January 16, 2015
Friday of week 1 in Ordinary Time
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Jesus Is A Heritage
“But that you may know… I say to you, rise.”
Let’s face it” my generation has failed to pass on the faith to our children. This means that our children, and our children’s children, have lost their inheritance.
Even those without faith may regret that their children can no longer identify with the cultural riches of the past two thousand years: the Christian art and architecture, the music and literature, the inspiring example and mystical experience of the Saints. Those without faith stand before the religious wonders of Christian history like foreign tourists or outsiders looking in: admiring something they cannot resonate with from personal experience, and with no inner appreciation. To paraphrase the first reading, “The things they hear and see do not profit them, for they are not united in faith with those who produced them.”
A non-Catholic Hispanic can no longer identify with Hispanic culture: the history, the expressions, the gestures, the traditions, Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Irish who have defected no longer have roots in Irish history since the time of Saint Patrick. They themselves have been uprooted. For them is it the history of a foreign people. They can’t even sing “The Wearin’ O’ The Green” as if it had anything to do with them, much less relate to classic Irish literature. They have lost their heritage.
The loss of cultural heritage is not very important; it is just something that even people without faith might find regrettable. The real loss is the loss of faith, the gift of divine light; the loss of hope in God’s divine promises, revealed by Jesus; the loss of divine love, by which we love others, not just as human beings can love, but as Christ has loved us. They have nullified Paul’s prayer “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love… that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 2:17).
Those who do not have the gift of faith cannot understand the double mystery “hidden throughout the ages,” which is:
• First, the mystery of a new personal identity, which Paul described as: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” They no longer see themselves as the living body of the risen Jesus, inspired by the Spirit, children of the Father and “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7).
• Second, the mystery of the Kingdom, when all of humanity will be united in mutual forgiveness and love at the “wedding banquet of the Lamb.” This is “the secret of the Kingdom of God,” God’s “plan for the fullness of time,” to “create in himself one new humanity… built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone… thus making peace” between us as “fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Good News” (Mark 4:11; Colossians 1: 26; Ephesians 2:15, 20; 3:6; Revelation 19:7).
The “eyes of their heart “ are no longer “enlightened, so that they may know what is the hope to which God has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe” (Ephesians 1:18). They are numb to Paul’s prayer: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). There is no hope; just human optimism, for those who have it, that life on this planet may get better.
Baptism made the generation that had the faith “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.”
We were expected to “serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received”; that is, by living our gifts of faith, hope and love in a way that made them credible and attractive to our children and others (1Corinthians 4:1).
Apparently, we failed. Or so many failed, that in spite of our best efforts, the tide of the culture was just too strong, and “spirit of the world” is prevailing in our time against the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 1Corinthians 2:12).
If our children were baptized, they received those same gifts. But if they defected, it means that in some way they failed to appropriate them or to manage them like “good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1Peter 4:10). They lost the gifts of faith, hope and love for themselves, their children, and their children’s children. Jesus warned that, whatever gift we receive from God, if we don’t use it, we lose it (see the story of the steward who buried his master’s money in the ground: Matthew 25:14). For whatever reason, those who do not personally appreciate and live out the divine gifts of faith, hope and love lose them themselves and become unable to pass them on to their children. They fail to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
We who still have the faith know that Christ conquers in the end. He has “overcome the world” (John 16:33; 1John 4:4). It was at the moment of his apparent defeat that Jesus declared to his captors: “I tell you, you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). John saw it in vision:
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!… Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:9).
The kingdom of heaven is “like treasure hidden in a field. Anyone who has faith “goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44). Not only that, but we will “rise up” and:
What we have heard and know, and what our fathers have declared to us, we will declare to the generation to come, that they too may rise and declare to their daughters and sons that they should put their hope in God.
If we ourselves have sinned; if we, their fathers and mothers, were
A generation wayward and rebellious,
A generation that kept not its heart steadfast
nor its spirit faithful toward God,
we nevertheless “know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.” Jesus can and does say to us now, even as we lie paralyzed in our tepidity, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” We need to pick up again the inspiring burden of our stewardship and walk in such a way that all who have strayed away will follow us home.
Pray: “Lord, let me hear your voice.”
Practice: In everything you do, be conscious that Jesus has entrusted to you the divine gifts of faith, hope and love. Use them well.
Discuss: If asked to give “an account of your stewardship,” how would you evaluate your management of the gift of divine life?