Monday, October 12, 2015

Called to Be Holy

Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.  Romans 1:5-7A

“At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”  Luke 11:32

God of all creation,
At the beginning of time
You placed a single mandate on humankind – to be stewards of creation
To replenish and nurture through all generations
What you have made.
We kneel today amid the same creation
A world that is – in many ways – more splendid than ever
But, in too many ways, scarred beyond recognition
Turn us from our unmindfulness
Help our touch be light
Help us renew the world that supports us
So we may once more know creation
As it was in the beginning
(CRS Prayer of Stewardship (download a copy at   

The notes in the New American Bible explain that the “sign of Jonah” in Luke is the preaching of the need for repentance by a prophet who comes from afar.  Such repentance is one of the first steps we must take in the call to be holy.  In the Gospels, John the Baptist picked up the call for repentance from the prophets.  Then, he directly handed off the same message to Jesus – truly a prophet from afar (heaven).  Christ starts off his public ministry with the same words as John:  Repent!  Change!  For the Kingdom of God is upon us.

The Sunday scripture for this twenty-eighth week in ordinary time set the tone for change as Peter explained that "We have given up everything and followed you."  Peter left his boats.  Matthew/Levi left his tax records.  To recognize that sacrifice, Jesus explains that they will reap a greater reward.  The promise of something greater also is echoed today:  “there is something greater than Jonah here.” 

What are we to make of this?  In one sense, it is a classic marketing exchange in which two parties trade value for value.  The grace of apostleship requires sacrifice of goods, of self, and of the direction in which we seek happiness. Once we put on that mantle – truly put it on with permanence, not as a dress rehearsal – once we change, that is when we can expect a greater reward.  However, in another sense, the treasure of discipleship is not a treasure of gold but a treasure of the spirit. We would err if we thought that the grace of apostleship is a path to riches.  In fact, it may be a path through pain or darkness before we see the ultimate reward.

Helping the world's poor should be a step along the path of apostleship that we can all agree upon.  Sitting here watching news reports it is hard to fully grasp the magnitude of the refugee crisis.  

Seven and a half million people (more than one-third of Syria's population) have been displaced, with over four million fleeing into exile. However, only about 150,000 -- well under 4 percent of the total -- have attempted to enter Europe.  On top of that, more than 3 million are displaced in Iraq.  While this migration is affecting Europe, it also is affecting countries in the Middle East and North Africa.  Pope Francis has called for every parish on the continent to provide support for at least one refugee family. Indeed, the outpouring of support throughout Europe has been inspiring. 

What are we to make of this?  What are the plans in your parish?

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