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Nov. 14th – Samaritans, Obedience, and Thanksgiving

Samaritans

Here is some detail on why there were Samaritans and why the Jews, the real “Children of Israel,” didn’t trust them.

In case you can’t read the fine print above, here is what happened to the Northern Kingdom when it was defeated by the Assyrians, invaded, and occupied, resulting in mixed races, misbehavior, and false gods.

2 Kings 17:24-41 (Excerpts)  The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon…and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the Israelites. They took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities.  25 When they first settled there, they did not venerate the LORD…But these peoples began to make their own gods in the various cities in which they were living; in the shrines on the high places which the Samarians had made, each people set up gods…They also venerated the LORD, choosing from their number priests for the high places, who officiated for them in the shrines on the high places…Thus these nations venerated the LORD, but also served their idols. And their sons and grandsons, to this day, are doing as their fathers did.

And here is what happened to the Southern Kingdom when it was defeated by the Babylonians, the elite exiled as farmers remained and tilled the soil. Then the elite returned and rebuilt: 

2 Kings 25:1-12 (Excerpts)   …Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and his whole army advanced against Jerusalem, encamped around it, and built siege walls on every side…the city walls were breached… The king was therefore arrested and brought to the king of Babylon, who pronounced sentence on him…He led into exile the last of the people remaining in the city…and the last of the artisans…But some of the country’s poor (were) left behind as vinedressers and farmers.

Ezra 1:1-3 (Excerpts)   In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia…the LORD inspired King Cyrus to issue this proclamation…’All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  3 Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!

Look up the passages and read without excerpts for the whole story.

Leprosy

The Old Testament leprosy regulations occupy chapters 13 and 14 (13:1-14:57) of Leviticus. The first sentence is, “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has on his skin a scab or pustule or blotch which appears to be the sore of leprosy, he shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or to one of the priests among his descendants, who shall examine the sore on his skin.” Then, after 3200 words of detailed regulations, processes, and procedures, the final sentence is, “This is the law for leprosy.” Read some of it to get a feel for why anyone determined to read the whole Bible should skip over Leviticus or at least take it in small bites.

The chart below and the following list show all references in the Bible to leprosy or lepers.

  • Exodus 4:6 – Moses gets very short term case of leprosy from God
  • Leviticus 13, 14 – The details of the law concerning leprosy (Whew!)
  • Numbers 5:2 – Reminder about the law concerning leprosy
  • Numbers 12:10 – Strange punishment of Miriam – strange short term case
  • Deuteronomy 24:8 – Reminder about the law concerning leprosy
  • 2 Samuel 3:29 – In a prayer of David for someone else
  • 2 Kings 5 – The healing of Naaman the leper
  • 2 Kings 7:3-8 – Two lepers at the gate trying to decide what to do
  • 2 Kings 15 – King Azariah dies a leper
  • 2 Chronicles 26:18-23 – King Uzziah dies a leper
  • Matthew 8, Mark 1, Luke 5 – Jesus heals a leper, tells him to keep quite and go to the priest
  • Matthew 10:8 – Jesus commands the twelve to cleanse lepers
  • Matthew 11:5, Luke 7:22 – Jesus instructs John’s disciples to tell John lepers are being cured
  • Matthew 26:6, Mark 14:3  – Jesus visits the home of Simon the leper (Dangerous?)
  • Luke 4:27 – Jesus refers to healing of Naaman of leprosy and says not all were healed
  • Luke 17 – Story of the ten cured lepers, only one giving thanks

Leprosy was a big deal in Bible times.

Naaman Has Trouble Obeying; Offers a Gift of Thanksgiving

2 Kings 5:1-14  Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram, was highly esteemed and respected by his master, for through him the LORD had brought victory to Aram. But valiant as he was, the man was a leper.

Now the Arameans had captured from the land of Israel in a raid a little girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife. “If only my master would present himself to the prophet in Samaria,” she said to her mistress, “he would cure him of his leprosy.”  Naaman went and told his lord just what the slave girl from the land of Israel had said. “Go,” said the king of Aram. “I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman set out, taking along ten silver talents, six thousand gold pieces, and ten festal garments.

To the king of Israel he brought the letter, which read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.”  When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man should send someone to me to be cured of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his garments, he sent word to the king: “Why have you torn your garments? Let him come to me and find out that there is a prophet in Israel.”  Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house.  The prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean.”

But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the LORD his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy.  Are not the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be cleansed?” With this, he turned about in anger and left.

