Saturday, May 13, 2017

Built into A Spiritual House

By Rev. Paul Berghout

“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 6:3-4

Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:4-5

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father's house, there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  John 14:1-2

It’s Mother’s Day and Pope Francis wrote in his recent teaching document on marriage and family that “Mothers often communicate the deepest meaning of religious practice in the first prayers and acts of devotion that their children learn. Without mothers, not only would there be no new faithful, but the faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth.” AL 174

Our own holiness is proportional to the degree that we make others more holy.

Here is an example of a wife and mother in a little story I was amused to read about the noted pastor and writer Dr. M.R. Dehaan once told on himself. He said that one morning he and his wife had a disagreement. The disagreement was so sharp that, as they ate breakfast, he didn’t say anything at all to her. In effect, he was giving her the silent treatment. Each morning they had the ritual of reading a devotional from the little magazine, “Our Daily Bread” of which Dehaan was the editor. His wife read the day’s devotion silently to herself for a moment, then taking it and shoving under Dehaan’s nose, she asked, “Are you the man who wrote this?”

Continuing with the theme that our own holiness is proportional to the degree that we make others more holy, Mothers often attempt to build consensus in family arguments because they are often the glue of the family.

In our First Reading, there was a complaint from Hellenists. They were Jewish converts to Christianity from the Jewish faith but they spoke Greek, not Hebrew and Aramaic like the other Jewish converts. We have evidence going back to the time of the Maccabees in 170 B.C. that there had long been tension between the Jews who had taken on the language of the Greek world and the more traditional Jews who preferred to speak Hebrew and Aramaic and avoid Hellenist or Greek ways. When the Hellenists complained that their widows were being neglected in the distribution of food it may have been partly a prejudice rather than a scarcity of resources or maybe the Twelve Apostles were just too busy to oversee the distribution of food.

Speaking of prejudices, one daughter said to her mother on Mother’s Day, “I love how we don't even need to say out loud that I'm your favorite child.”
The Twelve Apostles resolved the problem by creating a new office in the Church by ordaining deacons for the task of distributing food. They were ordained by the laying on of hands.

Lessons for us: There will be cultural diversity among those who follow Christ, consider the word “Catholic” means universal. The Twelve do not hesitate to restructure the early community to take care of the Hellenist widows by creating the diaconate. But, our First Reading says that it was a proposal to do so that the whole community agreed to. We're talking about administration guided by the Spirit consisting of a consensus. E.g. In his Rule for monks, St. Benedict advises the abbot to ask the whole community for counsel, including the youngest member as well as the guest.

Mother’s get holy because of their wanting the eternal salvation of their children. In our Gospel, Jesus says, “I go and prepare a place for you.” Jesus promises each of us that he will come back at the hour of our death and take us to be with him and the Father forever. Consequently, St. Paul writes in 1 Thess. 4:13, "Do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope," but rather "Have faith in God" and in what Jesus promises (John 14:1). The promises of the Lord are rock-solid because God is faithful: "I have spoken; I will do it" (Ezekiel. 37:14).

A wise priest once described it this way: In heaven, we are filled with the perfection of love as we were able to understand it and live it out on earth. Those with greater love on earth will have a greater capacity to be filled with love in heaven.

When one receives Christ, each soul acts as singly towards God as if there had not been another person in the world. This speaks of individual experience.

Whether we use the metaphor of a dwelling place, a site, a domain, or a realm, these are all architectural image for concretizing or structuring the psyche or soul. There is a specific quality of one's internal life, kind of a psychic or spiritual dwelling place unique to given individual. There is variability.

A man died and went to heaven. He was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter who led him down the golden streets. They passed mansion after beautiful mansion until they came to the end of the street where they stopped in front of a shack. The man asked St. Peter why he got a hut when there were so many mansions he could live in. St. Peter replied, “I did the best with the money you sent us.”

Our place in heaven is our level of awareness in which we gauge our relation to Divine Presence and of those in need of us.

Jesus says that He is the way, the truth, and the life. It's of major importance because if we don't go the right way, we won't end up in the right place. But, as emphasized in Pacem et Terris, "one must never confuse error and the person who errs." (158)

Mother's know that even when their child strays, their child is redeemable through Christ, and remains loved by the mother.

Jesus says in our Gospel today that who believes in Him will “Do greater works than I do.” Who’s to say that your prayer and sacrifice did not save a soul?

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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