Wednesday, August 31, 2016

To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it

September 1, 2016   Thursday   Twenty-Second Week of Year II    

The Responsorial (Psalm 24) reminds us: “To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.

1Corinthians 3:18-23 points out that many of our working assumptions about our life in this world are delusions.

For example, we act as if we “owned” the property we live on. Legally we do. But who owned it ten million years ago? Who will own “my” property a million years after I am dead and forgotten?

In the eyes of God, how significant is our passing proprietorship over any little piece of the earth he has created?

The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.
From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth.[1]

City today was desert before and may be desert again in a few centuries. Where people speak English now may someday be home to others for whom English is nothing but an archaeological mystery. What does it mean for us to speak of “our” property, “our” country?

It means that for the brief moment we have control of it, we are responsible for maintaining, using and developing it according to the permanent owner’s plans and purposes. We proclaim at Mass that we are stewards:

All things are of your making, all times and seasons obey your laws. But you chose to create us in your own image, setting us over the whole world in all its wonder. You made us the stewards of creation….[2]

Paul says, “All things are yours, whether… the world or life or death or the present or the future — all belong to you” But this is “absurdity” unless we add as he did, “and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”

In Luke 5:1-11 Jesus told Peter to do something professionally stupid. Jesus was not a fisherman. Peter was. But after Peter and his crew had spent a whole night fishing fruitlessly, Jesus came along and said, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Peter didn’t follow his professional experience. He said, “Master, we have been hard at it all night long and have caught nothing. But if you say so, I will lower the nets.” And we know the rest.
What we may not know, or be thinking of, is that Jesus says the same thing to us. He wants us to do the impossible: reform society, transform the world, establish the reign of God’s love, peace and justice on earth. We might object, “We have been trying to do that for two thousand years with minimal results.” His answer is, “Put out into deep water.” Stop living, thinking and teaching a shallow Christianity. Go into the “deep water” of the real mystery of our Baptism. Be Christ — not a “follower” of Jesus but his own risen, living, active body on earth.
Be real disciples, dedicated “students” of his mind and heart. And prophets bearing witness through our lifestyle. And priests who minister to everyone we deal with. And leaders working for change as stewards of his kingship.

Then have confidence. “To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.

Initiative: Be a steward. Trust in God’s promise, not in your experience.

[1] Psalm 33:13-14.
[2] Preface V for Sundays in Ordinary Time. See also Eucharistic Prayer IV and the prefaces for Thanksgiving Day and Independence Day (I).

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Keep Trying

Keep Trying
August 31, 2016   Wednesday, Twenty-Second Week of Year II    

The Responsorial (Psalm 33) rejoices in God’s plan: “Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

In 1Corinthians 3:1-9 Paul is trying to get the Corinthians to grow up. They were an enthusiastic community, eager to experience and express the “gifts of the Spirit.” But they were still too focused on themselves and on what they “got out of it” when they celebrated together. And there were “jealousy and quarrels” among them, a sure sign of self-seeking. Even in sharing their spiritual gifts with one another, they were looking for status. And forming cliques around favorite ministers.

Paul says ministry is not about the people doing it, but about what they are doing. “Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Our focus should be on “building up” the Church and transforming society as “God’s co-workers,” looking forward to “a new heaven and a new earth” where God will be “all in all.”[1] 

If we keep our focus on the glory that is to be, we will not be puffed up by what we see or deflated by what we don’t see in ourselves, especially as compared to others. We all “have a common purpose, and each will receive wages,” not based on accomplishments or “success,” but “according to the labor of each.” All God asks is fidelity, which boils down to one thing: keep trying.

In Luke 4:38-44 Jesus refuses to be distracted from his mission. When he worked miracles of physical healing, the crowds flocked to him and “tried to keep him from leaving them.” But Jesus said, “I must announce the good news of the reign of God to the other towns also, because that I why I was sent.”

