The 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - 30 OCT 2011

The Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10  ─  1 Thessalonians 2:7b-9, 13  ─  Matthew 23:1-12
October 30, 2011

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” [Matthew 23:12]

Scanning the parish surveys that have been filled out this month, there are a lot of common threads among the comments that people have made.  Many are about the celebration of Holy Mass, which is encouraging, because it reflects that the people of our parish know and believe that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the center of our lives as Catholics.  Fortunately, most of these comments are positive.  That reflects an engagement with what is best about the Mass, a “best” that at its heart is divine, and can never be diminished by the foibles or mistakes of priests or laypersons who participate in the Mass.

It’s common in sacristies, where priests prepare for Holy Mass, to see a sign directed to the priest, which challenges him with these words:  “Say this Mass as if it were your First Mass, as if it were your last Mass, as if it were your only Mass.”  That simple saying points to how precious the Mass is.  Across the many decades that a priest lives as a priest, he’s likely to celebrate Mass in many different settings.  Let me contrast two of the Masses that I’ve celebrated over the 16+ years that I’ve been a priest.  One, I celebrated on January 14th in the year 2000.  The other, I can’t tell you the date of;  I can’t tell you even the year of it, but let’s say it was celebrated in the winter of 2005.

The first Mass was celebrated in the Vatican, early in the morning of that January of the Great Jubilee year 2000.  Through an improbable set of circumstances, I was invited to concelebrate Mass with Pope John Paul II in the Pope’s private chapel, a space which holds only about thirty people.  Although this Mass was celebrated in a small, simple chapel (in many ways just the opposite of St. Peter’s Basilica in all its grandeur), the Mass was more meaningful because of its simplicity.  After all, if the same Mass had been celebrated in St. Peter’s, I probably would have been seated a hundred feet away from the Pope, who would likely have been seated up on the high altar above the rest of us.  But in this tiny chapel, he was seated only about ten feet away during the Liturgy of the Word, and about fifteen feet away as he stood at the altar during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

The other Mass took place at St. Joseph’s Church in Conway Springs, where I served as pastor for six years.  As I said, I don’t recall the date, or even the year.  But I know it was winter, because the whole town was covered in a blanket of snow several feet deep.  Because of the weather, the power had been out during the night, and still was out at the time of Mass.  So as you can imagine, the church was dark, and very cold.  Because the snow was still falling, the streets hadn’t been plowed yet, and not many people were stirring:  even most companies and businesses in Wichita had cancelled work shifts.  I could barely get the doors to the church open because of the snowfall, and when it was time for Mass to begin, no one else was in the dark church.

As Mass began, I could barely read by the light of the candles on the altar.  However, I didn’t feel any pressure to speak as quickly as I normally would, since no one else was present…  until, that is, the time of the Consecration.  Since I was focused on the prayers of Consecration, and since it was dark, I couldn’t tell who had entered the church.  After Mass, however, I spoke to the woman who had braved the weather to participate in that simple offering of Holy Mass.  She said, “I was surprised that Mass was going on when I got here.  I thought you would cancel the Mass.”

With this, we began an interesting conversation.  I explained that a scheduled Mass is never cancelled unless a priest is physically unable to be there.  She asked why a priest would celebrate Mass without anyone else present.  In response, I used the analogy of a play by way of contrast.  While a theatre manager might cancel the performance of a play if no one bought a ticket, the celebration of the Mass isn’t directed primarily towards the lay people present, either for their entertainment or even for their edification.  It’s directed primarily to God, and the priest who has scheduled a Mass has agreed to offer the Mass to God for a specific intention, on a specific day and time.

In the decades since Vatican II, this teaching of the Church has often been lost in the shuffle:  the celebration of Holy Mass is directed primarily towards the worship of God, not towards the people.  Confusion about this point is the reason that so many say that “Mass is boring”:  because they’re not “getting” what they’re wanting.  Instead, the Church needs to do a better job instructing all the faithful, no matter their age, that for the laypeople who come to Holy Mass, the celebration of Mass is directed primarily towards giving, not getting.  The celebration of Mass is directed primarily towards God, not towards us.  The celebration of Mass is to begin with us, not end with us.  The celebration of Mass begins with what we come to Mass to give to God.

