisionist history. Uriah was greatly dedicated to his King and the cause of Israel. Such dedication actually caused his death. (2 Sam. 11:5-27) Zaid’s story is no less tragic. He is dedicated to Mohammad and Islam. Within three years after Mohammed marries his wife, Zaid dies in battle for the cause of Islam. It is my judgement that Mohammed orchestrated Zaid’s death, just as King David orchestrated his loyal soldier’s death so he could have his wife. 

What is Zaynab’s role in this matter? She recognised Mohammed’s desire for her, and related the encounter to her husband. Was Zaynab scheming to move up the ladder? Was Mohammad scheming to move into Zaid’s bedroom?  “They plotted and Allah plotted...Allah is a plotter.”(Surah 8:30) Islamic tradition says that Zaynab’s attitude toward her husband grew colder after she realised that that Mohammad desired her. A similar exchange can be found in the Book of Genesis, “So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt.” (Gen. 16:4) 

We cannot ignore the fact that Mohammad was already in his 50s and married to six-year-old Aisha and six other women when these events unfold. Mohammad’s first wife Kadija, who was 20 years older than himself, had passed away leaving Mohammad with one living daughter named Fatima. By giving his adopted son, Zaid, an older women, he recreated the events of his own life. It appears that Mohammad did not care so much about Islamic equality, but acted out of a psychological problem. Zaid died without issue. (Gabriel p. 177) 

Again, Islamic tradition records that Zaynab -- after the encounter with Mohammad -- increasingly mistreated Zaid. As a result of dealing with an agitated wife, Zaid proposed to Mohammad that he would divorce her. Mohammad told Zaid to keep his wife saying, “Keep your wife to yourself and fear Allah.” (Surah 33:37) Mohammad wanted Zaynab but feared displaying such an attitude among his followers lest they say, “Did you hear Mohammad desires the wife of his adopted son?” 

According to the Quran, it was Mohammad who should have feared Allah and not the opinions of men, “And you did fear man; but more right had it been to fear Allah.” (Surah 33:37) Finally after the divorce, Mohammad instructed Zaid to tell Zaynab that he wanted to marry her. Zaynab wanted the prophet to tell her directly and not through her ex-husband, whom she still regarded as a slave. Was Mohammad willing to throw his adopted son Zaid aside in order to possess Zaynab? Zaid was indeed stripped of his filial relationship with Mohammed.

The Quran recounts the event as follows, “and remember when you (Mohammad) said to him (Zaid) -- unto whom Allah has shown favour and to thou also have shown favour -- ‘Keep thy wife to thyself and fear Allah’ and though you did hide in your mind (the desire to have the wife of his adopted son) what Allah would bring to light and thou didst fear man (wondering about the scandal marrying the wife of his adopted son); but more right had it been to fear Allah.” (Surah 33: 38,39) 

The recital suggests several things: 1) Mohammad clearly desired Zaynab before her divorce,  2) Mohammad clearly worried about the stigma marrying the divorced wife of his son, and 3) What about Mohammad’s adoptive son? How would he take his change of status?

Zaid divorced his wife and Mohammad ponders the matter, and Allah reveals, “Allah has not given a man two hearts within him . . . nor has he made your adopted sons to be as your own sons.” (Surah 33:4) Mohammad was now free (by divine revelation) from all accusations since he was never a father to Zaid, and this marriage was planned from all eternity. 

Zaid was not Mohammad’s carnal son but he was clearly known as “my son” and Zaynab was clearly known as “my daughter by marriage” amongst the various Arabic people. Allah rectified the situation by telling Mohammad he never had a son; that adoption was simply a non-binding human contract just like the institution of marriage. Did this convince all of Mohammad’s followers? Probably not the ones who lingered lustfully around his shelter on the day of Mohammad’s wedding to Zaynab. (Surah 33:53)

Poor Adoption A reasonable person would wonder how Zaid felt about the whole ordeal. No doubt he struggled (little jihad) for three years knowing his ex-adoptive father was having sex with his former wife, whom he still loved. He struggled realising he was no longer Zaid son of Mohammad, but again Zaid bin Harithah (the son of a slave). Zaid like a good Muslim turned his internal struggle to good use by embarking upon military struggle (big jihad) and dying for the cause of Mohammad on the battle field three years later. 

But what does this has to do with human adoption? As a result of recitals Surah 33:4 and 33:37, Islamic Scholars argue that it is forbidden by Islamic law to adopt a child (take the child as one’s own and give the child the family name and right to family inheritance), but permissible to take care of another child without family privileges. Islamic jurisprudence still argues that adoption -- as practiced by the Arabs in the days of Mohammad -- was rooted in Pre-Islamic ignorance. Allah removed this ignorance during the  life of Mohammad. Only Islam identifies a father giving his name to an orphan as an act of ignorance. This contradicts not only Arabic, but human history. 

