Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Refresh My Heart in Christ

November 11, 2010
Memorial of Saint Martin of Tours, bishop

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me. Philemon 15-17

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he said in reply, “The coming of the kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” Luke 17:20-21

Happy those whose help is Jacob's God, whose hope is in the LORD, their God,
The maker of heaven and earth, the seas and all that is in them, Who keeps faith forever, secures justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free;
The LORD gives sight to the blind. The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD protects the stranger, sustains the orphan and the widow, but thwarts the way of the wicked.
The LORD shall reign forever, your God, Zion, through all generations! Hallelujah!
Psalm 146:5-10

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Today also is the day we in the Catholic Church mark the memorial to a saint who was what we would call a “conscientious objector.” Thus we have another cultural contradiction to wrestle with as we confront the church in the modern world, our faith working in society.

The American Catholic web site ( reminds us a little of St. Martin’s story: Born of pagan parents in what is now Hungary and raised in Italy, this son of a veteran was forced to serve in the army against his will at the age of 15. He became a Christian catechumen and was baptized at 18. It was said that he lived more like a monk than a soldier. At 23, he refused a war bonus and told his commander: “I have served you as a soldier; now let me serve Christ. Give the bounty to those who are going to fight. But I am a soldier of Christ and it is not lawful for me to fight.” After great difficulties, he was discharged and went to be a disciple of Hilary of Poitiers.

The famous legend of Martin’s life has him encounter a poor man one cold winter’s night. Martin tears his cloak in half and gives half to the poor man. That night, in a vision, he sees Jesus dressed in the other half boasting about the good deed performed by Martin.

The reflection on the American Catholic site poses an interesting picture for Catholics to wrestle with. The writer explains that “Martin's worry about cooperation with evil reminds us that almost nothing is either all black or all white. The saints are not creatures of another world: They face the same perplexing decisions that we do. Any decision of conscience always involves some risk. If we choose to go north, we may never know what would have happened had we gone east, west or south. A hyper-cautious withdrawal from all perplexing situations is not the virtue of prudence; it is, in fact, a bad decision, for “not to decide is to decide.”

Some years back, a Salesian father was giving a talk. He commented about what is discernment and the definition has really stuck in my mind to this day. Discernment is the ability to judge well. Usually, we have to choose between good and evil. No real judgment is needed in these situations. Moral standards teach us what is right and what is wrong. However, sometimes, we have to choose between good and good or good and better or better and best. That is when it gets hard and that is what discernment is all about.

Think of Mary and Martha. Martha wanted to serve the Lord with her hospitality. Good. Mary wanted to serve the Lord by sitting at his feet and listening to what he had to say. Better. Jesus did not condemn Martha. He told her Mary chose the better part and he refused to command her to serve him in the same what that Martha had chosen to serve him.

Choosing to marry or become a priest…good and good.

Choosing to steal a fancy jacket from a store or buying it…bad and good.

Allowing an elderly parent to remain at home living independently or moving your parent into assisted living so he or she has the proper help needed in life. Good and good. Not easy but good ends and means may come from both actions.

Judging does not mean discernment is easy. In fact, it might actually be harder to discern what is right when there are voices arguing on both good sides of a question.

What are you “discerning” in your life? What good and good choices do you face in life? In what kinds of matters have you sought God’s guidance?

How do you feel after you have made a decision after discerning with the holy Spirit? Are you at peace with the outcome?

Thank a veteran for her or his service. Good and good.