One of the flash-points in the Church since the Second Vatican Council concerns the placement of the altar, and consequently the stance of the priest during the Consecration.  You can immediately tell a person’s thinking about the nature of the Mass if they have an answer when you ask them to describe the stance of the priest during the Consecration before Vatican II.  Of course, many Catholics today have never been to a Mass as it was celebrated before Vatican II.  Even as old as I am, I wasn’t born until after the Second Vatican Council ended!  But even younger Catholics may have heard or read about what the Mass—in its pre-Vatican II form—was like.

So if you ask someone to describe the stance of the priest during the Consecration as the Mass was celebrated before Vatican II, you’re likely to get one of two answers.  The first is that some people will say that the priest stood… “with his back to the people”.  This may be meant as an objective statement, and of course physically it’s a true statement.  But the phrase inevitably carries a negative connotation, as if the priest doesn’t care about the lay persons who are behind him in the pews.  Of course, according to this same line of thinking, the people who are sitting right now in the back pew of church really ought to be offended!  Just think:  all the rest of you in church have your backs to those poor people sitting in the back pew!

Beyond this facetiousness, we understand that the people in the first twenty pews are no more standing (or sitting) with their backs to the people in the last pew than the priest is at the altar.  Rather, all the people in church—priest and laypeople—are facing in the same direction.  They are united in directing their bodies to God, and this symbolizes that all are united in directing the same action to God:  the action of giving.  This is why the second response that you may receive, as some describe the priest at the Consecration in the older form of the Mass, is that the priest is standing “facing the same direction as the people”.  His stance shows physically that he is leading the people in prayer, not speaking to them.

By contrast, in the modern celebration of Mass, when at the Consecration the priest is facing the lay people, it’s much easier for those in the pews (especially if they’re not well catechized) to get the impression that they’re passive spectators, instead of active participants.  Likewise, it’s much easier for the priest (especially if he had poor formation at the seminary) to lapse into the role of “performer”, more concerned that the people hear him (by the quality of his voice) than he is concerned that God hear him (by the quality of his heart and soul).

When the priest encourages, and those in the pews believe, that the role of laypersons at Mass is to be passive spectators, they’re not only at risk of finding Mass “boring”.  Something far worse is at risk.  They’re at risk of not giving what they’re there to give.  And no, I’m not talking about the collection plate.  That’s secondary, although it flows from the primary gift we are called to give at Mass.  The primary act of giving at Mass is the giving of one’s own self.

At this point, let me back up and explain something about the Sacrament of Baptism, in order to get a running start at reflecting on the giving of self.  During November, we’ll be reflecting on the stewardship of our selves, and how this gift of stewardship is rooted in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  But all this begins on the day of our baptism.  When a person is baptized, he or she becomes a member of the Mystical Body of Christ (that is, the Church).  When you were baptized, your entire life—past, present, and future—was transformed.  Your entire life was changed into Christ’s life, and the three roles (or three “jobs”, if you prefer) that are His, became yours.  Those three “jobs”—those three “roles”—are the roles of priest, prophet, and shepherd.

In every celebration of Holy Mass, no matter how simple or grand, no matter who may or may not be present with us, we are taking part in the greatest of the seven Sacraments.  At Holy Mass we learn how, and are strengthened, to give our selves to those in our imperfect, daily lives.  We gives our selves through these three roles of priest, prophet and shepherd, as Jesus lived and fulfilled all of them perfectly on the Cross.

The 30th Week [I] - Friday

The 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Friday, October 28, 2011

In the secular culture that surrounds us, when we hear mention of “the human spirit,” something very generic is being described, whether it’s the drive for success, or determination, or the ability to “think outside the box”.  When the Church talks about human nature, and describes the different dimensions of man as “body”, “mind”, “soul” and “spirit”, the spirit in human nature is undoubtedly the highest part of his nature.  This human “spirit” is that part of the soul through which man can touch the essence of God’s divine nature.  The human spirit is that part of the soul where grace dwells.

This isn’t to say that a human person does not experience the divine through the human body.  This isn’t to say that a human person cannot follow the reasoning of his mind towards the divine.  But it is in the spirit of human nature that the divine and human meet.  It is in the spirit that the lower parts of the human person can participate in any way in the divine.