Jesus didn’t really come to heal bodies. He did that simply out of love when confronted with pain and suffering. And as a sign of his power to “cast out the demons” that hold people back from the true “life to the full” he came to give.[2]

Neither did he come to establish the “kingdom” that people expected: a government that would ensure prosperity and power to their own country, with a peace imposed and protected through victory in war. They wanted a Messiah who would use the divine power of God to satisfy their human desires and save them from suffering on earth. When Jesus made it clear that this was not what he came to do, they rejected him. We still do.

As “stewards of his kingship,” we do want to establish an environment of peace and prosperity on earth: but through justice and love, not violence. And not as the goal, but as a means to and consequence of our true goal, which is that all people should freely accept and live by the divine truth and love of God. “Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Initiative: Be a steward of his kingship. Keep your focus.

[1] Revelation 21:1-2; 1Corinthians 15:28.
[2].John 10:10.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Use Your Gifts to Transform Society

Use Your Gifts to Transform Society 
Tuesday,Twenty-Second Week of Year II  
August 30, 2016

The Responsorial (Psalm 145) is an affirmation of Spirit-guided faith in the sometimes inscrutable ways of God: “The Lord is just in all his ways.

When Paul says in 1Corinthians 2:10-16, “The Spirit we have received is not the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit helping us to recognize the gifts he has given us,” he is saving us from the plight of the servant who did not “recognize the gift” he was given, and so buried his master’s money in the ground instead of investing it. Jesus’ comment on that was, “To all those who [recognize what they] have, more will be given… but from those who [assume they] have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.” The truth is, we are “stewards of the manifold grace of God,” charged to “serve one another with whatever gift each has received.” We need to look forward with joy to giving an “account of our stewardship.”[1]

One gift is that we are “taught by the Spirit,” who gives the power of “interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.” Of course, we ourselvcs have to be “spiritual.” Not every Christian is. “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit… they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
What does it take to be “spiritual”?

First, we need to accept our identity, not just as members of a “religion” with doctrines, rules and practices, but as “members of Christ,” who by dying and rising with him in Baptism have “become Christ,” a “new creation.”

Second, we have to dedicate ourselves to acquiring the “mind of Christ” through discipleship that lets us experience the gift of enlightenment.

Third, we have to receive, and know we have received, power through the “gift of the Spirit.” We experience this when we try to make all we do bear witness as prophets to the values of Christ.[2]

Fourth, we have to reach spiritual maturity and generate a “posterity” (bear fruit) through ministry as priests by Baptism. Paul says we are still “people of the flesh” and “infants in Christ” until we have dedicated ourselves to “the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” in love.[3]

Finally, we have to accept the responsibility, based on hope in Christ’s victory, of using our gifts to exercise leadership in initiating change as “stewards of the kingship of Christ.”[4]

Luke 4:31-37 teaches us that Christians transform the world by casting out the demons of our culture with no power but the “authority” of God’s word and the witness of healing love.  Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”[5] That is our mandate and mission.

Initiative: Be a steward of his kingship. Use your gifts to transform society.

[1] See 1Peter 4:10; Luke 16:1; Matthew 25:24-29 and the reflection on Saturday of Week 21.
[2] Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:16; 1Thessalonians 1:5.
[3] Ephesians 4:11-16; 1Corinthians 3:1-3; amd chapters 12 to 14, especially 13:11; 14:12, 26.
[4] These five themes are developed successively in the five “Seasonal Guides” and “Daily Lectionary
Reflections” booklets of Immersed in Christ.
[5] Acts 10:38.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Upsetting the Human Criteria of Judgment

Upsetting the Human 
Criteria of Judgment
Twenty-Second Week of Year II     
Monday, August 29, 2016
(Begin readings from Luke’s Gospel).

The Responsorial (Psalm 119) is a response of love to love: “Lord, I love your commands.

In 1Corinthians 2:1-5 Paul’s humility is the foundation for our trust in his preaching:
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom... but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Absolute truth and goodness are found only in God. When someone asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus was hinting at his own divinity when he answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Later he was more explicit: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[1] Our faith is not founded on anything human, but on the absolute Truth and Goodness of Jesus as God himself.