Adoption in Secular History. In Europe and Western Society, adoption was framed by the Roman Empire and Christianity. Augustus Caesar was the adopted son of Julius Caesar. When the Roman Senate crowned Julius with divine
status (posthumously), Augustus identified himself as being “son of god.” The Roman Empire was forever changed as a result of adoption. No Roman citizen ever questioned the dignity of Augustus’ adoption; it was strong enough to make a man emperor. 

Adoption is mentioned in the Code of Laws of Hammurabi (1745 BC), “If the wife bears sons to a man or his maidservant have born sons and the father while still living says, “my sons” and he counts them with the sons of his wife; if then the father dies, then the sons of the wife and of the maiden shall divide the paternal property in common.” (Hammurabi’s Code of Laws, translated by L.W.King, #170) Notice the strength of the words “my sons.” Even when the father dies, the dignity of adoption remains. It should also be noted from this context, that all it takes for a man to become an adoptive father is to say, “my son.” This was the custom of the people in Arabia prior to Islam. 

No doubt in history, human adoption was changed, promoted, and sometimes discouraged due to economic, cultural, demographic conditions. Be that as it may, Christianity viewed human adoption as an expression of the mind of God, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn. 3:2) But there are theological reasons for Mohammed’s god dismissing adoption. It creates a break with Jewish and Christian history.

Adoption in Sacred History. Adoption is an integral part of Salvation History. Judaism identifies God as Father and Israel as His adopted family. God is identified as husband of Israel at least 26 times in the Old Testament.  
God remembers his covenant with Israel when He brought her out of Egypt: “My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 31:32) This is the manner in which God spoke to his people through the prophets and psalmists.

Christianity identifies God as Father and the Church as His adopted family in Christ Jesus. Christianity also identifies Jesus as husband and the Church as His bride, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’”(Rev. 22:17) Such imagery reveals God’s familial relationship with men. He is Father and Husband.

In the Old Testament, Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were adopted by their grandfather Jacob as his own, giving them full inheritance with their uncles. “Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine. Any children born to you after them will be yours; in the territory they inherit they will be reckoned under the names of their brothers.” (Gen. 48-1-22) 

Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter; which is fortunate for the life of Israel. (Ex. 2:10) In the New Testament, Joseph — by taking Mary as his wife — adopts Jesus as his son, “Is this not the son of the carpenter? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” (Matt. 13:55, Mk. 6:3) and again, "Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?" (Jn. 6:42) In the Old Testament, the people of Israel are
identified as firstborn, children, son, and family of God. A person reading the infancy narratives of Jesus and the words of Allah captured in the Quran “nor has he (Allah) made your adopted sons to be as your own sons,” (Surah 33: 4) realises that Islam is not a continuation of Judaism nor Christianity. In fact it is a complete break from salvation history. 
  
Israel was identified by God as His firstborn son by adoption, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn.’” (Ex. 4:22) and again “You are the sons of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave your forehead for the sake of the dead.” (Deut. 14:1) Moses identifies God as Father when speaking to his people, “Do you thus repay the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your father who has brought you forth? He has made you and established you.” (Deut. 32:6)

 The Fatherhood of God is reiterated through the Prophet Hosea, “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.” (Hosea 11:1) and again through the Prophet Jeremiah, "Then I said, 'How I would set you among My sons And give you a pleasant land, The most beautiful inheritance of the nations!' And I said, 'You shall call Me, My Father, And not turn away from following Me.’” (Jer. 3:19) The people of Israel are children of God by adoption. God uses the practice of human adoption to describe His relationship with His creation.

Finally, in the book of Esther, the young woman of the same name is adopted by her uncle Mordecai. Esther plays a pivotal role in the safety of the people of Judah, showing the good fruit of the practice of adoption. (Esther 2:7)

We are Children of God by Adoption.  In the Christian Epistles, the baptised are identified as adopted sons and daughters of God, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Rom. 8:15) Jesus taught his disciples to address God as “Abba” (Daddy), "This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”(Matt. 6:9)
and again “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
(Matt. 6:6) and again "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9) and finally “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) 

The various recitals given by Allah in the Quran negate advances in secular and sacred history in relation to the dignity of adoption and marriage. The Quran seeks to distance God from man as much as possible. A Muslim does not know the opening lines of Genesis, “Let us make man in our own image and likeness.” (Gen.1:26) The promotion of divorce, polygamy, adultery, sexual slavery, and removal of adoption all represent a monotheism heading in the wrong direction.

