Sunday, August 14, 2016

Like and Oil and Water, so are the days of our lives.

I moved out of my parents home into a house they had generously given me when I was just shy of eighteen. I remember making many, many mistakes.   One that comes to mind this morning involved being in a hurry to get back to whatever I was doing but trying to cook at the same time.   I decided to deep fry some 'tater-tots' so I could have a quick snack.   In my hurry to get back to the computer, or tv, or whatever it was... I forgot to take off that little plastic cover you put on top to keep the oil from getting stuff in it.  A few minutes later I smelt smoke.  Running into the kitchen I saw fire literally licking the ceiling tile!   I grabbed the thing off the oven and put it on the floor so the fire couldn't touch the roof.   Then I grabbed a glass of water off the nearby counter and threw it in it.   As flames engulfed my face and hair began to dissipate like the morning dew, I realized the truth of the saying oil and water do not mix.

I believe that to be the crux of the message from Jesus in the gospel today.   Some would use this verse to allow anger and hatred to rule in their lives.  To claim that anyone who stands in their way is simply doing so because they are a 'good Christian.'  Jesus is not giving us permission to be hateful.   He is not saying that we can ignore the rest of the Gospel and lose our joy, our kindness and our love.   No, rather He is giving us a dire warning.   That good and evil do not mix.   That often the response to our Christian walk and the message we bear will be an explosion.   That like the oil that splattered on my legs going straight through the skin, people will often blow up and respond with anger and division.   We are to love them anyway... to care for them... even at the cost of our own lives, our own desires.

In today's world were people soften the message of Christ, the cross becomes a thing of the past.   That's not what Jesus demands of us.  These three readings grouped together remind us of the price of discipleship.   That our goal is not one of flowers and rainbows, gentle currents and soft beds, but the discomfort of Calvary.   We are challenged to live our faith with joy amidst persecution, love amidst hate, a friendly demeanor when all others are bearing down upon us.  The early Church realized that Christianity was a call to martyrdom, a call to give up our lives if need be, without rejected the faith.   In all of this they realized that God's mercy was beyond anything we could fathom, but that the call was not lessened by that, but strengthened in the example set forth by the incarnation of God himself and the Way of the Cross.

With Christian martyrs in the recent news, displaced Christians being persecuted and martyred in many nations, and some making the claim that "in this century [we are[ witnessing more shedding of Christian blood than any of the previous twenty"; our eyes turn toward the past and the future.. but we must need live in the present.  You and I in the comfort of America likely will not be called to give our lives for our faith, though it is not out of the realm of possibilities.    The challenge for us at the current moment is: to die to our own selves.   To live our lives in a way that shows us to be servants of Christ.   To look for Him in every encounter with others and ask How can I feed them?  How can I give them drink?  How can I clothe them?  That means both physically and spiritually.   To ever be prepared to give "an account for the hope that is in us." (1 Peter 3:15)  Is there anything standing the way of that?   Anything stopping me from serving the widow, the orphan, the refugee?   The victim and the bully?  Until we become detached from those things which stand in the way of complete abandonment to Christ and His calling, Paul reminds us that we "have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood."  

What is preventing you from being the person you were created to be?  Fix that first.  Work on your relationship with God first and everything else will fall into place.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  August 14th, 2016.  Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10; Psalm 40; Hebrews 12:1-4; The Holy Gospel according to Luke 12:49-53