Monday, May 9, 2016

Time to put away Childish things.

When we read sacred scripture, especially the writings of and about St. Paul the Apostle, we see such a transformative experience.  Here the man who once persecuted the Christians himself, pulling them into the streets and out of their homes, looking to kill them and destroy them; is coming to the end of his own race.  God has revealed to him via the Holy Spirit that imprisonment and hardships are what await him in the future and that he is running out of time to do the things he has been doing.  How much does one's life have to change in order to go from wanting to spill the blood of the Christians to preaching to everyone he comes across in order to make sure they have the same offer of salvation that he had?

In my teenage years, especially during college, I fell into that branch of Christianity which basically says once you are saved, you can do whatever you want; and I did.   I partied, I drank, I had relationships that were inappropriate.  I still believed very much in Jesus Christ, but I put all of it on God... none of the relationship on me.  That's really the key isn't it?  Relationship can never be one way.  It involves someone else.  Why then do some of us pretend that Jesus is the one who has all the work to do and that all we have to do is skate by?  He never said that.  He never acted that way.   Paul here in this first reading shows us too that even with a direct encounter on the road to Damascus he didn't stop and just quit being a religious man.. but rather went out to "bear witness to the Gospel of God's grace." 

I think as we journey toward Pentecost we should be thinking about our own Baptism, our own moments of conversion.  The Apostles received the Holy Spirit on that day and were emboldened to journey out into the world to preach the Gospel as well.   All of them, including Paul, considered "life of no importance" to them. Rather, all they considered of importance was spreading the Gospel to as many people as they could, to bring about God's will, God's Kingdom, right here on earth. You and I received that same Spirit and that same Mandate when we became Christian.   It's no longer enough to live as a young man, putting all of a relationship on someone else, expecting all the perks of being the family but none of the responsibility. "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me."   

You and I are no longer children.  That's what it means to be an adult.. to stop simply existing off of someone else, and begin to take our own place in society.   To start taking on responsibility for our actions and to stand accountable for our failures.  St. James wrote it so eloquently in his letter: Faith without works is dead.  You show me your faith without your works.. and I will show you my faith through my works.   Are we ready for that?  To stop letting our hormones and emotions control our lives and instead to work for God's version of justice, for God's version of mercy?  You see our world has taken justice and mercy and made it about I, about our own egos... what the world owes me...   My rights, my entitlements.   Rather God challenges us to reach out into the world and worry about the other.  The broken, the poor, the widow, the orphan.   The refugee.  The downtrodden.  The oppressed.  The illegal alien.  God's mercy demands that we worry about them, not I.   It involves agape love, self sacrificial giving.  

I'm not there.  I worry too much about me.   Respect.  I tend to demand it.   I want it.  I get upset when I don't get it.  God challenges me instead to become meek, merciful and to leap for joy when men treat me wrongly.  How do I get there?  There is only one road, one path to Heaven.   Only one food which can prepare us for this transformative journey, a food that when eaten does not get consumed, but rather transforms the person who receives it.   That is the Eucharist.  Receive it often, receive it reverently, and receive it disposed towards God's grace.. and watch as he transforms you from a child... into the image of Christ you were created to be.    That's what discernment is about.   If there is anything I've learned from my Diaconate classmates this past year is that growing up requires sacrifice, it requires effort, and above all it requires trusting in God's grace.  Are you ready to make that leap?   

His servant and yours, 

"He must increase, I must decrease.