When Jeroboam was made king of the 10 tribes of Northern Israel, he thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.” (1 Kg. 12:27)

And so he built temples to other gods so that the people would not turn towards 
Jerusalem. It is my contention the Mohammad through the Quran does something similar to prevent Muslims from reuniting with Jerusalem. Marriage and adoption cut too close to Judaism and Christianity.

Allah the Fatherless has no Son Amongst Men. The recital, “Mohammad is not the father of any man among you,” (Surah 33: 40) parallels a plethora of recitals which emphasise that Allah is a fatherless creator, “And they say, ‘God has a son,’ No! Praise be to Him. But His, whatever is in the Heavens and the Earth! All obey him.” (Surah 2:110) again, “In their ignorance they have falsely ascribe to him (Allah) sons and daughters . . . .” (Surah 6:100) and again “It seems not so that Allah beget a son.” (Surah 19:36) and finally, “They ascribe a son to Allah (God of Mercy), when it seems not that the God of Mercy beget a son.” (Surah 19: 92) This tone is not coincidental; there are emotional connections between Mohammad not knowing his own father, not giving  birth to sons, and Allah being a fatherless deity. 

The Quran is not simply arguing that Allah has no consort in order to sire a child (as in the case of the semitic Allah who sired three daughters Al-Lat, Al-Uzzah, Al-Manat). The Quran is arguing that Allah is not a father in opposition to what is revealed in Jewish and Christian sacred texts. 

It is a Carnal Revelation. The Quran understands the terms “begets, begotten, and son” only in a carnal sense. When Mohammad hears Christians saying, “Jesus is the only begotten son of God,” he thinks carnally. No doubt Mohammad’s contact with Gnostic Christians, Jews, and Ebionite Christians fostered this prejudicial understanding within the Quran. When Mohammad hears Jews identifying themselves “as children of God,” he thinks carnally. Christians identifying themselves “as children of God” by adoption must also be something carnal. Allah doesn’t sex, hence he has no son.

Mohammad who sires only female children through multiple wives and slave women publishes the recital, “Had Allah desired to have a son, he would have surely chosen what he pleased out of his own Creation.” (Surah 39:6) and again, “And He (Allah) ...has taken no spouse neither has any offspring.” (Surah 72: 3) Mohammed is not a father to a son, so he can’t see Allah being a father.

Allah Mirrors Mohammed’s own Insecurities. Allah is not able to be a father figure to Mohammad, who never really knew his own father as a little child. Mohammad’s father died when Mohammad was about two years of age. (Gabriel p.35-38), leaving a wound that made fatherhood unpalatable. He was shuttled around with his mother between several families. Allah was not a father figure to Mohammad but a master. Nothing could be further apart then the manner in which Mohammad approached Allah versus the manner in which Jesus approached His Heavenly Father. “I always do what pleases Him,” (Jn 8:29) and again, “Now, Father, give me glory in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world existed.” (Jn.17:5)  When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray Jesus responded, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven....’” (Matt 6: 8-10) There does no “Our Father” recital in the Quran. The religion is empty of fatherhood.

The Fatherless Faith and Idolatry. While pondering Mohammad’s situation, I was struck by the divergent confessions revealed in the New Testament and what is found in the Quran. Christianity teaches, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son -- born of Mary -- that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16 with slight adaptation) The Islamic Profession of Faith is simply, “Allah is Allah and Mohammad is his prophet.” The Muslim’s entrance into paradise is a profession of faith in Allah and Mohammad. Mohammad replaces Allah as the visible father amongst the people. 

The Quran has little context apart from the life of Muhammad. Like the Ring of Power in Tolkien’s trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings,” Muhammad and the Quran are essentially “one substance” as observed by the Islamic profession of faith, “Only Allah is Allah and Mohammad is his Prophet.”  Since the word Allah means god -- without any other qualification -- then the profession of Islamic faith consists of one saying, “Only god is god and Mohammad is his prophet.” It a confession which reveals fundamentally nothing about god and everything about Mohammad, “If you obey Allah and his apostle (Mohammad), he will not deny you the reward of your labours.” (Surah 49:14) and again, “It is not for a believer, man or woman, to have any choice in their affairs, when Allah and his prophet have decreed a matter and whoever disobeys Allah and his apostle (Mohammad), sins with palpable error. (Surah 33: 36) and finally, “You must not trouble the apostle of Allah, nor marry his wives after him for ever. This would be a grave offence with Allah.” (Surah 33: 53) 

While Allah was willing to get rid of the wives of the prophet, (Surah 33:28; 65:1, & 66:1,5), but the idea that another man would marry one of the wives of Mohammad after his death is a grave offence. To marry one of them after Mohammad’s death would prevent a Muslim from going to  paradise. The reasons for this recital are 1) To insure a male son is not conceived through his wives, 2) to enshrine Mohammad with divine status.

