Avoiding Israel's Path

Can Baptism and weekly attendance at Mass alone save us if we are not living lives that are obedient to the written Word of God?
by Lorraine E. Espenhain | Source: Catholic.net

I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. All ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. [1 Co 10:1-5].

I think that most of us would agree that in the past forty years there has been a general loss of consciousness of sin in our society, and consequently, in the Church. Unfortunately, this is what happens when a society thrusts the Word of God behind its back and looks for other standards to uphold and follow. When we take our cue from the media, the politicians, and the liberal courts in this nation, and live our lives according to what they deem to be proper and acceptable behavior, rather than what the Word teaches, spiritual anarchy will always be the tragic result, and it is in this horrendous state which our society now lives.

There are very few boundaries anymore. Homosexuality is okay. Fornication is okay. Men and women living together is okay. Having children out of wedlock is okay. Divorce is okay. Undisciplined children are okay. Abortion is a woman’s right and is considered to be a perfectly acceptable method of birth control. We don’t even have decent standards of dress anymore, as more and more women (regardless of their age) think nothing of going to work, the supermarket, or even to church scantly clad. We are living in an age when anything goes and the sky is the limit.

Because of this, people have become hardened and completely desensitized when it comes to the concept of what God calls sin. Because the filth and corruption of our culture have permeated even the Church, many sit in church pews week after week living lives that are displeasing and unacceptable to Christ, and aren’t even aware of it. Sexual immorality doesn’t feel like sin when society says it is not. Living with someone outside of holy matrimony doesn’t feel like sin when society says it is not. Loving money more than God and hoarding it all for our own feeble pleasure doesn’t feel like sin when society says it is not.

Many attend Holy Mass on a weekly basis and even go up for Holy Communion completely unaware that they are in dire need of forgiveness from God because of the daily lives they are living.

In Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church, he issued a clear warning. Was this warning issued to the unbelieving world or to the Lord’s church? Was it not to the Lord’s church? In this letter, he warns the Lord’s disciples to look at Israel’s tragic example and to learn from it, lest what happened to them should happen to us.

All who belonged to the house of Israel followed Moses into the wilderness. All were under the cloud of God’s Presence leading and guiding them to the promised land. All passed through the sea, which God miraculously opened up for them when they fled from Pharaoh’s chariots. All were baptized into Moses, the cloud, and the sea. All ate the same supernatural food, which was the manna that God caused to fall from Heaven, and all drank the same supernatural drink, which God miraculously caused to flow out from a rock. And yet, in the end, most did not enter the promised land, for God was not pleased with their lives. Instead, they were overthrown by Him and scattered in the wilderness, where they eventually died, never to taste of the good things He had planned for them.

Brothers and sisters, these things can and must be applied to the Church of Jesus Christ, for Saint Paul has declared that these things were recorded as warnings for us who are in Christ Jesus.

All of us were baptized into Christ. All of us eat the same supernatural food and drink the same supernatural drink when we celebrate the Eucharist at Holy Mass week after week. But is God pleased with our lives? Are we going to make it in the end?

If we want to escape Israel’s tragic end, we need to examine our daily lives with an open and honest heart and mind. Are we living our lives according to the standards of the world, in which anything and everything pretty much goes? Or, are we living our lives according to the written Word of God?

We must remember that when we leave this world and stand before the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ to give an account for our lives, those lives are not going to be judged on the basis of what was acceptable and ‘legal’ on the earth. Rather, we will be judged according to the standards laid out in God’s Living Word, which is eternal and unchanging. It doesn’t matter what the world says is acceptable; it’s what God says that counts.

Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that Baptism and weekly Holy Communion alone will save us, for it did not save most who belonged to the house of Israel. In the end, they didn’t make it. And why didn’t they make it? They didn’t make it because they failed to understand that the true sign of one’s faith is obedience to the Word of God. If obedience does not exist, then neither does genuine, saving faith.

The people of Israel found this truth out the hard way when their daily lives kept them out of the promised land even though they had been baptized into Moses and ate and drank the same supernatural food and drink. Outward ceremonies and rituals have no value to our salvation whatsoever if they are not accompanied by obedience to the commands and teachings of God in our daily lives.

Saint Paul warned the Early Church to learn from Israel’s tragic past. Will God deal any differently with the Church if we, too, choose to engage in the same sinful, unholy lifestyle embraced by many in Moses’ day? Do we really believe that He will raise a different set of standards for the Church? God’s standards are always the same. The world’s standards come and go, fluctuating here and fluctuating there. But God’s standards, which are contained in His written Word, ever remain the same. Therefore, it is His Word, which we must follow, and not the standards of this world.

Paul wrote as follows: "Therefore, let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." [1 Co 10:12]. If you believe that you are a devout Catholic, saved and on your way to Heaven, be careful! Be vigilant and alert concerning your daily life, lest you should fall. If we are basing our salvation on Baptism, Sunday morning Mass attendance, and participation in the Eucharist alone, without living a daily life of obedience to the written Word of God, then we have been deceived. Obedience to the Word of God must accompany our faith if that faith is to be acceptable and pleasing in the sight of God.

What are some things that we can do in our daily lives to make sure that they are lining up with God’s standards and not those of the unbelieving world? First, we must become men and women of prayer. If our lives are truly centered around the Lord, (and we want them to remain centered around Him), we should spend time with Him in prayer in the morning and at night. This will keep us centered on Him. Second, we need to spend time in our daily lives reading the Word of God. How can we flush the world and its miserable standards out of our lives if we do not know the Word of God? How can we line our lives up with the Word if we do not even know what it teaches?

Too many Catholics are neglecting these necessary disciplines and instead are trusting in Sacraments alone to save them without paying attention to the obedience of God’s Word which must accompany their faith.

We should not spend all of our spare time watching television or reading material that will not draw us closer to God. The more we engross ourselves in worldly things, the less in tune we will become to the Spirit of God in our lives. If you have time to read a book, let it be a good Catholic book that will inspire you to live a holy life in Christ Jesus and live completely for Him and His Kingdom.

In my life, this is my practice. If it isn’t going to profit me spiritually, I won’t waste my time with it. There are many things in this world which are pleasing, good, and even fun. But my life on this earth is only temporary. My life after death is eternal. Therefore, it is wiser to focus on that which is eternal than that which is temporary and passing away. The Bible teaches us to live our lives in light of eternity so that when we enter it, we will be ready to face our Lord. Too many have become distracted and have forgotten that this world is temporary, and we are only passing through.

Many go to Mass week after week. They have been baptized into Christ. They eat supernatural food and drink supernatural drink week after week at the celebration of the Eucharist. But they do not walk with Christ in their daily lives. They live lives that are disobedient to the written Word - lives that are centered around the things of this world instead of the things of God. My brothers and sisters, can such ‘faith’ save us? Is this true faith? Rituals and outward religious ceremonies minus obedience to the Word of God on a daily basis?

We need to pay close attention to Saint Paul’s sobering warning. This warning was not given to the unbelieving world, which knows nothing of baptisms and supernatural food and drink. Rather, it has been given to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, to those who have been baptized and who know what it means to eat and drink supernatural food and drink.

He who has a listening ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

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