Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 4:32-5:8; Luke 13:10-17)

A wise man once said that it is easier to act ourselves into a new way of thinking than to think ourselves into a new way of acting.  Developing virtue, the dispositions to act well, require practice.  All the thinking and hoping in the world will not produce a person of character.  The Pauline author of Ephesians surely will concur.

The writer begs his readers to “be imitators of God.”  He (in all likelihood the writer was male) urges the people to love by doing good things for one another.   They are to support the weak, to instruct the unlearned, and to promote the welfare of everyone. 

Sometimes we want to squirm from the challenge.  Imitating God seems too much for us.  And it is true that we are utterly incapable of imitating God in every way.  But God Himself empowers us to get beyond natural limitations.  Our imitations may never be perfect, but with effort they can both please God and help our neighbors.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 4:1-6; Luke 12:54-59)

In his poem “The White-Tailed Hornet,” Robert Frost observes that humans do well to compare themselves with higher beings.  If they do not, he predicts that they will suffer one catastrophe after another.  Frost’s lines are worth remembering: “As long on earth/ As our comparisons were stoutly upward/ With gods and angels, we were men at least,/ But little lower than the gods and angels./ But once comparisons were yielded downward,/ Once we began to see our images/ Reflected in the mud and even dust./ ‘Twas disillusion upon disillusion.”  The passage from the Letter to the Ephesians today bears a similar wisdom.

Ephesians urges its readers “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”  It claims that they have been chosen by God to be members of God’s family.  As God’s children then, they are to live peacefully avoiding quarrels.  More than they, they are to strive to have a like mind and heart based on truth.  It is a tall order, but it can be accomplished with God’s grace which is “over all and through all and in all.”

Anger is a definite roadblock to peace and unity.  We must garner the courage to lay aside outrage with what others say and do.  In place of getting angry, let us pray for those who bother us.  Then we will be ready for honest dialogue over their faults and ours.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 3:14-21; Luke 12:49-53)

“Why me?” asks a cancer patient.  “Why this?” there are no easy answers to these questions.  We believe in God and know that He will make all things right.  But should we lay these thoughts on a person suffering terribly and dying prematurely like a veneer of paint over rotting wood?  In the first reading today the Pauline author takes a different tack.

The writer says that he goes on his knees before the Lord.  He knows that consolation is beyond him but trusts that God can enlighten the darkest human situation.  He prays that his readers will sense the magnitude of God’s love that is more compelling than logic. “The breath and length and height and depth” describes how that love envelops them like the air they breathe.  It may take them where they fear to go, but it will never abandon them.

In visiting the sick we learn that our best explanation to questions about God’s mercy is our presence to them.  We assure them that we care and that God has sent us.  Our second best explanation is our going to the Lord with their needs.  We pray for enlightenment both to them and us.  In doing so, the cloud of doubt begins to clear.

Wednesday, October 22, 2015

Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 3:2-12; Luke 12:39-48)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seems so vile that we want nothing to do with it.  It lops human heads as if they were water bottle caps.  It seems to abhor Christians as if somehow the humble minority of the Middle East threatens Islamic hegemony. What could the West have possibly in common with ISIS?

The answer is Jesus Christ.  He transcends nations, cultures, and religions.  In the second reading the Pauline writer lauds Christ for uniting Jew and Greek.  He serves as a bridge between these ancient peoples who have little to do with each other.  Just so, he in time will be the common ground for Christians and reformed Muslim extremists.  All will savor his wisdom, marvel at his forbearance, and wonder about his resurrection.

For now we have to pray for our enemies.  Certainly we cannot wish for ISIS’s success.  But we may hope that despite its beastliness, the regimen may notice the light of Christ’s love.  When they do, they see in us a common humanity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tuesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Ephesians 2:12-22; Luke 12:35-38)

Dr. Kent Brantley went to Liberia last year to serve the people in the terribly poor African country.  In July he became sick with fever and weakness.  His worsening condition was diagnosed as Ebola and he came back to the U.S. for treatment.  Dr. Brantley may be considered a sign for Christ who tells his disciples to watch for him in the gospel today.

Listening to passages such as this one makes us ask ourselves, when will Jesus return?  We wonder if he will return at all and whether the gospel is a myth that has been sustained through human grit, not divine grace.  Twenty centuries of unfilled expectation and false predictions of imminent coming tempt us to think that the cynics may be right. 

But our losing hope is more indicative of our not attending to Jesus’ command than following it and being disappointed.  Those who watch for Jesus find him in varied ways.  They meet him often in the poor whose simple faith defies our search for answers.  They encounter Jesus in people like Dr. Brantley whose compassion and courage convict us of self-centeredness.  And they recognize him in the sacraments celebrated among others with restless faith but hearts bending to do his will.