readings for tomorrow's daily Mass are so rich and beautiful that I am not sure I can do them justice with mere words. There is so much there, so many lessons. The story of Saint Paul is such a powerful testimony that it should make all of us as Christians find hope and beauty in the mercy and grace of God. We see a man who previously had been binding and capturing Christians, abusing and torturing them, leading them into prison and even sometimes killing them; being blinded and led by Christ into a prison of darkness, one of Saul's own doing. Then being freed by the Holy Spirit and led out by hand to serve God and bring his message of salvation to the World. There is no doubt about it that Saul of Tarsus was a major influence on how we as Christians understand our faith today.
The thing that was missing in Saul's life was truly charity. He had zeal for God's word, we see that for certain. He had studied under Gamaliel. He was truly an educated man, a Pharisee of Pharisees. His pedigree was immaculate and without error. His actions though were not of a man who loved others, but rather of a man living with zealous fear. You know, when your way of life is threatened you immediately lash out at others? We do that a tremendous amount in our society. We lash out at the different. We abuse and put down the other. The strange. The them. We want our comfort zone. We want things not to change. Every generation is guilty of this. The thing is though, charity is the thing we need most. It is that which Jesus talked about when he said the greatest commandment was to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Charity is love. It comes from the Latin word Caritas, which means love for your fellow man. The Church has declared that "Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it "governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification." (CCC 826)
It goes further than just going to church on Sunday. This Sunday at Mass we heard the beautiful reading of Saint Paul where he declares that we are the body of Christ and that we cannot just reject each other off hand. We need each other. The thing about a body is it, it needs certain things to function. We need a brain. We need lungs. We need certain parts and without them we will surely die. St. Thérèse Of Lisieux said "If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn't lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. [..] LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT'S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE - IT'S ETERNAL!" (CCC 826) We can do an awful lot of things without love, that's for sure. What we cannot do is claim to be Christian, claim to be a part of the body of Christ without it. Without it.. we are just a noise.. (1 Corinthians 13:1) an irritant. A resounding gong, a noisy cymbal. There was nothing I hated more in band than when one of us percussionists dropped a cymbal on the floor. The sound was grating, irritating, everything ground to a halt.
How then do we find love? First and foremost we find it in the Sacraments of our Holy Mother Church. It is through these sacraments that we encounter Christ in the fullest possible way. It is in reconciliation that the fullness of God's mercy is loosened by the promise made to Peter, whatever you loosen shall be loosened, whatever you bind shall be bound. (Matt 16:19) It is through the Eucharist we receive Jesus himself; body, soul and divinity; into our own bodies to guide and change us. To make us more like Him, to fill us with his love. In Baptism and Confirmation we receive and are strengthened by the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us. The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity's communion with men. (CCC 747)
Yes, you and I are called to love. We are called to more than just a weekend visit with Christ. We are called to apostleship. We are called to be intentional disciples. In the Gospel reading we see Christ commissioning his disciples to go forth and preach the Gospel. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline. (CCC 75) More so, the signs and miracles that accompanied them testified to the power of their calling and to Christ's presence with them through the Holy Spirit. It testified to God's love for mankind, all of mankind, and to the fulfilment of Christ's promise that he would be with them all ways. (Matt 28:20)
All of us are called to this apostolic mission. That's what it means when we declare at Mass that we believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. It is a universal call, one rested on the authority and mission of the apostles. We are called to do the same in our own station of life. Not just the priests. Not just the nuns. Not just the deacons. Not just the pastoral ministers. Every single one of us. In fact, the Church believes so strongly in the call of the lay faithful that it declares that "The apostolate of the pastors cannot be fully effective without the laity." (CCC 900) It is through you and I that we see the world begin to change. We are challenged to engage in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will (CCC 898). We are out in the world. It is up to us to bring Christ into our environment. Into our families. Into our work places. Into our politics. Challenging the world to a higher moral standard. In every action, and every thought. We are in the world but not of it. We still have an obligation to our fellow man to bring them the good news. To protect those who cannot protect themselves. To bring about policies that protect the unborn, the widow, the orphan, the refugee. To help the homeless, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, give drink to those who thirst.
The Catechism tells us that the Church is like the moon. (CCC 748) She has no light of her own. She simply reflects the light of Christ. You and I are the Church. If all we do is receive the Sacraments? We are like a black hole. We take and take. We never give back. We are not full of love. Rather we are parasites, trying to draw on God's grace for our own selfish reasons. Rather, we are to be reflecting, sharing, pouring over. Our joy should be so beautiful and powerful that when someone looks at us they see that light of God shining out and ask, what is it that they have? How can I get some of that? It is in giving that love becomes full. It is when our Church, you and I, are so filled with love that we become a part of that universe. An eternal universe. One that transcends time and space. God is love. If we do not have love? We are not part of him. Oh how I long to be part of Him! How I long to serve him completely and get my ego, my self, out of the way. My mirror has smudges... oh Lord grant me the grace to clean them off. Let me be a pure reflection of your glory, for I am a poor one at best.
What about you? Are you a mirror? Or do you suck in all the light you can get never offering it to the world? With everything going on right now; political rallying, march for life, primary elections, war, refugees dying trying to flee those wars, natural disasters, snow storms on the East coast, flooding, theft, vandalism, and so much more; are you pouring out God's love to help those in need? Remember, as Mother Theresa said:
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.”
I don't know about you.. but I have work to do.
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."