Friday, April 28, 2017

Devote Ourselves

So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." Acts 6:2-4

When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid." They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading. John 6:19-21

Father, help us to devote ourselves in service to our community.

No matter how much we would like to rely upon Emersonian Self-Reliance, there comes a time (or often times) when everyone on of us needs help. The need for assistance – physical, emotional, or spiritual – unites all of us on this great green and white and blue marble. Had Emerson been around with the Acts of the Apostles, the Church may have started on very different footing than it did in actuality.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was the champion of individuality arguing that nothing has control over the self or the ego. However, in Christianity, the "self" has control over the self (free will) though we are encouraged to make decisions that are aligned more with service to others in the community rather than purely in our own self-interests. If the seven members of the community chose as the first deacons were not committed to Diakonia (service), then the Church would have been a very difference organization from the outset.

Emerson also stressed nonconformity. He wrote: "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist." Emerson counsels his readers to do what they think is right no matter what others think. Jesus was the Original Nonconformist constantly getting in trouble with the “proverbial powers that be” (PPTB). However, he always urges us to conform to his Commandments, Scriptures, and service God and others in the broader community.

The community, according to Emerson, is a distraction to self-growth. He thought that friendly visits and family needs got in the way of his personal growth. He advocates more time being spent reflecting on one’s self. This can also happen in the community by a strong self-confidence. This would help the counseled to not sway from his beliefs in groups of people. However, in Cursillo, we see the community as a source of strength. While we need to recharge our spiritual batteries in silent, contemplative prayer, once that occurs, our best work is done in the community where two or more are gathered in His name.

Finally, Emerson argued that Truth is within one’s self. He suggests that reliance upon “institutionalized religion” hinders the ability to grow mentally as an individual. Truth, as we believe, is of God (“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.”) and we get to know God through prayer, and through service to others. Institutional religion provides a framework for community worship and service. As such, it is in a partnership with personal spirituality that brings us closer to the God-head of salvation and rebirth in the Spirit.

If the seven servants who were chosen were committed to some individual self-reliance, then the widows and orphans among the community would still not be served adequately.

Paired closely with both the faith-filled celebrations of the birth (Christmas) and rebirth (Easter) of Jesus, is a reminder of the fact that our faith calls us to serve others. The very day after Christmas is the Feast of St. Stephen the Martyr. Now, within the second week of Easter, the first reading reminds us of the importance of service (love-in-action) for the community.

Service can take many forms. The “service at table” refers to assuring that all had a proper share of food and other community property. The same kind of reference to service is made about Peter’s mother-in-law after Jesus cures her. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. Mark 1:30-31

In addition to corporal works like that, there also are spiritual works which comfort those who are troubled like Jesus does to the disciples who are being tossed around on their boat.

Even though this scene from John’s Gospel comes long before Easter, another connection it has to the Easter stories is the fear that gripped the disciples. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, "It is I. Do not be afraid." (John 6:19-20)

Who’s boat are you called to calm today? 

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