For you alone are the Holy One,
You alone are the Lord,
You alone are the Most High,
Jesus Christ

Because of this we accept God’s teaching as a precious gift and all his commands as priceless benefits entrusted to us, to use and manage as “stewards of his kingship” for our good and the good of others. The attitude and appreciation we foster in ourselves and encourage in others is: “Lord, I love your commands.

But in Luke 4:16-30 The people of Nazareth, Jesus’ home town, did not love the great news he gave them or even accept it as good news. When he read to them the promise of  “good news to the poor… liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to prisoners…” and added: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” they were ready to kill him. Why?

Two reasons.  First: resistance to change; specifically, to the idea that the “hometown boy” who grew up in ordinariness among them could be the Messiah. Second: a false presumption about their status as the Chosen People. They were enraged when, in response to their demand for miracles, Jesus pointed out two occasions when God worked miracles for Gentiles, not for Jews. 

We who are charged and committed by our baptismal consecration as “kings” to work at  “transforming humanity from within…. upsetting, through the power of the Gospel, humans’ criteria of judgment, determining values… sources of inspiration and models of life,”[2] may experience the same deep resistance. People are not always ready to accept a “change of mind” (metanoia). We need to be prepared for the same rejection Jesus encountered.

Initiative: Be a steward of his kingship. Keep trying to bring about change.

[1] Luke 18:19; John 14:6.
[2] Pope Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, nos. 18-20.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Humility, Trust and Love

Welcome to the promise that you will 
"Renew the Face of the Earth!"

During these final weeks (22 to 34) of “Ordinary Time” we focus on establishing the Kingdom of God on earth. We do this by taking responsibility for initiating change.

These reflections focus on showing us how to live out our baptismal anointing as stewards of the kingship of Christ.

Christ the king has already won the victory. We are just working to establish his reign throughout the world in preparation for his return.

At Baptism each one of us was solemnly anointed with chrism on the top of the head and consecrated to continue the triple mission of Jesus. The words of anointing were, “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so live always as a member of his body.”

There is only one King, Jesus Christ. But everyone who “becomes Christ” by Baptism shares in the responsibilities of his kingship. Every baptized Christian is dedicated to leadership in establishing the reign of God on earth. In family and social life. In education, business and politics. Wherever human beings live and work and act.

To those who accept this baptismal consecration, Jesus promises victory. “Whoever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.” [1]

These reflections encourage us to work and wait, as the Rite of Communion reminds us, “in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”

Humility, Trust and Love
 August 29, 2016

Could our desire to impress others, our “power trips,” and our insistence on receiving “the honor that is our due” all come from the same root? Could their common source be the radical insecurity that comes from our awareness, so deep we may not be conscious of it, that our very existence is just an ongoing act of God? That we have no power of ourselves even to breathe, move or think? That our life is totally dependent on God’s continuing will to preserve us?

The Entrance Antiphon (Psalm 85) encourages us to call on God out of trust based not on what we are, but on God’s mercy. “Listen, Lord, and answer me. Save your servant who trusts in you. I call to you all day long, have mercy on me, O Lord.” If we really do have trust based on what God is, that trust should never waver. If it does waver, we are probably trusting in ourselves or in something other than God.

In the Opening Prayer we ask for help to “seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world.” Again, if we find our joy in God, no changes on earth should affect it. The alternate Opening Prayer identifies that joy, in part, as the joy of “hearing your word in every sound and of longing for your presence more than for life itself.” If that is where we find joy, what can ever cause us to lose it? We ask God for “the peace of your kingdom, which this world does not give.” What the world does not give, the world cannot take away. Not if all our trust, and everything we hope for, is in God. The Responsorial (Psalm 68) celebrates this and gives us a key to the readings: “God, in your goodness you have made a home for the poor.”