But his servants came up and reasoned with him. “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.”  1So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God. His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

The Ten Lepers Obey; One Gives Thanks

Luke 17:12-19  As he was entering a village, ten lepers met (him). They stood at a distance from him  and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”  And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed.  And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;  and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?  Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

 Leprosy in the 20th Century – St. Damien

Turning to more modern times, here is the story of St. Damien of Molokai.

 Obeying and Obedience

Forms of obey are very common throughout the Bible but only show up once coming from the lips of Jesus:

Matthew 5:17-19  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And then Jesus condenses the commandments to two on which all the law and prophets depend. I guess that makes obedience more difficult since anything not based on love is discounted.

Matthew 22:36-40  “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.  39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

This verse uses “keep” instead of a form of obey and does not seem to be a command as much as a promise.

John 14:15  “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Thanksgiving

Forms of “thank” are common in the Bible. Here are the eight instances in which we find them on the lips of Jesus.

Matthew 15:36  Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.

Matthew 26:27-28  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you,  28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.

Mark 8:6  6 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then, taking the seven loaves he gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd.

Mark 14:23-24  Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  24 He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.

Luke 22:17-18   Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves;  18 for I tell you (that) from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

John 6:11  Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

John 11:41-43  So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.  42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

 

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)

Reading this morning about St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, founder of 67 Catholic institutions across the USA to serve the “poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick” made me wonder who is doing such Catholic missionary work today and even whether such work is possible in today’s environment. She was the first US citizen to be designated Saint.

You can read about her at Franciscan Media, Catholic Online, and Wikipedia.

Original St. Cabrini Home in 1890

Most of the institutions she founded have ceased to operate for various reasons. One of the saddest stories is about St. Cabrini Home, founded in 1890 in West Park, NY. After serving orphans and homeless for seven decades, it was incorporated in 1959 as St. Cabrini, Inc. “which brought changes in governance.” By 2004, St. Cabrini Home had become a “facility licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.” Some unfortunate following scandalous incidents described in the linked article resulted in closure in 2011.

And, some things with which she had nothing to do were named after her, Chicago’s infamous Cabrini Green for example.

Loveless solutions to extreme poverty are usually found lacking.

 

Cleansing/Replacing an Ancient Temple

The Gospel reading this morning reminded me that I had created a diagram about the history of the Jewish Temple which might as well be shared when  the opportunity arises. It goes from the Exodus to today’s conflicts over Jerusalem.

I’m sure the Bible verses are difficult to read on the slide so here they are larger. These are just teasers. Look them up and read them in context if interested.

1. King David Feels Guilty, Plans Temple, Plan Rejected

2 Samuel 7:1-17  When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side,  2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent… Look it up in Bible for Rest of the Story.

2. King Solomon Builds the First Temple about 1000 BC

1 Kings 6:1-38 Excerpts:   In the four hundred and eightieth year from the departure of the Israelites from the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, the construction of the temple of the LORD was begun.  2 The temple which King Solomon built for the LORD was sixty cubits long, twenty wide, and twenty-five high…. Look it up in Bible for the rest of the story.

3. Solomon’s Temple Destroyed by Babylonians 586 BC, People Exiled

2 Kings 25:8-12  On the seventh day of the fifth month (this was in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan, captain of the bodyguard, came to Jerusalem as the representative of the king of Babylon.  9 He burned the house of the LORD, the palace of the king, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every large building was destroyed by fire.  Look it up in Bible for the rest of the story.

4. Exile Ends and Second Temple Construction Begins

Ezra 1:1-7   In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing:  2 “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Look it up in Bible for the rest of the story.

5. Herod Rebuilds, Updates, Expands the Second Temple

6. Jesus Cleanses the Temple – John 2:13-22 (Today’s Mass Reading)

7. Temple Destroyed by Romans in 70 AD

Summary of facts from Ancient History Encyclopedia

 

Nov 7 – Loving, Hating, and Renouncing

It’s Greek to Me

I raised the Greek question with Fr. Linsky this morning so looked up the answer at home. How to do that is about all I remember from the Greek course at the seminary. Here are the Greek words translated as hate, renounce, and love, and meanings of them according to Strong’s Greek Concordance . I’m doing it as a screen shot so I don’t have to worry about figuring out how to type Greek.

Thinking about the Luke 14 verses, it may help to remember that what Jesus was saying was literally true at that time and place. There was no “church” and he was gathering up disciples and taking them with him as he taught and trained them. If they couldn’t go with him, they could not be his disciples at that time and place so they had to part with or at least say goodbye to their possessions if they wanted to take the course, so to speak.

