Monday, November 17, 2014

Do the Works

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious

Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.  Revelation 2:5

The people walking in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent, but he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me!”  Luke 18:39

Prayer to Serve God Well
Father of Mercy, forgive my failings, keep me in Your Grace, and lead me in the way of salvation. Give me strength in serving You as a follower of Christ.  May the Eucharist bring me Your Forgiveness and give me freedom to serve You all my life.  May it help me to remain faithful and give me the grace I need in Your service.  May it teach me the way to eternal life.Top of Form Amen.

The blind man can see what the sighted cannot.  He "sees" and recognizes that Jesus is the Messiah by alluding to a title we first heard in the Canticle of Zechariah at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel.  (“He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant.”  Luke 1:69)  Not only does the blind man exhibit his faith, but also he admits to his sins and asks for Jesus to have pity on him for his frailties.

The sighted crowd does not get it.  Crowds do not fare too well in sacred history.  This one is no different.  Maybe that is because Jesus comes into the world to establish relationships one-on-one.  He comes to relate to Mary and Joseph.  His cousin John the Baptist.  The disciples whom he calls one-by-one.  The Roman centurion.  The woman at the well.  The blind beggar.  The leper.  The woman whose daughter is hemorrhaging.  The list goes on and on – but it is mostly individuals who have a personal account with Jesus and are changed. 

That does not ignore the crowds who are there listening to the Sermon on the Mount or the Sermon on the Plain.  However, there are not individual conversion stories that arise from those episodes.  Mostly we see Jesus working to get the personal relationship right while the crowds try to turn away the blind beggar, the children and those who would try to save Jesus from the executioner’s hammer and nails and sword.

Repent and do the works you did at first. 

Good works reminds me of some news stories and columns that advocate for national service.  Recently, there has been significant coverage of a movement for compulsory national service – either in the military or in civilian programs like AmeriCorps.  The arguments of those in favor of national service are compelling.  After college, I spent time in a service year helping to relocate Indo-Chinese boat people who came to America after the Vietnam War.  However, although I support the concept and the reality of a year of service, I stop short of making voluntarism compulsory. 

People should do the works that they can do.  However, with the free will with which we have all been graced, let's do it from our hearts, not from some compulsory law.

We all know the first line of the Declaration of Independence.  Here is the last sentence -- an idea we often forget: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor.”

Rather than using this line to require national service, let's use it to inspire all to mutually pledge to do voluntary national and personal service.  Do the works. 

The Franklin Project

Stan McChrystal

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