Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time: "we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us"

Pope Francis calls for a witness in our bishops that is “pastoral not ideological”. The same is true for every Christian: our witness must be to serve others, giving not what we want but what the other needs. Saint Paul was intensely conscious of the need to live himself the Gospel which he preached to others: "we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us".

A pastor feeds. Feeding is for the purpose of growth and of flourishing on the part of the one fed, the one who is served for his or her good. To serve another is to fill the needs of someone else, not for the purpose of boasting and pride on the part of the one who does the serving. The example of work in the vineyard of the Lord as in Saint Paul thereby is good and therefore worthy of imitating. We must be the apostle who commends his own example. Also, when we serve the good of others, we do so not to become “puffed up”.

If good means to build up, why does Christ preach about destruction in the Gospel? Why does it seem as though God permits destruction?

"All that you see here-- the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky”.

One of the reasons is the world itself. As the Word of God teaches, “the world as we know it is passing away”. It is simply the truth about the nature of the world that it is temporary.

Another reason for the temporary nature of things is hatred: enemies of the Jews tore down the temple because of hatred. Wars originate in sinful hearts and natural disasters arise from the same energies and systems that also produce all of the wonderful things we enjoy.

God made hearts, but is not the source of the evil in them, God made the earth, the seas, the sun, all that is but did not will that these things should hurt us though sometimes they do whether through our own negligence, carelessness or weakness.  I like the ocean when I swim in the summer for relief from the heat, but if I do not do what I am able to flee the flood I will suffer more grievously its effects. I like the winds when I am sailing or for energy production, but if I do not do my utmost to seek protection from the 200 mph typhoon winds, I suffer worse injuries than I might otherwise. If I do not eat right or dress for the cold weather the negative results are my fault.

Context is always important. The context here is “What is most important for God? And is this also more important for me because I seek to do His will?’

Christ provides the context: "Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over.” Before natural disasters, violence, even death we must be first concerned about our witness, for it is this upon which we will be judged. Do we not see His prophecy coming to fulfillment in dramatic ways as the Christian Faith and morals are adamantly opposed by the laws and the powerful? “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  You will be hated by all because of my name”.

Some governments have now declared that faithfulness to particular aspects of the Christian moral code are a “mental illness”, thus giving them the power to virtually imprison any Christian who insists upon witnessing publicly for Christ in this way.

How do we fight to win? Preach Christ and Him crucified. Christ fought evil, the destruction of Good itself on the Cross so as to win. We therefore preach not ourselves, but only Christ as His loyal servants. “Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.”

This is the work He gives us here and now. It is not for us to judge what to be successful means, but rather, as Mother Teresa taught, to be faithful as He has determined it to be so.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.

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