It is interesting that the Greek word sometimes translated Hate shows up 182 times in the Old Testament and 40 in the New Testament. It is sometimes translated as dislike, despise, or be the enemy of.

For the Greek word translated Love, Father Linsky mentioned the poverty of the English language in expressions of various kinds of love. We “love” football, french fries, grandchildren, and God. The ancient Greeks had six words expressing different kinds of love, and you can read about all of them HERE. It is interesting that eros never shows up in the New Testament.

The Greek word translated Renounce shows up a half dozen times in the New Testament, and here they are, illustrating different ways the Greek word is translated.

NAB Mark 6:46 And when he had taken leave of them, he went off to the mountain to pray.
NAB Luke 9:61 And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
NAB Luke 14:33 In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.
NAB Acts 18:18 Paul remained for quite some time, and after saying farewell to the brothers he sailed for Syria, together with Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had his hair cut because he had taken a vow.
21 but as he said farewell he promised, “I shall come back to you again, God willing.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.
NAB 2 Corinthians 2:13 I had no relief in my spirit because I did not find my brother Titus. So I took leave of them and went on to Macedonia.

Taxation and Freedom

Early in President Obama’s first term I became very interested in and started studying and blogging about government spending and taxing and impact of same on our freedoms including religious freedom. Here are some posts I did on the subject which I hope do a better job of explaining my point than what I said during our discussion.

Married Filing Jointly

Clamoring to Concede Freedom of Religion

The Sacred Tax Deduction

The simple answer to all the issues I raise is drastically lower flat tax rates, income, property, and sales taxes, across the board, with no exemptions, deductions, exclusions, or credits.  The current high nominal rates are required because so much is excluded from taxation.

If SC, for example, eliminated all the exclusions from the Sales Tax, the rate could be lowered to around 3% and still generate the same revenue. And, with such low rate flat tax systems in place, thousands of former lobbyists and IRS employees could clamor for jobs and Congress could get to work on important national issues instead of listening to lobbyists and  tinkering with the tax code for favors, votes, and donations.

Churches benefit from fire and police protection and good streets and sidewalks and should be quite happy to pay property taxes and sales taxes at low and fair rates to support such services. And churches should never be profit-making entities so should never incur income tax bills. There is more logic behind these simplistic statements in the links above. I have come to believe that it is regrettable that we have given up so much freedom as a result of government “favors” made possible with borrowed money at the cost of burdensome national debt.

But don’t worry about my radical thinking. Such changes will never happen because it would rob Congress of too much power.

I bet you are sorry I brought it up!

The Early Years of the Catholic Church in the USA

Below is the quote I loved about early US Catholicism without support by or interference of the government. It was actually from Wikipedia rather from the very interesting book I mentioned. Here is a link to the whole article, including the sad parts that were mentioned in the discussion this morning: History of the Catholic Church in the United States

“In the nineteenth century the Church set up an elaborate infrastructure, based on dioceses run by bishops appointed by the pope. Each diocese set up a network of parishes, schools, colleges, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable institutions. Many priests arrived from France and Ireland, but by 1900 Catholic seminaries were producing a sufficient supply of priests.”

And then the 1960’s and 1970’s arrived.

 

 

All Souls’ Day Readings on Last Things – Universalis

I was amazed this morning to see the number of optional Mass readings, all having to do with Last Things, that are included in the Universalis App. Reading all these together is inspirational and impresses me with the depth of Divine Mystery. You can read many but not all of them at the Universalis Website HERE.  The following note explains why I saw even more (32)  using the Universalis App which I highly recommend.

The readings on this page are from the Jerusalem Bible, which is used at Mass in most of the English-speaking world. The New American Bible readings, which are used at Mass in the United States, cannot be shown here for copyright reasons, but the Universalis apps, programs and downloads do contain them.