In the Quran, eternal paradise is dependent upon fidelity to Mohammad, more so then knowing the essential nature of “god.” In fact in Islam, like other unitarian movements, the essence of god cannot be known. What can be known is the essence of Mohammad and the recitals which come from him — unadulterated and dictated. 

Recitals of the Quran, which are binding upon Muslims, are essentially unknowable without the “revelation of Mohammad’s life.” The profession of faith, “god is god” reveals nothing. Divine revelation in the Quran is Mohammad; the Quran is patently idolatrous. The notion that Mohammad is the perfect man is idolatry. Islam’s jihad against idolatry is actually a jihad against itself. The words of Jesus to the Pharisees seem most appropriate, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” (Matt. 7:5, Lk. 6:42)

Let us question the foundation of Islam. “Mohammad is not the father of any man among you.” (Surah 33: 40) Sadly, this recital has only human origins.  Islam’s prophet desired the wife of his adopted son. He had to change the “revelation” of Islam to get her.  The circumstances leading up to this recital as well as the catastrophic theological consequences within Islam and Islamic Societies should not be overlooked. If the law was changed so that Mohammad could marry the wife of his adopted son, then is not the foundation of Islam itself built on sand?



Sources
Dawood, N. J. Quran Translation from Arabic and Notes, 4th Revised Edition. New York, New York: Penguin Classics Book Ltd. 1974.

Gabriel, Mark, A. PhD., Jesus and Mohammad, Profound Differences and Surprising Similarities. Lake Mary Florida: Front Line Charisma Media/
Charisma House Book Group, 2004.

Rodwell, J.M. Translation of the Quran from Arabic. London: Phoenix Publishing, republished 1994.

Spencer, Robert, The Truth about Muhammad, Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, Washington DC.: Regnery Publishing Salem Communication Co. 2006.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

JOB: The Message of Perseverance

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Feb 4, 2018
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

In today’s first reading (Job 7:1-4), Job, a Jew before the coming of Christ, was very devoted to God. Scriptures tell us Job was
“blameless and upright,” one who “revered God and avoided evil.” In his righteousness, Job was very blessed. He had seven sons and three
daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred asses; and he had many servants, so that he was the richest man among all the peoples of the East.

Yet, God takes everything away and allows Job to encounter many trials. But Job never gives up. And God again blesses Him. God gives back to Job, twice as much as he had before.

My brothers and sisters, this message of
Fr. John Paul Shea
perseverance that we hear in today’s first reading is this same message of perseverance that we receive through our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, in Christ we are blessed in the end not simply with earthy blessings, but we are blessed with the gift of eternal life.

As we reflect on the story of Job in today’s first reading, let us be inspired to persevere in our faith.

We live in a fallen world. We hear of this fallen world in today’s Gospel (Mark 1:29-39) as Our Lord is surrounded by the effects of sin. Scores of people push against Jesus. They are possessed or they want to be healed. Jesus knew that sickness was not part of His Father's plan. These people were suffering the result of man choosing death over life, choosing to push God aside in favor of the material world. Maybe they were innocent as individuals, but they all suffered from mankind's guilt.

Yet, this is why Our Lord Jesus has come into our world to free us from the power of death that has taken hold of this world.

In fact, the greatest example we have of perseverance is the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Although He is the Son of God, He chose to come into our world as a slave.
Although He could perform miracles, He did not perform a miracle to get Himself off of the cross. No. Our Lord persevered in His suffering, obedient unto death. We must follow His example.

Our Lord Jesus teaches us that we too must carry our cross if we want to enter into heaven.

Perhaps our modern-day Job is someone who is having difficulty controlling his or her diabetes. And, horror of horrors, he or she loses a foot to the disease. And when things start looking brighter with a prosthetic that works, the eyesight fails. Then cancer is found and chemotherapy compounds the woes. Yet in the midst of all of this, he or she remains steadfast and strong in faith.

Perhaps our modern-day Job is one is struggling from an addiction such as pornography. He or she takes time out each day to pray. Yet, it is a battle. The person feels shame and guilt, goes to confession regularly but he is tired of confessing
the same sin. Yet, the person does not give up. The person humbles himself continually vowing to God to do his or her part.

