Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

September 30, 2015
WEDNESDAY, Year I, week 26:

The Responsorial Psalm pledges us to remember God’s work with love in order to continue it: “Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!” (Psalm 137).

Nehemiah 2: 1-8 shows us a Jew who could not forget what Jerusalem was like when the people were faithful to the covenant. He was the butler of King Artaxerxes, who, noticing he was sad, asked him about it. Nehemiah told him it was because Jerusalem was in ruins. So the king and sent him to Judah as governor to rebuild the walls.

We should notice that God did not speak to Nehemiah in any extraordinary way; just through the movements of his heart. This seems to be true of all the major players in the reconstruction of Jerusalem: Haggai and Zechariah the prophets, Ezra the priest and scribe, and Nehemiah, who as governor ruled with the authority of the king. And the same is true of us, who by Baptism have been consecrated prophets, priests and stewards of the kingship of Christ.

We heard God speaking to us once, directly and audibly, in the words of the baptismal rite when we were consecrated, commissioned and empowered to carry on the work of Jesus, Prophet, Priest and King. But after Baptism God calls and sends us to specific tasks the same ways he did Nehemiah: through a conversation he had with his brother about Jerusalem (1: 1-2), through his own deep feelings about it (1: 4-7), through his prayer over the words of Scripture (1: 8-9), and through the response of the king when he spoke up about what he was feeling. Because Nehemiah responded with a sense of responsibility to what he heard, felt, read and was asked about, God used him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And it all started because he cared: “Let my tongue be silenced, if I ever forget you!

In Luke 9: 57-62 Jesus helps us to measure the greatness of the work to which we are called by the measure of dedication which he asks of us. We have to be willing to be without a roof over our heads, if it comes to that, and to go against the expectations even of our families. St. Ignatius of Loyola echoes this in a key meditation of his Spiritual Exercises: A ruler is enlisting help to bring peace, truth and justice to the whole world. He says:

 “Those who wish to join me have to be content to eat, drink and be clothed as I am; to work with me by day and watch with me by night. But afterwards they will share with me in the victory just as they have shared in the struggle.” Ignatius says, “Think of how dedicated citizens should respond to a leader so inspiring and so accessible.”

 Think about it. This is our call as stewards of Christ the King.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Take initiatives. Be generous and fearless.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In the Sight of the Angels I will Sing Your Praises

September 29: Feast of archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael

The Responsorial (Psalm 138) invites us: “In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.” Daniel 7:9-14 describes what we will praise God for: the outcome of our stewardship:

I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven.... To him was given dominion and glory and kingship... that shall never be destroyed.

The word “angel” means “messenger.” Since the Church “exists to evangelize” (Pope Paul VI), all Christians are “sent” as “ev-angel-ists.” (“Ev-“ is from the Greek “eu,” meaning “good). We are all “angels” of the Good News, commissioned and empowered for this by our baptismal consecration as prophets, priests, and kings (stewards).

Today the Church celebrates three angels who could well be the patrons of these three functions of our mission.

As prophets we live “in the sight of the angel” Gabriel, whose name means “El (God) is strong.” Gabriel is an “interpreting angel” who explains things to the prophets (see Daniel 8:16-26, 9:21-27. For the explanations here, see McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible, and Leon-Dufour, S.J., Dictionary of the New Testament). He is “the angel charged with the meaning of visions and of the unfolding of history.” As prophets we are called to be strong in faith, “giving flesh” to God’s words in our moment of history through changes that embody their meaning in action. Gabriel called Mary to give flesh to the Word himself in a response of faith that changed l of human history.

As priests we are consecrated to heal through love, and to express our inner life to God and others. And so we live “in the sight of” Raphael, whose name means “El heals.” Raphael is “the healer, the expeller of demons... one of the seven angels who offer the prayers of God’s people and enter the presence of the Holy One.”

As stewards of Christ’s kingship we are conscious of living “in the sight of” Michael, whose name is the challenge, “Who is like El?” He is “the ‘great prince who stands over your people’.... the heavenly spirit who watches over the Jews.... the leader of the angelic hosts in the battle between the dragon and his angels. In the Christian liturgy Michael is the protector of the Church and the angel who escorts the souls of the departed into heaven.” He gives us hope in our task of bringing about change in the Church and the world (see Daniel 10:21, 12:1; Revelation 12:7).

In Scripture “there is not always a sharp distinction between the angel as a personal being and as a personification of the divine word or the divine action.” We who have “become Christ,” sent as his risen body to reveal his continuing presence and action on earth, should strive to make the distinction between what we are as persons and what we do in action less and less visible in our lives. As “angels” we say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

As God incarnate, the Son made flesh, Jesus is the “link” between heaven and earth. In John 1:47-51 he tells Nathanael, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” as they did on “Jacob’s ladder” (Genesis 28:12). We are sent as prophets, priests and stewards of his kingship to be the link between the historical Jesus, who took flesh in and of Mary, and the victorious Jesus who will come at the end of time.

Initiative: Be an angel. Ev-angel-ize by embodying your faith as prophet, expressing love as priest, persevering in hope as steward of the Kingdom.