Friday, January 20, 2017

Cleanse Our Conscience

For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the Blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.  Hebrews 9:13-14

Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again, the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."   Mark 3:20-21

Place your hope in God alone. If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself, but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge. (Rule of St. Benedict)

Grace and goodness come from God, the Rule insists. We are not the sole authors of our own story. What does come from us, though, are the decisions we make in the face of the graces we receive. We can either respond to each life grace and become what we might be in every situation, whatever the effort, or we can reject the impulses that the magnate in us called goodness brings in favor of being less than we ought to be.

It is those decisions that we must bend our lives to better.

The Jesus we are encountering in Mark this year is far from the level-headed, calm Messiah we meet in John or Luke’s narratives.  Mark fills Jesus with passion as he describes his march through Galilee.  Today, those closest family members think Jesus is “out of his mind.” They refer not to some astral projection of Jesus around them but actions which do not seem logical or in synch with the social norms of ancient Roman-occupied Palestine.

Clearly, Jesus’ family has gotten reports of what has been happening – the multiple conflicts with the Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath, eating with the tax collector and sinners, and forgiving the sin of the paralytic man.  The family makes the trip from Nazareth to Capernaum to bring Jesus home.   However, the crowds are so large, Jesus skips eating and turns to healing them all.  None of this seems normal by human standards and they attempt to bring Jesus back with them.  When they are unsuccessful, they conclude that Jesus must be out of his mind.

We are now set up to expect more conflicts between Jesus and authorities, between Jesus and his family, and between Jesus and the normal social order as He breaks from the past and sets up a New Jerusalem. 

These conflicts that are popping up are all centered around making sure that the institutions of the day – the church, the state, and the society – provided for the needs of the people.  When these failed, Jesus stepped in on the Sabbath or any other day a need arose, to lend a hand to bring about either social justice or charity for the afflicted person.

In addition to the example of Jesus, we have inspirational words from Dorothy Day:

"One of the greatest evils of the day among those outside the proximity of the suffering poor is their sense of futility. Young people say, 'What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?' They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the action of the present moment but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun.'" —Dorothy Day, from Loaves and Fishes

What brick will you lay today in the wall of social justice?  What step will you take toward charity for all and malice toward none?

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