Peaceful with the truth
Sirach 3:17-29 counsels us: “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.” Why? It is because being “great” usually consists in being, or being treated as if, in some way we are “higher” than others. But since on the scale of being, everything we are, have or do depends completely on the presence of God within us “breathing into us” existence itself and the power to do with it whatever we are doing, there doesn’t seem to be much meaning in anyone’s being “higher” or greater than anyone else. Of ourselves we can do nothing — whether by nature or by grace.[2] The only real way to be “great” is to humble ourselves in surrender to God speaking through his Spirit and let Jesus, whose body we are, do whatever he wants to do with, in and through us. Want to be great? Say the WIT prayer.[3]

Why does Sirach say, “Humble yourself the more, the greater you are.” First, he is talking about greatness as perceived, not necessarily as real. But in either case, the “higher” we feel ourselves to be, the scarier that can get. No one is afraid of falling off a curbstone. But walking a tightrope ninety feet above the ground, knowing there is nothing you can count on to hold you up, might stimulate some insecurity! In any position, everyone is radically insecure, but at higher levels we feel it more. The cure is humility.
Sirach says, “Humble yourself.” Humility has been defined as “being peaceful with the truth.” Sirach is saying, “Be peaceful that you have nothing you can ultimately rely on.” What are the grounds for that peace?
God’s love. If we trust in God’s love, we have no grounds for insecurity about anything, because our security is grounded in the truth that God is love, and God loves us. And Jesus has told us not to fear.[4] We are “home safe” with him always, “like a weaned child on its mother’s lap.[5]God, in your goodness you have made a home for the poor.”

The way up is down
In Luke 14:1-14 Jesus seems to be just showing us how to avoid being embarrassed “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit in the place of honor, in case some greater dignitary has been invited… and then you would have to proceed shamefacedly to the lowest place.” But Jesus’ advice goes deeper than avoiding embarrassment. It makes us ask why anyone would want to be perceived as greater than others.
The root reason is the radical insecurity of human existence. People sometimes accuse themselves of being “proud” because they care about what others think of them or want make an impression on people. In reality, this is not pride but insecurity. The truly proud are like the truly humble in this, that they are so confident in their value (although for totally different reasons) that they don’t need affirmation from anybody. They expect it as their due, and may get angry if it is not given, but they don’t even bother to “make a good impression.” If your net worth is over a hundred billion dollars, you can show up in blue jeans anywhere!

Like the humble, the truly, sinfully proud can be peaceful, but in the falsehood, not in the truth, of what they perceive themselves to be. Pride and conceit differ in this, that the conceited just think they are better than others in some respect. If they actually are, they are not conceited, just right. And if they aren’t, they are just mistaken. Fools, perhaps, but not evil. The proud, however, believe they are the criterion: that they are so good or smart that whatever think or do is right because they think it or do it. This is to make oneself God.[6] It is the worst of sins.

Those whose apparent pride is really insecurity feel the need to be treated as important precisely because they doubt how good they are. They seek a false peace from constant reassurance of others’ opinion of them, or from piling up achievements that are respected in their society. The only true peace they will ever find is that of the humble who are “peaceful in the truth” about themselves, whatever it is. But for this they have to go “down” to their radical nothingness — and discover God’s love.

The ultimate — and the only — truth that lets us be peaceful in all other truths is the truth of God’s love. God’s love is not based on what we have made of ourselves, but on what, by his grace, we can make of ourselves. His love is his free and self-identifying choice to invest everything he is in what we can become. As long as we have the capacity to respond with free choices, God simply invests his gifts in us, like a “faithful steward” of his own goodness, so that we might esse et bene esse, “be and become all we can be” (St. Augustine).
With the same fidelity, as “good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” we need to  “serve one another with whatever gift each… has received” and to keep “building up the body of Christ, until we… form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature.”[7] We do it with total trust in God’s love, confident that, “the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”[8] In this there is both humility and peace.

“At home” with God
Hebrews 12:18-24 encourages us not to let the radical nothingness of our being in contrast to the All of God hold us back from seeking intimacy with him in trust:
You have not drawn near to an untouchable mountain and a blazing fire… and a voice speaking words such that those who heard begged that they be not addressed to them.[9]
 On the contrary: “You have come… to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.” To your Father’s house. To peace in his love. “God, in your goodness you have made a home for the poor.”

Do I measure my value by what I can do or by what God can do in me?

Be a faithful steward: keep investing in what you and others can become.

