What Do True Conservatives Conserve?
Thirty-Third Week of Year II Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The Responsorial Psalm celebrates intimacy with God: “The one who is victorious I will sit beside me on my throne” (Revelation 3:21, Psalm 15).
Revelation 3:1-22 continues God’s messages to the churches. They all deal with being faithful stewards: managing with wisdom and prudence the gift of grace (divine life), experienced and expressed in acts of faith, hope and love. Where the churches are failing to preserve, manage, and use fruitfully the gifts they have received, Jesus is emphatic in his reproaches. The second petition in the prayer he gave us is, “Thy kingdom come!” and he seriously counts on us as “stewards of his kingship” to make that happen.
The church in Sardis looks like a live congregation, but it is dead. The letter does not go into details; just warns, “Remember what you received and heard. Obey it, and repent.” The focus was probably on innovations within the church as the community compromised with the beliefs and values of the culture around them. This is always a danger. But we should not forget a matching danger. Some, in defensive reaction to innovations, especially since the exaggerations of the sixties, try to be “conservative” by clinging to (“conserving”) the beliefs and practices they grew up with, instead of going back to and conserving what was “received and heard” from the beginning. They resist new insights and corrections of “standard” practices. The authentic teaching of the Church, both in faith and morals, is often so contrary to popular assumptions and teaching that it sounds “liberal” to them.
Pope Francis quoted St. Ignatius of Loyola: “The enemy moves people who have good intentions but bad information to reject that which they do not understand” (Open Mind, Faithful Heart, ch. 9).
This short-sighted conservativism leads to the complacency of the church in Laodicea. The self-righteously “orthodox” are “neither cold nor hot.” They are so intent on straining out legalistic gnats and practicing deep devotions superficially that they are blind to beckoning mystery and deaf to seductive love.
Jesus says, “If you open the door and let me in I will sit you beside me on my throne!”
Luke 19: 1-10 tells us of a man who was cold, not hot. But because he knew it, he “was trying to see what Jesus was like.” He even made himself look ridiculous by climbing a tree to get a good look at him.
Jesus laughed and invited himself to dinner. The effect that personal contact with Jesus had on Zacchaeus was an extravagant (passionate) act of conversion: “Half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”
Full stewardship is total abandonment of all to God.
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Look at the whole picture. Always.