Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Follow Me

“How could I not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been eaten out by fire?” The king asked me, “What is it, then, that you wish?” I prayed to the God of heaven and then answered the king: “If it please the king, and if your servant is deserving of your favor, send me to Judah, to the city of my ancestors’ graves, to rebuild it.” NEHEMIAH 2:3-5

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”  LUKE 9:59-60

Father, only with Your help can we Rebuild Your Church.  Amen.

In the Good News from Luke, Jesus speaks of the severity and the unconditional nature of Christian discipleship. Even family ties and filial obligations, such as burying one’s parents, cannot distract one no matter how briefly from proclaiming the kingdom of God. 

Building the Kingdom of God has its parallels in the physical rebuilding of the Jewish community both in the Hebrew Bible (after the exile in Egypt and more) as well as in the New Testament when the community was enduring the Roman occupation. 

St. Francis of Assisi also was a great re-builder of the church both physically and
spiritually. For several years Francis searched the Scriptures, talked with friends and spiritual advisors, and prayed long hours in churches, woods and caves listening to God’s call and purpose for his life. Then one day in the church of San Damiano, a chapel right outside of Assisi, he heard the invitation of Jesus: “Francis, go rebuild my Church, which you see is falling into ruins.”[i] Francis did; he set out, gathered stones and rebuilt St Damian's, St Mary of the Angels and other damaged shrines. It was only as his life developed that he understood that what he was to rebuild - on the foundations of the Gospel - was the Universal Church, not just a physical building. 

Saint Jerome, the priest, monk and Doctor of the Church renowned for his extraordinary depth of learning and translations of the Bible into Latin in the Vulgate, is celebrated by the Church with his memorial today.  Ultimately, Jerome went to Bethlehem, established a monastery, and lived the rest of his years in study, prayer, and ascetcism.[ii]

We might think that such conditions were set aside for people who entered the monastery or the convent, but Jesus does not give a pass to the lay community. 

Christians have been doing establishing separate communities since the Acts of the Apostles.  Call it the Bruderhof, the Puritans, the Catholic Workers, the Amish, or the Pilgrims, the radical call for discipleship may be a call to these special break-away communities.  However, Cursillo attempts to establish such a community-within-community without breaking away from the environment but precisely by evangelizing our environment through our example of piety, study and action.

Many say that Pope Francis is changing the teachings of the Church. This notion is false. Pope Francis is not changing the teachings of the Church. He is, rather, changing the way that we understand the Church by living out her teaching of compassion. He is showing the evangelical and missionary nature of the Church through his actions as Pope, just as he did before being elected to the Papacy in March 2013.[iii] 

Pope Francis, through his simplicity and humility in his lifestyle is showing the humility of the Church, as well as a glimpse of who his successor was, not a king, but a poor fisherman from Galilee. He is also living out Christ’s (and the Church’s) teaching of compassion for others by embracing social outcasts, the sick, the young, the elderly and the poor.

Recently at work, there was a speaker from a local charity who came in to talk to my co-workers about his organization’s mission.  While we were talking privately before the meeting, we realized that we were both members of the Cursillo community in our home towns.  He asked me if I was still living my Fourth Day.  That is probably a good question to ponder whether or not you are in a weekly group reunion. 

Are you – and how are you – still living your Fourth Day whether your weekend experience was last month, last year or decades ago?

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