[1] 1John 5:4.
[2] John 15:5
[3] “Lord, do this with me, do this in me, do this through me.”
[4] 1John 4:9-16; Matthew 6:25-34; 10:28-31.
[5] Psalm 131:2.
[6] See Luke 8:19.
[7] 1Peter 4:10; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4;11-13.
[8] Philippians 1:6.
[9] See this event in Exodus, chapters 19, and 20:19.

Friday, August 26, 2016

To Be Or Not To Be

To Be Or Not To Be
 Saturday: Twenty-First Week of the Year: August 27, 2016
Year II: 1Corinthians 1:26-31; Psalm 33:12-21; Matthew 25:14-30

The Responsorial pinpoints true happiness: “Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.”

In 1Corinthians 1:26-31 Paul says we are nothing and everything. We find it hard to believe him on both counts.

Of the Corinthians he says, “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.” But even if they had been, he continues, they would still be nothing: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are.” Nothing that we are in and of this world, whether by birth, education, talents or extraordinary achievement, really makes us anything at all. In itself it all counts for nothing. If you draw on a blackboard a face that is going to be erased in five minutes, does it really make any difference whether it is a pretty face or an ugly one? It is just chalk dust awaiting the eraser. And that is true of us if God’s last word is: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” He said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,” but only “until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken” (Genesis 3:19). No matter what our sweat gains us, it doesn’t mean very much. A pre-Christian Greek epitaph reads:

Naked at my birth;
Naked back to earth;
What’s it worth?
I strove in vain, my foolish friend,
For a naked end.

This is “existential despair.” But the revealed truth is, we are everything, because we have become Christ: “God has made you members of Christ Jesus, and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom…. If anyone wants to boast, boast about the Lord.” That is what we need to keep in mind. Happy the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells us God has invested in us. It matters little what we were or had to begin with: having “died in Christ” at Baptism, we have given up everything. But God has chosen to put everything we had — and more —  back into our hands to be managed by us for him, and for his interests. The only thing that ultimately counts is what we do with the gifts God has entrusted to us. As his ministers and as his stewards we have a job to do on earth, and when Jesus comes at the end, he will ask us for an accounting.

This may frighten us. If we feel we don’t have much to work with, or won’t succeed in managing it well, we may freeze up and just try to “keep out of sin.” Like a basketball player who is afraid to take a shot and never scores. But in Jesus’ story, the master didn’t praise achievement; just effort and fidelity. He said exactly the same thing to the one with two talents and to the one with five. How much they gained was not important; just the fact that they tried: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater. Come and join in your master’s happiness.” What counts is not “success” but fidelity. Fidelity is success.

Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Let Christ express himself through your words and actions.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Where Is The “Smart Money”?

Where Is The “Smart Money”?
 Friday: Twenty-First Week of the Year: August 26, 2016
Year II: 1Corinthians 1:17-25; Psalm 33:1-11; Matthew 25:1-13

The Responsorial (Psalm 33) teaches us to see things as they are, not as they might appear to the blinded “wise” of this world: “The earth is [always] full of the goodness of the Lord.”

In 1Corinthians 1:17-25 Paul faces up to the most difficult truth Jesus asks us to accept: that he came to save the world by being crucified. And the standard equipment required of those who want to follow him is a cross to shoulder (Matthew 16:21-26).

We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called… Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

There it is: wisdom or foolishness, power or weakness, depending on whether we judge by God’s reckoning or by obvious human standards. We have to choose.

Let us be clear, however. When Paul says, “the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14), he is not talking about suffering. He is talking about a stance toward God and the world. A stance of total self-donation to God and total freedom from attachment to anything on this earth. At Baptism we “presented our bodies as a living sacrifice to God” (Romans 12:1). “All of us… baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death.” We were “buried with Christ” and also “raised with him” (Romans 6:3; Colossians 2:12). Now all of us say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). That is what it means to be “crucified” to the world. We live as sacrificed, sacrificing ourselves and everything we have control over to the work of bringing Christ to birth, and nurturing his life in ourselves and others until he grows to “full stature” in every member of the human race (Galatians 4:19; Ephesians 4:13). For those who desire nothing but this, no matter what they may happen to suffer, “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” Their cross is love.

In Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus is talking about living in the present with an eye and a half, at least, on the future.

This is Thomas Aquinas’ definition of “wisdom”: to “see everything in this world in the light of our final end.” That makes sense. To Google for directions, we have to type in our final destination. If we don’t we will never arrive. But a lot of very smart people are not wise at all. Like the “foolish” bridesmaids in Jesus’ story, they get so caught up in the here and now that they actually forget they are going anywhere at all.

If we follow the lead of the “smart money” in this world, we will invest in what pays off here and now. We will also invest a bit in the afterlife, of course; at least enough to be accepted as a stockholder when we arrive for that great Shareholders’ Meeting in the Sky. But that won’t be our prime investment. In “real life” (what a misnomer!) people who are respected put most of their time and resources into what will make them successful on this earth by the going standards of their culture.

The “smart money” isn’t very smart. It is a set-up for ultimate failure. Those considered wise in this world are “fools.” But theirs is a common stance on earth.

Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Offer your body in ministry “for the life of the world.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Live Five To Be Alive

Live Five To Be Alive
 Thursday: Twenty-First Week of the Year: August 25, 2016
Year II: 1Corinthians 1:1-9; Psalm 145:2-7; Matthew 24:42-51

The Responsorial reminds us we must praise in order to appreciate: “I will praise your name forever, Lord.”

As we begin reading 1Corinthians (1:1-9), Paul praises the Corinthians and thanks God for the graces given them. At the same time he sums up for them the five essentials of the Christian life so that, seeing it in clear focus, they might appreciate it more and live it more consistently.

First he reminds them of their identity. “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus.” They are the “holy people of Jesus Christ,” “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints” (New Revised Standard Version translation). They have “become Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 795).

To this end they have been called to discipleship: Paul thanks God that “you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers.” “In every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind.”

They are consecrated by Baptism to bear witness to Christ as prophets. Paul affirms that “the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you.” Their witness is, theologically, the “testimony of Christ” himself, risen and living within them (cp. NRSV).

Because they are also consecrated in Baptism as priests, being members of the one and only Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:21-25; 9:11 to 10:14), they are “not without any of the gifts of the Spirit.” Paul will insist later that these gifts are given for ministry. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good….  for building up the church” (1Corinthians 12:7; 14:12, 26). To be a Christian is to mediate the life of God to others in love as ministers and instruments of Jesus Christ.

Finally, Paul says they are to do this “while waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” He assures them that God “will keep you steady and without blame until the last day.” This is a reminder of our Baptismal consecration as “kings” or faithful stewards of the kingship of Christ. We are charged to take responsibility for establishing the reign of God over every area and activity of human life on earth until he comes again.

To make these five mysteries, promises and commitments our Christian way of life, we need to remind ourselves of them constantly. “I will praise your name forever, Lord.”

In Matthew 24: 42-51 Jesus focuses on the last two elements in our “job description” as Christians: our baptismal consecration as priests and stewards of Christ’s kingship. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other servants their allowance of food at the proper time?” It is every Christian consecrated by Baptism to ministry and to responsible leadership in trying to fulfill all the needs of God’s household. “Blessed is the one whom the master will find at work when he arrives.” That one has reason to say, “I will praise your name forever, Lord.”

Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Feed all his sheep until Christ comes again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Give Glory To God

Give Glory To God
Feast of Saint Bartholomew, Apostle: August 24

The Entrance Antiphon urges us: “Proclaim the salvation of the Lord… his glory to all nations.” The Responsorial (Psalm 145) says it is happening: “Your friends tell the glory of your kingship, Lord.”

What would have happened if Philip, in John 1:45-51 had not “found Nathanael [aka Bartholomew] and told him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses… wrote, Jesus… from Nazareth’”? Would Nathanael ever have met Jesus? Wound up an apostle? Would the people he preached to have heard the Good News?

God may have found a way — but not the best way, the way he wanted. And if we broaden the question, how many people are there that God wants to use to  “proclaim the salvation of the Lord,” but who just don’t cooperate? People not alert or sufficiently in touch with God to recognize his inspirations, or who have just precluded them by not really being interested in “his glory”?