It is this sort of perseverance that God is asking of each of us in our struggles, brothers and sisters. Yet, it is our perseverance that brings us healing.

In today’s Responsorial Psalm we hear the words,
“Praise the Lord, who heals the broken hearted.” Didn't God heal Job when he was brokenhearted? Didn't God send His Son into the world to heal broken-hearted mankind?
Isn't it good to know that Jesus is the savior who does not give up, who heals us when we ask him, who takes our part when it seems no one else is?

My brothers and sisters, the truth is that each one of us is broken. Each one of us is fragmented. Each one of us needs to be healed. Therefore, let us continually come to Jesus Christ. Let us trust that He will help us because He will! We just need to persevere. For we do not have a Lord
"who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and favor and to find help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15, 16). Amen.



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Christ's Authority: Even Impure Spirits Obey Him

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jan. 28, 2018
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ


The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching--and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him." (Mark 1:27)

In today’s Gospel (Mark 1:21-28) Our Lord Jesus is right in the heart of his ministry on earth. He goes to Capernaum on
a Sabbath and heals a man who is possessed by an unclean spirit. The demons are afraid of the power of Our Lord as the unclean spirit cries out,
"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!" Jesus drives the demon out of the man, and the people are amazed!

My brothers and sisters, as we reflect on today’s Gospel passage, let us have confidence in Our Lord Jesus Christ. He has all power and authority, and He is coming again soon to establish His kingdom on earth. Until then, we need to stay close to the faith which we have received because we are in a spiritual battle.

As Catholics, we have been given many tools to stay strong in our faith so that we can face the demons in our own lives with confidence. One way for us to be strengthened in our faith is through prayer. In fact, when Jesus drives
out the unclean spirit, He says only one word,
“Quiet!” It is this same word, “Quiet,” that our Lord says when He calms the storm at sea later in the Gospel of Mark 4:35-41. Our Lord is asleep in the boat and the disciples are terrified because of the wind and rain. But He wakes up and says, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind  ceases and there is a great calm.

When we are being battered by discouragement, we need to pray. We need to take quiet time with our Lord. In fact, we should not simply pray when we feel
we are being attacked, 
but we need to pray unceasingly because prayer keeps us on the right path. 

Even if we don’t feel we get anything out of prayer, we do. What is most important for prayer is a humble and contrite heart. Our Lord teaches us that we don’t need to say a lot of words. Our Father knows what we need. Our Lord simply wants our heart. He wants us to place ourselves in His care in faith.

In fact, many years ago before I was Catholic I had gone through my own personal
Fr. John Paul Shea
struggles. During this time I simply and sincerely began to pray, “God help me to know what to do with my life.” That’s all I prayed, pretty much, and God did the rest. At that time when I prayed those words I would have never imagined that I would be standing here as a priest today!

One of the most important prayers we have as Catholics to protect us is the Holy Rosary, which has great power against evil. For example, Our Blessed Mother gave the Rosary to Saint Dominic in the 1200s. He had been preaching against a group of heretics known as the Albigensians who were wreaking havoc on the Church. Legend
teaches us that Dominic was having no success in preaching against the heresy until Our Lady  appeared to him and told him to pray the  Rosary and to tell others to do so. After Dominic obeyed and preached the Holy Rosary, he was able to defeat the heresy.

Our Blessed Mother has been stressing the need to pray the Rosary in more recent times because satan and his fallen angels are very active in the modern era -- with the permission of men.  At Fatima, Our Blessed Mother encouraged the children to pray the Rosary every day for peace.

Pope Saint Leo XIII gave us the the Prayer to Saint Michael after he apparently had a vision of God and satan conversing. 
He was warned that there would be an increase in spiritual warfare over the coming 100 years -- the 20th century.

The devil is real and he is influencing many people in our world today. Do not be afraid. We have a Saviour,  Our Lord Jesus Christ! He has all authority over unclean spirits. In these evil times, let us have complete confidence in the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ!

In the Catholic Church,  we have the holy Sacraments, which are instruments of God’s grace. The devil trembles at the Holy Sacrament of confession! Let us use it often in humility because humility always chases the devil away. We Catholics can use
Even the pope goes to confession! 
sacramentals such as holy water, crucifixes, and statues. Make your home a place where holy angels come to dwell to guard and protect. Place crucifixes over your beds. Keep holy water on hand. Ask a priest to bless your home.  

As we come to receive Our Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist this morning, have confidence in Him. Give your lives over to Him. Ask for His protection.  For He is the Holy One of God! 

May the blessings and protection of Our Lord Jesus be upon us this day and always, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.