Saturday, October 25, 2014

Grow in Every Way

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

“But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”  Luke 13:5


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

Sometimes, I am tempted to change the Tripod to Piety-Study-Change.  After all, Jesus does not want us just to keep moving along the same path we are on today. No, he does not want action just for the sake of busy action.  Like the barren fig tree, he will be patient with us while we change.  He will be patient with us until we produce the kind of fruit he wants us to produce.  He wants us to grow toward him, into him.  

St. Paul knows first-hand the value of changing behavior.  Maybe getting knocked off his horse is one reason why he prays that the people of Ephesus will grow in every way until they live the truth in love. 

The natural state of our lives seems rooted in discord and disunity.  Yesterday, the media blared another school shooting on the heels of the shooting in Canada’s parliament and the latest Ebola victims.  Maybe that is why using the organic image of a body helps St. Paul get across the idea and the plea for unity in the church.   If he can teach that Christians have been fashioned through the Spirit into a single harmonious religious community (one body) belonging to a single Lord (in contrast to the many gods of the pagan world), maybe he can affect individual and group behaviors. 

Christian unity is more than adherence to a common belief.  Lots of other peoples in history have held to a common belief.  This Christian ideal must be made – we do that by using Christ’s gifts to serve the broader community in order for it to become more “Christ-like” as well. 

St. Paul goes on to describe the “temple” (not just the individual) as a growing organism.  As one and as a whole, we are here to grow toward Christ and to become Christ.  Maybe that is why our current state is paralleled to the barren fig tree, a story about the continuing patience of God with those who have not yet given evidence of their change.  The gardener (the Holy Spirit?) will continue to work on us in order to make our lives fruitful. 

In his preaching and teaching, @Pontifex wants us to change as well.  Since ascending to the chair of St. Peter, Pope Francis has embarked on a remarkable journey very quickly.  He has risen three of his predecessors to sainthood (John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul II).  He has issued two letters:  The apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel’) and the encyclical Lumen Fidei (“The Light of Faith”). He has travelled to Brazil, Israel, Jordan, Palestine and South Korea.  He will head out to the Philippines in January.   

What kind of change has he been advocating?  Lately, he has been speaking and writing extensively about income inequality.  “Inequality is the root of social evil.”  This also was a theme in the Joy of the Gospel: 

“The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed.... As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems, or, for that matter, to any problems. Inequality is the root of social ills.”

According to the article in America magazine linked above:  Pope Francis identifies this inequality as the foundation of a process of exclusion that cuts immense segments of society off from meaningful participation in social, political and economic life. It gives rise to a financial system that rules rather than serves humanity and a capitalism that literally kills those who have no utility as consumers. Inevitably, such exclusion destroys the possibility for peace and security within societies and globally. The cry of the poor captured in “The Joy of the Gospel” is a challenge to the “individualistic, indifferent and self-centered mentality” so prevalent in the cultures of the world; it is a call to confront the evil of economic exclusion and begin a process of structural reform that will lead to inclusion rather than marginalization.

What are your attitudes about money:  making it, keeping it, using it and giving it away?  

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