Jesus said to some who would not accept his preaching, “How can you believe when you accept glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?” (John 5:44). What if the only “glory” we are interested in is our own — calling it  “achievement,” or “success,” or “popularity,” or even the self-affirmation that comes from living a good moral life, dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s in the rule book?

There is nothing wrong with keeping rules. Jesus himself said, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me” (John 14:21).

When Jesus said this, however, the “commandments” he was talking about were not the ones we got through Moses, but the teaching of Jesus that takes us far beyond those — the “Sermon on the Mount,” for example, or his last instructions to the Apostles at the Last Supper (see Matthew, chapters 5-7 and John, chapters 13-17). How often do we read over those chapters to “evaluate our performance” as Christians? Are these the basis of our “examination of conscience” before the Sacrament of Reconciliation? We won’t find any inflating sense of achievement in keeping these commandments, because they are all impossible except through humble and trusting surrender to the grace of God. Try, for example, “Love one another as I have loved you!”

We are certainly a credit to God the Creator when we live good human lives. But to “proclaim the salvation of the Lord… his glory to all nations,” we need to see the glory of God’s divine life in us and in others manifesting itself in action. For that we need a personal, intimate relationship with God: “Your friends tell the glory of your kingship, Lord.”

Revelation 21:9-14 calls the Apostles the “twelve foundations” of the “holy city.” Jesus said of them, “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” And they lived up to that: “Your friends tell the glory of your kingship, Lord.” What if we all did?

Initiative: Give God’s life: Get in touch with the “glory” you have seen. Share it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Use The Wide-Focus Lens

Use The Wide-Focus Lens
Tuesday: Twenty-First Week of the Year: August 23, 2016
Year II: 2Thessalonians 2:1-17; Psalm 96:10-13; Matthew 23:23-26

The Responsorial urges us to await with hope the day when: “The Lord comes to judge the earth.”

In 2Thessalonians 2:1-17 Paul is telling us not to get involved in questions that Jesus didn’t bother to answer, because they are of no importance — like when or how the end of the world is going to come — but to just “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.” There is too much in Scripture that we have not yet absorbed for us to waste time speculating about matters God didn’t see fit to include. We need to study what is revealed about the mind and heart of Jesus, the mystery of grace, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, without being distracted by minor matters that just pique our curiosity. The Scriptures are for those who want spiritual enlightenment, not religious sightseeing.

In Matthew 23:23-26 Jesus continues his “profile” of the Pharisees. We need to understand the spirit of Phariseeism, because if it were not going to be a lasting problem in the Church, the Holy Spirit would not have inspired the evangelists to write so much about it.

Jesus describes the Pharisee spirit as focusing on minor, if obligatory, details while ignoring more important issues. We see this in people who can quote every minor directive from the Vatican about liturgy and the administration of the sacraments, but have no interest at all in the papal encyclicals on social justice or the documents of Vatican II. They “tithe mint, dill, and cumin” — are scrupulous about minor obligations and their personal devotions  — but “have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” They can be thoughtless, unfeeling and even cruel to those who are not “in step” because they are stumbling and trying to find their way. They cannot see how anyone can be “in good faith” who is not “in good standing” with the Church.

The “Pharisees” scrutinize external conduct but are blind to interior attitudes and values. They assume they are “just” if in everything specified by law their acts are  “just right.” The truth is, nothing we do is “just right” unless, by reflecting the mind and heart of God, we see it is “right and just.” And sometimes law observance isn’t, as when we follow the letter of the law without asking what its purpose is and where it is actually leading us or others in our concrete circumstances. It is standard Church teaching that if we obey a law when we know it will not achieve the goal of the legislator we are being disobedient.

God is not satisfied with an obedience to his commandments that just does what he says without asking why he says it and what it reveals of God’s mind and heart. A dog can be trained to obey that way! Jesus said, “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). This will be his focus when “The Lord comes to judge the earth.”

Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Minister according to the mind and heart of God.