The readings include all the following focusing on Last Things:

  1. Wisdom 3:1-9
  2. Wisdom 4:7-14
  3. Isaiah 25:6-9
  4. Psalm 23:1-6
  5. Psalm 25:6-21
  6. Psalm 27:1-14
  7. Romans 5:5-11
  8. Romans 5:17-21
  9. Romans 6:3-9
  10. Romans 8:14-23
  11. Romans 8:31-39
  12. Romans 14:7-12
  13. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28
  14. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
  15. 2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1
  16. 2 Corinthians 5:1- 10
  17. Philippians 3:20-21
  18. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  19. 2 Timothy 2:8-13
  20. Matthew 5:1-12
  21. Matthew 11:25-30
  22. Matthew 25:31-46
  23. Luke 7:11-17
  24. Luke 23:44 – 24:6
  25. Luke 24:13-35
  26. John 5:24-29
  27. John 6:37-40
  28. John 6:51-58
  29. John 11:17-27
  30. John 11:32-45
  31. John 14:1-6

Looks like I missed one. Should have been 32. Don’t try to look them all up. Just go to the Universalis App and read right through them all.

 

October 31, 2018 – Way, Truth, Life, and a Narrow Gate

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

I apologize for the length of this post but I know at at least those of us who are retired have time for considering these passages from Sacred Scripture.

Current Events – Pakistan

The article Father Linsky mentioned makes me think about the cultural differences between much of the Middle East and the Christian ideal, the first driven by fear of a distant and demanding god and the other, ideally, driven by the love demonstrated by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who gave his Only Son for us. It is a huge difference. We may have to wait to see the ideal.

The Narrow Gate and Jesus

The “gate” metaphor, in the Gospel reading of the day from St. Luke’s Gospel, shows up in three of the Gospels, Matthew, Luke, and John. Below are the three passages, in context, for meditation and consideration. May we all strive to continually increase our cooperation with God’s Love and Grace. There are some specifics in these passages about how to do that.

Matthew 7:1-29   “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  2 For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.  3 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?  4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?  5 You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.  6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.  7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  8 For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  9 Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread,  10 or a snake when he asks for a fish?  11 If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.  12 “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the law and the prophets13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.  14 How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.  15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.  16 By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  17 Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.  18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 So by their fruits you will know them.  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’  23 Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’  24 “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  26 And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.  27 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”  28 When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,  29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Luke 13:22-30  He passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them,  24 “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.  25 After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.’  26 And you will say, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’  27 Then he will say to you, ‘I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!’  28 And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.  29 And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  30 For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

John 10:1-19  “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.  2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”  6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.  8 All who came (before me) are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.  9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.  10 A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.  11 I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.  13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.  14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me,  15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.  16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.  17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”  19 Again there was a division among the Jews because of these words.

The 21st Century Church

We had some discussion about today’s Church, the Body of Christ, and why it does not draw in people as Jesus did when he walked the earth establishing the Church. We discussed the issue of political correctness and how that is an enemy of the truth, evidence of pressure to conform to society rather than work to transform society. St. Paul addressed the issue in his Letter to the Romans: Romans 12:2  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.  

Seems like the “but” is bigger than the “do not.” Here is the whole passage in context, more material for consideration and meditation.

Romans 12:1-21   I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  2 Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.  3 For by the grace given to me I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than one ought to think, but to think soberly, each according to the measure of faith that God has apportioned.  4 For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function,  5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another.  6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them: if prophecy, in proportion to the faith;  7 if ministry, in ministering; if one is a teacher, in teaching;  8 if one exhorts, in exhortation; if one contributes, in generosity; if one is over others, with diligence; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.  9 Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good;  10 love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor.  11 Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  12 Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.  13 Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality.  14 Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them.  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  16 Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.  17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.  18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.  19 Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  20 Rather, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.”  21 Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.

“Narrow” in Five Paragraphs of the Catechism

Paragraph 853 On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the “discrepancy existing between the message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted.”348 Only by taking the “way of penance and renewal,” the “narrow way of the cross,” can the People of God extend Christ’s reign.349 For “just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path if she is to communicate the fruits of salvation to men.”350

Paragraph 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”616

Paragraph 1344 Thus from celebration to celebration, as they proclaim the Paschal mystery of Jesus “until he comes,” the pilgrim People of God advances, “following the narrow way of the cross,”168 toward the heavenly banquet, when all the elect will be seated at the table of the kingdom.

Paragraph 1889 Without the help of grace, men would not know how “to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse.”13 This is the path of charity, that is, of the love of God and of neighbor. Charity is the greatest social commandment. It respects others and their rights. It requires the practice of justice, and it alone makes us capable of it. Charity inspires a life of self-giving: “Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.”14

Paragraph 2656 One enters into prayer as one enters into liturgy: by the narrow gate of faith. Through the signs of his presence, it is the Face of the Lord that we seek and desire; it is his Word that we want to hear and keep.

And a Final Encouraging Word from Jesus

Matthew 11:27-30 All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. 28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”