Sunday, March 13, 2016

Straining Forward

By Rev. Joe McCloskey, SJ

Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Isaiah 49:18-19

Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She replied, "No one, sir." Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go, (and) from now on do not sin any more." John 8:9b-11

Piety considers everything that does not speak Christ from the heart a loss. Piety gives us a claim on holiness. Zero tolerance is such a poor reflection of the forgiveness of Christ that there is obviously something wrong with it. Paul accepted the loss of all things and even good things were looked at as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord. Even good things that capture our energy can be considered a loss if they keep us from focusing Christ with all our minds, hearts and souls. The terrible things that gave birth to the notion of zero tolerance are all that terrible. Treating people with zero tolerance is just as terrible. We have an awesome challenge in the way Christ treated the woman caught in adultery because it is so easy to condemn others for what we are not caught at. The notion of zero tolerance dirtied the Church more than we will perhaps ever be aware of because it mocks the charity of Christ who did not let off the hook those who wanted to stone the woman taken in adultery. When he told them that the one without guilt could cast the first stone, none of the bystanders could qualify as sinless. Christ who was without sin did not condemn her. Our piety to be as genuine as it needs to be in following Christ, will not allow us to be critical of others. Our piety if it will reflect Christ will not allow us to be a condemning person. Piety calls us to give everyone a chance to change. We can condemn the sin. We should not condemn the sinner until they have failed to take the chance to change. Our piety protects those who cannot defend themselves. Piety encourages sinners to change.

Piety allows us to see the good that can be found in anyone.   Paul holds everything that is not Christ as nothing. For him the supreme good is what is found in Jesus as our Lord and Master. The Woman that was caught in adultery is any one of us that looks deeply at self and sees not just the evil that we would not do, but also the good that we do not do. The Lord does not condemn us. We have a Lord that knows everything about us because he in his humanity has been alive to life.  He is like us in everything but sin. He takes our sin to himself.  Paul looks at his own life when he discovered that it was Christ he was persecuting when he was punishing Christians. He speaks about his own journey with powerful words. Piety is our being taken possession of by Christ.  We have no righteousness of our own based on the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ. We know Christ and the power of his resurrection. We share his suffering by being conformed to his dying by our prayer, fasting and good works. Conformed to his death we know we may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Our piety helps us to strive for what lies ahead, the prize of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus. 

Christ studied the Word of God we find in the Old Testament. So much of who Christ is, is portrayed in Isaiah. Christ is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Piety springs forth from the influence of Christ on our lives through the example he gives us of forgiveness in his life. Christ made a way in the desert. In wastelands he puts water for his chosen people to drink. Christ forms our piety that we might announce his praise to the world by the way we live our lives as a forgiving people. We study our lives to discover who we need to forgive. But we study our lives all the more to see whose forgiveness we need to ask for. Who have we condemned wrongly? Whose asking for forgiveness have we failed to respond to?

Because we have not attained perfect maturity which would be in living our lives completely in Jesus, we study the life of Christ to discover what more we can do to put on Christ. God loves us so much that we can never really understand what our creation means. He created us to have someone to love. He did not create us for what we would do in his name. He gives us his perfect love which is the birth of his son into our lives. The only limit on God’s love in our life is how imperfectly we love his son.   Jesus is the perfection of God’s love for us. He loved us so much he wanted to be one of us. We could not respond to such a love without Christ. Love goes toward union with the beloved. How conformed we are to Christ measures the perfection of our love for God. We cannot love the God we do not see if we do not love the neighbor we do see.   Our love of God takes us to union with Christ in all our neighbors. When we look at Christ we see what is possible to us. God gives us Christ to be the perfection of our love. When our search for Christ is over, we will know ourselves in the Christ we are called to be. Our study of Christ through our prayers and the scriptures teaches us what we need to do.

By our goodness we gain Christ. Forgiveness belongs to the sufferings of Christ. What are the crosses of life that I run away from that if I take them up would allow me to be more a disciple of Christ? We have not yet attained to the maturity of Christ in us until we arrive at the Resurrection when we will become one with the Christ who calls us into his life and is the source of all forgiveness. There is no shortcut to the Resurrection. We have to be taken possession of by Christ. Forgiveness allows us to forget what lies behind and straining forward like Paul to what lies ahead, our forgiving actions continue our pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling in Christ Jesus. We pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive and we try to be a forgiving people that God may be free in the space of our forgiving to forgive us even more than we have been a forgiving people.

Action speaks louder than all our protestations of love of God. How we live like Christ is the perfection of the actions of our lives. We are his hands and his feet in our world today. Where our love guides us is the operation of the Spirit in our lives.   We pray that all our actions have their beginning in Christ. He would live through our love for one another. Like Paul, we have not already attained perfect maturity. But we keep on going that we may possess the love of Christ. By our love of him we can be his love for our world. We are called to heaven by living out our love of one another. Living with Christ, we rise with him.  There is no greater love than to give our lives for one another. Love makes our world go round. Love is God’s work in us.

*  This edition of Your Daily Tripod combines reflections originally Published on March 17, 2013 and March 21, 2010.

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