Saturday, October 23, 2010

Living Truth in Love

October 23, 2010
Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body’s growth and builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:15-16

“[H]e said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. (So) cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’” Luke 13:7-9

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.
--Reinhold Niebuhr

Shall we “be like a child” as Christ tells his disciples? Or shall we wait for the time when, as St. Paul writes today, we “attain mature manhood?” These competing allusions to “age” -- being childlike and being mature – actually may not in fact present opposite views but similar views.

Jesus encouraged us to be childlike and to be reborn (from above or in the Spirit). In fact, these were not statements about the age, but of the characteristics with which we must take on in order to be known as children of God.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-4

In order to achieve this level of humility and innocence, St. Paul recognizes that it will take maturity and experience gained through lives devoted to piety, study and action. Through these experiences, we have the path to “live the truth in love.”

The maturity of which St. Paul refers also is not about age. Maturity refers to living in “perfection” and with “mercy” and “humility.” If we are growing, we must grow toward the light, toward the perfection which Jesus showed us as his example in life when he descended in order to ascend. Thus, our goal as children of God is live and act and love in such a fashion that we may ascend to the same heights as Jesus did in this life and in the life with Him to come.

The other key lesson in today’s Scripture is about change. “Repent!” With this growth, we will grow away from our old selves and into new persons in unity with Christ. If we do not change, Jesus paints a pretty bleak picture of the future. However, the bleak future of our old selves can live in the hope of change thanks to the enduring patience of our God who acts like the tolerant gardener, always cultivating and fertilizing and pruning us for a fruitful and enduring life in the Spirit.

If this change and growth comes slowly, how can we help the process move along?

In a talk last weekend at the Dominican Retreat House, Friar Jude Winkler, OFM Conv., listed any number of behaviors to which we are “addicted.” There are many such sources of these lists. Here is one sample. Are you “addicted to any of these things or behaviors?

The more we pursue any of these, Fr. Jude explained, the less room Jesus has in our lives. However, he warned those listening that we can not change them all at once. “Pick one and work on that,” he encouraged.

Which addiction can you pick to work on and eliminate so that your fig tree will have more room to bear fruit?