Christian Life: God Centered and Balanced in Love
November 15 to November 20, 2020
Sunday Gospel – Tensions Balance
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, provides an interesting perspective on life’s tension exhibited in today’s Gospel reading of the Parable of the Talents. He notes that we are all drowning in a sea of voices. The different voices we hear pull us in many directions, and, after a while, we’re no longer sure who we are, what we believe in, or what will bring us life. More profoundly, however, we experience this sea of voices as great tension. Different voices tell us other things, and each voice seems to carry its own truth. On the one hand, there’s a powerful voice beckoning us towards self-sacrifice, self-renunciation, telling us that happiness lies in giving life away, that we will only be ourselves when we are big-hearted, generous, and put the needs of others before our own. Deep down, we all know the truth of this, that it is Jesus’ voice telling us that there is no greater love, nor meaning, than to lay down one’s life for others. But that’s not the only voice we hear. We hear a powerful, persistent voice as well, seemingly calling us in the opposite direction. Superficially, this is the voice calling us towards pleasure, comfort, and security, the voice that tells us to take care of ourselves, to drink in life’s pleasures to the full, to seize the day while it’s still ours to have. More deeply, this is the voice that challenges us not to be too timid or fearful to be fully human beings. This voice invites us to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy the incredible energy, color, wit, intelligence, and creativity that makes the world go round and makes life worth living. That is the voice telling us Jesus’ parable of the talents and holding before us a truth too often neglected in religious circles: that God is also the author of eros, color, physical health, wit, and intelligence. Life, it insists, needs to be tasted, in God’s name. How to find a balance in all of this? If both voices invite us to truth and yet they seem in opposition to each other, where do we go with this? Well, there is no simple truth, here or anywhere else. Truth is painfully complicated (as are we), and the truth is always bigger than our capacity to absorb and integrate it. To be open to truth is to be perpetually stretched and perpetually in tension, at least this side of eternity. And that’s true in terms of the seeming opposition between these voices. At times, they are in real opposition, so we can’t have it both ways but have to choose one to the other’s detriment. Truth has natural boundaries, and there’s a danger in letting it mean everything. But there’s an equal danger in allowing it to mean too little, of reducing a full truth to a half-truth—and nowhere, at least in the spiritual life, is this danger more significant than in our tendency to let either of these voices completely blot out the other.
Faith Sighted – Have sight; your faith has saved you In the story of the blind man, we see that he did more than just quietly seek out Jesus in silent prayer. No, he shouted to the heavens! He ignored all the voices that had said over and over to him, “Stop making a fuss! Just accept your lot in life.” No, he fought through all of that, and probably his own thoughts that he wasn’t worthy of being healed. Many scripture commentators believe that Jesus heard the cries from the blind man from the very beginning, yet he let him continue with his prayer. Why? Jesus wanted him to be convinced that he needed him. It’s the same for us. If you find yourself in the same situation as the blind man, try crying out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” What a beautiful aspiration for all of us to repeat again and again.
Exuberance to Behold Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor Do we still greet each day with the exuberance seen in Zacchaeus? Are the core intentions of our lives centered on God? We all have our faults but let us not forget that God responds to us unreservedly when we show the least interest in him. When we seek him, he responds because loving us is his entire purpose. Advent is the perfect time to cast off our complacency and move toward a more active Christian presence. A time when we can focus our prayers and actions on reaching out to the least, the lost, and the forgotten. Think about it, pray about it, and then seize the moment when it comes.
The Delusion of Human Self-Sufficiency – We do not want this man to be our king While being the Gospel that’s hardest on the rich, Luke’s Gospel is also the Gospel that makes most clear that riches aren’t bad in themselves. God is massively generous with his riches. Jesus shows us through his parables how God’s generosity is so excessive that it’s scandalous. It upsets our measured sense of fairness. The danger in having riches is that by having them, we will more easily have the illusion that we’re self-sufficient. But we aren’t. God is Esse Subsistens, a Self-sufficient Being. God is the only one who does not need anyone or anything else – the rest of us do. Why? Riches and the comfort they bring can make us blind to the plight of the least, the lost and the forgotten. Jesus told us that his mission was “to bring good news to the poor.” In our comfort, we tend not to see the poor or their needs. That’s the danger in being rich, money-wise or otherwise.
Change the World: Love Others Lavishly-Pray Unceasingly-Trust God Unreservedly – If this day you only knew what makes for peace Today St. Luke recalls the weeping of Jesus as they drew near to Jerusalem. Many believe Jesus wept because he knew that Jerusalem would be destroyed because they failed to recognize God’s presence in their midst. Throughout recorded human history, many have failed to see or recognize God. What can we do? I would offer two things we should be doing each day: living our faith as Christ commanded us to do by loving God and our neighbor; and, most importantly, praying unceasingly. The trends in this world will only change if we make God relevant and real by how we live out the Christian faith. When we live a life of love and then trust in God’s grace and mercy to change the hearts and minds of the lost, amazing things will happen. We must never forget that the lost are God’s children too, whether they acknowledge that truth or not. So, let’s love them and then trust God do his thing.
Zeal and Healthy Anger – My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves Today’s reading shows us two things about Jesus. The first attribute of Jesus’ zeal for the Father, as conveyed to us through his word, reminds us to hear and respond in kind to that word. If we are wise, we will hold on for dear life and pray that his words will continue to fill our lives. The second attribute of healthy anger must be seen in its opposite, “unhealthy” anger, to be fully understood. Unhealthy anger is rooted in neurosis, personal frustration, jealousy, and ideology. Its object is more spite and destruction than construction. The anger of Jesus is healthy anger because its root is in genuine love for those it challenges. It challenges only because it profoundly loves those with whom it is angry and wants their happiness above its own. And it is in love that we should take these understandings to heart and action in our lives.
Take a moment for solitude to reflect on this past week. Then enjoy some time listening to Jacques Berthier & Taizé prayerful Veni Sancte Spiritus: https://vimeo.com/222299074/130fd1926e.