When you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold is tested and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Sirach 2:1-5
Commit your life to the Lord, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5
“If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mark 9:35
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him Forever in the next. Amen. --Reinhold Niebuhr
Today is the day before Lent begins. Many people look on this as a day of celebration, a day when we feast before beginning the desert experience. Jesus and the disciples are setting out on a journey, a journey that we have joined. Before we get on the road, Jesus has some parting words for us to ponder today. The disciples are once again showing that they do not understand the lessons of Sirach from the first reading. They don’t yet know how to commit their life to the Lord because the disciples are jockeying to position themselves for the finish line as if this journey is the Daytona 500. However, for all that scrambling, if they don’t start paying attention, there will be another pile up at the finish line. In fact, there are likely to be many crashes alone the way. “Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold is tested.”
To what have you committed yourself?
Too often, we are seduced into pursing a life without Christ, without commitment. We want the “Easy Street,” not the “School of Hard Knocks.” Easy Street promises financial security and independence. Jesus promises poverty and dependence, not the good life. He promises “hardship as the pathway to peace.”
Are you committed to your career? Working hard for promotion? Always looking for the chance to get ahead? But does that sometimes come at the expense of others whom you step on and over to get to the top rung of the ladder? Even if you are not stepping over them, do you sometimes show general indifference?
Jesus has a way of dealing with the indifference and careerism of the disciples. Instead of anointing any of them first, he brings over a small child – a child who represents the “anawim” -- the poor, widows, and orphans of the day. The Jews had a responsibility to take care of the “anawim.” Jesus instructs that the way to eternal happiness is achieved through identification with this child and service to the poor.
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
How do you remind yourself to serve the poor (and thus Christ) wherever you are? How can you keep your finger on the pulse of those who are not as fortunate as you? How can you always stand in “justice and fear” working to overcome the inherent inequality of our systems?
Consider adding a constant reminder to your environment. Maybe a poster, a cross, a piece of artwork will give you a proper frame of reference. When you cross that threshold every day, you see that reminder.
For example, consider putting your work/office/school key on a key chain which also has the Benedictine cross. (Thanks to Ken and Peg Telesca for bringing one back for me from the “motherland” –
As you open that door each day, that cross will be a reminder to you that you are working not just for your employer, not just for your customers, not just to pay the bills, not to fill your 401K account or to accumulate stock options. Instead, you are there to make like better for others.
Dorothy Day said “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.” To overcome the personal aspirations we all have in this capitalist system, to respond to the seriousness of the world's situation and to take up the mission Jesus has for us, we have to live our lives in dramatically different ways. May the Lenten Season show us those ways.
NOTE: Today’s readings are a fitting conclusion to this stretch of ordinary time and the first cycle of Your Daily Tripod. Today brings us back to the starting point for these meditations. We have journeyed through a full liturgical cycle since the beginning of Your Daily Tripod on Ash Wednesday 2006 to the 113th Men’s Cursillo team and friends as the team went into hiatus. By April, Your Daily Tripod started to take on momemtum and graduated to a web journal plus e-mail circulation. And now there are at least five people making regular submissions – more are always welcome.
From that original message to the team and friends of the Men’s Cursillo, we have now completed a journey through an entire cycle of Catholic liturgy. It is hard not to read in amazement His Word – a wonderful book – written by so many different people through the ages yet with a common Spirit and inspiration.
Tomorrow, we begin a second liturgical cycle of reflections and readings together. But it all starts and ends with The Word.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5