When the Church teaches about the highest form of prayer—namely, contemplation—this is a form of prayer that “takes place” (so to speak) in the human spirit.  In this form of prayer, there is no self-mortification properly speaking that takes place.  But there is a great deal of sacrifice of self involved.  First, one must sacrifice one’s own active forms of prayer (vocal prayer and meditation).  The two greatest teachers of the Church on prayer—St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila—are very clear in directing souls who have advanced in prayer to give themselves to time in prayer in which active prayer is sacrificed, so that one can receive from the Lord all the graces He wishes to give in contemplation.[1]

But even within advanced prayer, there are sacrifices that must be made.  To mention only one:  in the stage of growth that St. John of the Cross calls “the night of the spirit”, God removes the particular graces that He had given at earlier stages of prayer.  The person praying experiences this as a darkness, and may wrongly believe that something is wrong (either with himself, or God).  But God in this “night of the spirit” is weaning “the human spirit” of the habit of praying for the sake of what one “gets” from it.  God is helping the human person to grow in the virtue of faith, so that one prays, and loves, for God and Him alone.  ¤

[1] That doesn’t mean that a Christian at this stage would never return to vocal prayer and meditation, but that additional time must be cultivated in one’s prayer for the growth of contemplation.

The 30th Week [I] - Thursday

The 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The human person is the most complex of all creatures.  Mind you, that’s not necessarily a compliment to man.  God in His divine nature is perfectly simple.  When we say that mankind is the most complex, we’re saying that man has more “parts”, so to speak, or more “sides” or “dimensions” to his nature that any other creature, including angels.  For example, man has a body, which angels do not have.  Man also has a free intellect and a free will, unlike dumb animals, whose thinking and choosing are ruled by instinct.

Sometimes we say that man is made up of body, mind and spirit.  Then, at times, we’ll hear a distinction between “soul” and “spirit”.  What’s the difference between these two?  Put simply, the soul includes the baser part of human nature by which we do everything we do as humans:  the facts that we can move, breathe, and exercise the five human senses depends on the human soul.  While many good people profess not to understand this, the fact remains that all dumb animals also have souls, by means of which they move and breathe and do all that they do.  However, the difference between the human soul and the soul of a dumb animal is that a human being has an immortal soul, which will continue to exist after death (sorry, but not only do All Dogs NOT Go to Heaven, but in fact NO dogs go to Heaven…).

A Christian, then, must mortify both soul and spirit.  In Catholic Tradition when we speak of the human soul, a large part of the discussion concerns what are called the “passions”.  This word does not refer to one’s “deepest desires”, but to very primal experiences such as anger or fear.  They involve emotions, but are more than emotions.

Reflect for a moment on the passion of anger, as an example of self-mortification of the soul.  It’s common for a Catholic to confess “anger” during a sacramental confession, even without reflecting on what they’re confessing.  Are they confessing the mere fact of getting angry?  Is merely becoming angry a sin?  Obviously it’s not, or Jesus would have sinned when He cleansed the Temple.  Anything that we confess as a sin of anger must be a deliberately willed choice.  And this shows us where self-mortification is needed.

Anger as an emotion comes from God, who created it as part of our human nature, which is good in its entirety.  It is, if you will, a “tool” of our human nature to help us in certain circumstances to accomplish something that is necessary but difficult.  But like any part of our human nature, it can be twisted to serve bad ends.  When we recognize that our human anger is leading us to sin, we have the choice to mortify our anger.  For example, if our anger is directed toward a family member, we can choose to love that person through thoughts or acts of charity, choosing to see that person as God does:  as His child, who—like us—sins and is in need of mercy and love.

The 30th Week [I] - Wednesday

The 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Christian self-mortification cannot only be mortification of the body, or it will not reach the root of sin, and so will not lead a sinner into Jesus Christ.  Unlike those who simplistically blame the human body as the root of sin, the saints of the Church point to the mind as a starting point of human sin.  The mind is the origin for the ideas that the human will either does or does not choose to act upon.  It’s only in the will acting that the body may be an instrument (not the source) of an evil action.

