Sunday, November 06, 2016

Set Right What Remains to be Done

For this reason, I left you in Crete so that you might set right what remains to be done and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you, on condition that a man be blameless, married only once, with believing children who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious. Titus 1:5-6

And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”  Luke 17:5-6

Forgiveness and Faith.  Faith and Forgiveness. Abundant Forgiveness is possible with just a dash of faith. If we have even a small amount of faith, all the Synoptic Gospels teach a similar lesson.  That faith would allow you to command a fig tree or a mountain to uproot itself and be thrown into the sea. 

While this is a hypothetical example, what Jesus builds to in this chapter is a series of right attitudes which should control behavior.  He does not follow the lesson about the mulberry tree with a “Dummies Guide for Throwing a Mulberry Tree into the Lake of Gennesaret.” However, what follows are a series of stories that help to form the right personality and behavior of a true disciple. In the first example, Jesus tells them that a Servant must fulfill the demands of discipleship by serving both God and each other and by being very generous with forgiveness.  Then, Jesus goes on to teach that a Servant must be thankful for the blessings bestowed by the Lord (even when others are not).

Neither lesson is easy and both are somewhat contrary to the human tendency.  The more we can throw off the selfish tendency of our personal ego, the closer we can get to the humble service the Lord demands.

The disciples ask for more faith (“Increase our faith”) so that they can meet Jesus’ expectations. Jesus, who has just set a very high bar for personal action, then sets a very low bar for faith. He tells them that they can do all that is required if they have faith the size of a mustard seed.  Not the size of a fig tree.  Nor the size of a mulberry tree.  Nor the size of a mountain.  If we have faith but only the size of a mustard seed, we can do what is required -- to obey the Lord as the mulberry tree obeys us.

Humble service grounded in faith.  The demands for this, even n small doses, is a common cry in the Gospels.  As we mark the very last full day before the national election, humility seems to be in pretty short supply.  Self-righteousness abounds. How will we “set right what remains to be done?”  How are we to approach November 9, no matter who wins? John L. Allen, Jr., proposes a novel idea in his article, “In a surreal year, is a Catholic push for healing the last long shot?

Here’s the factual premise: No matter what happens on Tuesday, whether we elect our first female Commander-in-Chief or a TV celebrity and tycoon, come Wednesday America is still going to be a badly divided, angry, and tribalized society.

Whether Clinton wins in a landslide, Trump stages another comeback, or the earth itself opens and swallows both tickets whole, the fundamental calculus will not change, which is that Americans don’t merely disagree with one another, but many find the values and concerns of other Americans both incomprehensible and repugnant.

To grasp why that’s so, it’s worth dusting off a book from almost a decade ago, titled The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. Written by Bill Bishop, the basic insight was that America has become a nation of gated communities, of both the virtual and visual sort.

Mr. Allen’s modest proposal is this:  Imagine if parishes were to invite local chapters of both Democrats and Republicans, post-election, to turn people out for shared service projects, such as building houses for Habitat for Humanity or visiting homes for the elderly, and through those moments, encourage friendships to emerge?

In a year when the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA title and now the Chicago Cubs have become World Series champs, 2016 is obviously the year in which the formerly inconceivable becomes reality.  Maybe the Cursillo movement can be the catalyst for bringing people back together.  Maybe?

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