Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Seek What is Above

September 9, 2009

Wednesday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. Colossians 3:1-4

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. Luke 6:20-23


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


Practically every word that Jesus utters is an echo of the first words of his public ministry. Just last week, when scriptures taught us about Jesus’ return from his exile in the desert, the first stop he made (according to St. Luke) was to the House of God. There, he turned to the Hebrew Scriptures and announced that he was there to fulfill the promise and prophecy of Isaiah. He announced his mission plan – the Nazareth manifesto – to bring light to the people who have been sitting in darkness.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:18-21

In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes today, the message extends that mission. St. Paul also echoes this social message of the Gospel as he encourages the Colossians to change the direction they, too, are looking for happiness.

If you look for the core of Jesus’ message in the other gospels, you will find a similar message of change – a message that says we need to set our sights higher than only on fulfilling our needs in this world. As he emerges from the desert, Jesus echoes the words of John the Baptist.

John: In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea (and) saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" Matthew 3:1-2

Jesus: From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew 4:17

The self-same words are there in Mark’s Gospel (1:15) and John's Gospel expresses the sentiment slightly differently when teaching Nicodemus but the thrust of the meaning resounds: Jesus answered and said to him, "Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above." John 3:3


We are awash in news about people and organizations wanting and needing more money. NASA needs more money to meet its goals. The state of Virginia is trimming education and public safety plus furloughing workers for one day in May and cutting retirement benefits and more to make the budget balance. Kraft wants to spend more than $16.7 billion to buy a British candy company.

The “rat race” encourages us to get our rewards right here, right now. Earn a higher salary. Invest wisely. Win the Power Ball. Send your children to the best schools. Save for a comfortable retirement. Page through the ads in “Money” magazine, “Smart Money” or the Wall Street Journal. Find one which advocates for restraint or frugality instead of grabbing for the prize. We even teach our children to grab for the gold ring on the merry-go-round.

Jesus is consistent in his message. It is the antithesis of those ads and articles from Smart Money. He warns us that “our reward may not be great on this earth.” Instead, Jesus promises that our reward will be great in heaven if we endure the trials we will face in the present moment. Reinhold Niebuhr composed the famous Serenity Prayer quoted above. The prayer notes that we are to “accept hardships as the pathway to peace” just as Jesus admonished on the hillside near the Sea of Galilee more than 2000 years ago.

What hardship or addiction can become your pathway to peace? Are you ready to accept it and change the direction in which you seek happiness?