How, then, should one practice self-mortification of the human mind?  The answer to this question depends on what the particular individual tends to give his or her mind over to.  Any of the vices can become a focus for the human mind:  for example, one can generate thoughts of jealousy, greed, lust or sloth.  Or, a particular person can serve as a focus for evil thoughts:  if one person intensely dislikes another, it hardly matters which vice is exercised, as long as one can have bad thoughts about the person.  In this vein, it’s important to point out that sometimes one’s own self becomes the focus of thoughts that act against Christian virtue.

In all of these cases, self-mortification calls for moving these thoughts out of the mind.  This is often harder than it sounds, because so much of human thought—perhaps far more than we realize—is habitual.  One alternative to feasting on the thoughts that are bound up with vice is to empty one’s mind completely.  Often, though, this is difficult.  More fruitful is first to remove from one’s life any source of the thoughts bound up with vice (that is, near occasions of sin), and second to mortify the thoughts bound up with vice by engaging the mind with virtuous thoughts.

In engaging the mind with virtuous thoughts, the Church offers her holy Scriptures first of all.  The practices of praying the Liturgy of the Hours (which is made up almost entirely of Scripture) and Lectio Divina (the “sacred reading” of Scripture) are the greatest gifts of the Church in this regard.

The 30th Week [I] - Tuesday

The 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Self-mortification demands the mortification of the entire self.  In secular media, especially those with an ax to grind against the Church, you will see the practice of self-mortification grotesquely caricatured:  a movie will show a monk beating himself with a whip as he cries out what a bad person he is.  By contrast, the Christian practice of self-mortification is an offering of one’s entire self to Jesus Christ through mortification.

But what is the human self?  Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition clearly teach that the human self is mind, body and spirit (sometimes the last of these is further divided into “soul” and “spirit”).  But as you look at these different dimensions of the human self, the body is usually considered first.  It’s thought of first not only because of inaccurate caricatures, but also because of how we are first taught about the practice.  Reflect on children’s sacrifices during Lent:  many will give up soda pop or candy, which (at least for those forty days) is a form of bodily self-mortification.

Difficulties with bodily self-mortification generally arise for two reasons.  The first occurs when the body is seen as bad instead of good.  The body, in fact, was created by God and given to us as a gift.  It’s because our human nature is fallen that the body is used by the will for bad actions, and so for this reason a Christian must mortify the body in order to bring it into accord with God’s Will.

The second difficulty arises when we forget that self-mortification is a means to a greater end.  Whenever we fast, or kneel in prayer for an extended period of time, or endure uncomfortable surroundings or weather, we ought to do it for God alone:  to dispose our selves to be more authentically His disciples, and instruments of His peace.

The 30th Week [I] - Monday

The 30th Week in Ordinary Time [I]

Monday, October 24, 2011
“…if by the spirit / you put to death /
the deeds of the body /  you will live.”  [Romans 8:13]

Yesterday began the 30th Week in Ordinary Time.  In these last weeks of the Church year, our Scripture readings at Holy Mass turn to the Last Things.  This is especially true of the Scriptures at Sunday Mass, but is also true of weekday Mass.

The Last Things are not heard of much in the secular culture that surrounds us.  Unfortunately, they’re often not heard of in many corners of the Church, either, even in these latter days of the Church year.  But our First Reading at weekday Mass this week comes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and helps us to see Jesus Christ through the Last Things.

The Last Things, of course, are Heaven and hell, death and judgment.  It would seem, considering a logical order, that death is the first of these four.  Death, after all, is the occasion for the first form of judgment:  the particular judgment which in turn leads a soul to hell or—through Purgatory, usually—to Heaven.

Yet the death that ends a human life on earth is foreshadowed in many ways throughout that life.  Each and every sin, for example, is a death in the spiritual life of the soul.  Mortal sin destroys grace completely.  But sin often brings about death in other forms, also:  it can destroy relationships, careers, or reputations.

But in today’s First Reading, St. Paul writes of death in another form:  “…if by the spirit / you put to death / the deeds of the body /  you will live.”  The distinguishing trait of this form of death is that it’s under human control.  By contrast, we cannot ultimately avoid or control the death that ends our life on earth.  But this form of death that St. Paul speaks of, we can control, and we avoid it at our own risk.

Most often in the Catholic spiritual tradition, this form of death is called “self-mortification”.  The word “mortification” comes from the Latin word for death (mors, mortis), which is where in English we get words such as “mortify”, “mortician”, and (most obviously) “mortal”.  Self-mortification is what St. Paul is speaking about when he explains that “…if by the spirit / you put to death / the deeds of the body /  you will live.”  This week at weekday Mass St. Paul will help us reflect on the spiritual importance of self-mortification.

The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - 23 OCT 2011

The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Exodus 22:20-26  ─  1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10  ─  Matthew 22:34-40
October 23, 2011

“The whole law and the prophets depend on
these two commandments.”  [Matthew 22:40]

This past week, Bishop Jackels gathered the priests of our diocese at the Spiritual Life Center for our annual Clergy Conference.  As I drove to the Spiritual Life Center Monday morning, I passed a church on East 45th Street with one of those signs used both to advertise events, and to offer brief, humorous slogans for the reflection of passers-by.  Monday morning the sign offered this thought:  “‘Stop, drop and roll’ doesn’t work in Hell.”

But fortunately here on earth, we can each day stop in the midst of our busy-ness, drop our illusions of knowing better than God, and roll over (that is to say, ‘convert’) our expectations to those of the Gospel.  (Humor can evoke the best in us, and help us see insights that we might otherwise overlook.)
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Today’s brief Gospel passage, by virtue of its brevity, focuses our mind.  Jesus wants you, as you strive every day to follow Him, to bring focus to your daily life through these two commands.  If someone on Monday morning—at work, at school, at the grocery store—asks you what Sunday’s Gospel and homily were about, all you have to remember are Jesus’ two commands:  love your God, and love your neighbor.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Where I work, we don’t talk much about religion”, or “Where I go to school, no one asks me about religion”, or “When I go to the grocery store, I don’t hear anyone talking about religion.”  But maybe you are the one at work who will start to talk about the Gospel.  Maybe you are the one at school to ask others about the Gospel.  Maybe you are the one that others will hear speaking Jesus’ Name in public.  If there are people around you at work, at school, or in the public marketplace who don’t even go to church, how are they ever going to hear about the Gospel?  Where would they hear it?  You yourself can be the instrument that God uses to reach them.  There’s no question that God wants to reach others.  The question is whether you will allow God to use your life to bring Jesus into the lives of others.
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The scholar of the law in today’s Gospel passage tests Jesus.  This scholar, the evangelist tells us, was a stooge of the Pharisees:  one of them, but chosen by them to test Jesus in order to flunk Him.  “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  We all know from catechism classes that God gave Moses ten commandments.  But in the centuries after Moses, Israel became dissatisfied with just these ten.  Like children who argue against their parents, the people of Israel nit-picked the Ten Commandments, in order to justify themselves and their actions.  So the leaders of Israel added smaller and more particular commandments, to prop up the Ten.  By the time of Jesus, the common teaching of the Law of Israel involved 613 commandments (in Hebrew, Mitzvot).  Listen to how these commandments mushroomed:

From those among the Ten Commandments that deal with “loving our neighbor”, the Jewish scholars of the law produced 14 commandments about business practices, 19 about employees, servants and slaves, 36 about courts and judicial procedure, eleven about property rights, seven about criminal law, and 24 about punishment and restitution!  And that doesn’t exhaust the commands to “love our neighbor”!  When you turn to “loving God”, the lists of commandments are even longer, including 33 about the Temple and sacred objects, 46 about idolatry, and 102 about sacrifices and offerings!

With 613 commandments, it was easy for the average Jew to lose focus.  Jesus wanted to bring focus back to God’s People, just as He wants for you and your family today.  He wants to bring focus to the rhythm of your daily life, as it unfolds week after week.  This focus will strengthen your life, in proportion to the time you give to Jesus’ answer:  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.”

But it’s interesting what happens next.  The scholar of the law didn’t ask Jesus which commandment in the law is the second-greatest.  Jesus tells Him anyway.  Maybe you know people who answer your questions like this:  you ask them one question, but their answer is the answer to a different question.  God is like this in our prayer, at times:  God always answers our prayers, but He doesn’t always answer in the way we hope.  Sometimes His answer doesn’t seem to correspond at all to what we were talking to Him about.  However, when God changes the subject of our conversation with Him, maybe it’s better to turn the conversation over to Him, and spend more of our time in prayer listening….

In today’s Gospel passage, when Jesus gives the answer to a question that the scholar didn’t ask, He makes clear that the second-greatest commandment is very important.  Reflect for a moment on the Ten Commandments:  out of the ten, the first three are about “loving your God”, and the latter seven are about “loving your neighbor”.  Why are there more than twice as many commands about “loving your neighbor” than there are about “loving your God”?  It’s not because loving your neighbor is twice as important as loving your God.  More likely, it because loving your neighbor is twice as difficult as loving your God.  The English writer, G. K. Chesterton, once observed that “The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people!”[1]

Why is Chesterton right?  Why, so often, are our neighbors also our enemies?  In this second-greatest commandment, when Jesus commands you to love your neighbor as yourself, He’s not using the word “neighbor” as we might be tempted to do.  We, in our fallen human nature, want to shrink the meaning of “neighbor” to as few people as possible.  That’s why Jesus told the Parable of the Good Samaritan, so that His followers would see every human being as their neighbor.

So then, the second-greatest command is to love every human being as yourself.  That’s very daunting.  That’s impossible to carry out without divine grace.  Vices in our fallen human nature make this command very hard to carry out.  Let me illustrate with an example from my own childhood.  But maybe this scene will resonate with experiences in your own family’s life.  It’s the late 1970s, and our family is driving west on I-70 in our Ford Pinto.  We’re heading for our family vacation, which our parents are going to sorely need after ten hours in a station-wagon with four children.

Anyhow, our family is headed west.  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass are playing over the 8-track player.  But in the backseat, one of the children is tormenting another.  Somewhere near Salina, a warning had been issued from the front passenger seat.  Somewhere about Russell, an invisible line was drawn on the back seat, and one child threatened the other, “You’d better not cross this line!”  Unfortunately, fallen human nature is fallen human nature.  A parent’s command is like the Ten Commandments, and a sibling’s pronouncement is like the 613 commands of the Jewish scholars.  Neither is going to change fallen human nature, even though they are both needed.

You might be wondering what happened next in that Ford Pinto.  Well, between Russell and Hays, the letter of the law—both the mother’s, and the sibling’s—was followed perfectly.  That line was not crossed.  But that doesn’t mean that the spirit of the law was followed.  The sibling who had been warned, with the smallest finger—the pinky—drew a line perfectly parallel to the invisible line.  Up and down, down and up, the line was drawn, over and over, and each time the line was just a little bit closer to the invisible line.  And then back and forth, towards the line, but always stopping short, so as not to cross the line.  Back and forth, up and down, down and up, back and forth, all the way from Russell to Hays, but never breaking the letter of the law.

Lest you think all this was un-observed from the front passenger seat, I must inform you that mothers have eyes in the back of their heads.  They see all.  Our Mother knew exactly what was going on, and somewhere near Victoria, as she saw the twin spires of the Cathedral of the Plains, she let out a long sigh, and you could just barely hear her whisper to herself, “I knew I should have entered the convent.”

This is how fallen human nature operates!  Two siblings seated next to each other for ten hours shows us perfectly what fallen human nature looks like.  The more laws are multiplied, the more ways that a fallen human being will find to break the spirit of the law.  And the more that the spirit of the law is broken, the more that laws get multiplied.  The only way out of this vicious cycle is to notice Jesus’ answer to the scholar, and to practice what He preaches.

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  To love, is to follow the Spirit of the law.  To love is to fulfill the letter of the law, instead of circumventing its intent.  To love, is even to go beyond the law, because the law is only a guide pointing in the direction that love will take us:  the law isn’t meant to tell us where to stop.

No matter what vocation God calls you to live, Christian love must be its heart.  In your life this week, look for someone whom you may be tempted to imagine is beyond the pale of God’s love, or at least beyond your own love, and love that person anyway, by means of a prayer, an anonymous good deed, or a kind word (or all three).

Christian love impels us to imitate Christ by loving our God and our neighbor.  The Eucharist gives us the strength and hope to do so.

[1] G K. Chesterton, The Illustrated London News (July 16, 1910), “The Man Next Door”.

The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)