Wednesday, October 23, 2019

“Freed by God’s Will for Me” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Freed by God’s Will for Me” by Beth DeCristofaro

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness. But what profit did you get then from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit that you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. (Romans 6:20-22)

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." (Luke 12:49-51)

You move us to delight in praising You, for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You. (St. Augustine)

It seems ironic that Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are so divisive, almost violent, and yet we deeply believe, as he said to his disciples, that peace would reign in the hearts of those who believe. Paul helps clarify with his example of slavery and freedom. Slavery to those who conform to God’s will is freedom, he says, from the illusory commitment to mortal things. Slavery – our acquiescence to God – is the only route to holiness. It is true, we know in our hearts, that all on earth is transitory. Much on earth although beautiful and wonderful, is not benign when we indulge too greatly or pin all our hopes on it.

Jesus’ words which follow this passage speaks of enmity between members of our families. But isn’t a commandment to honor our parents? Isn’t it a Christian value to cherish our families? This passage is hard for me. However, I know that Jesus did not want me to put my mother out as she became ill nor to leave her alone, possibly in harm’s way because of dementia, even for social obligations or rituals. My duty as a Christian is to Jesus and, in this case, through my mother, not to rules and regulations.

Jesus' words say to me that God is first and that God will show us how to be in this world. God infuses our relationships, opens our attention to the beauty of creation and guides us in the thorny business of living as flawed and misperceiving humans. With God’s graces, we can love our families, love our lives, love the wonders of the earth as Jesus would have us love – without restrictions, without “owning” them and without recompense. That’s almost impossible for families! It is to easy to be enslaved by our expectations of and for other people rather than letting them be free to be God’s. They and we can blaze with God’s love if we accept God’s will over and above all else.

What expectations do I have either for myself or in others which, being continually unmet, make me restless and unable to free myself to be joyful meeting God’s will?


“Integrity” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Brothers and sisters:  Sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires.  And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness.  For sin is not to have any power over you, since you are not under the law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14)

Jesus said to his disciples: "Be sure of this:  if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.  You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come." (Luke 12:39-40)

Lord, help us to live as your sons and daughters, no matter what the circumstances.

Somewhere I read that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.  That reminded me of the first time I ever babysat my niece and nephew after they moved to Virginia many years ago.  They were four and two at the time.  As I was cleaning up after dinner, I asked them to get ready to take their baths.  They never moved. They were in the next room, and I heard the older one tell the younger one in a stage whisper, “Be very quiet and she won’t know we’re not doing it!”  I almost burst out laughing.

But how many of us do the same thing on an adult level?  We decide to act with a lack of integrity when we think no one will see us or hear us or find out about it.
Both of our readings today deal with this subject of integrity.  Paul tells the Christians in Rome that because they are in Christ and living under grace, they can no longer allow themselves or any part of themselves to be agents for sin and wickedness (not a word we hear too often today, but it, nevertheless,  still exists).  Their lives need to reflect their life in Christ 24-7.  That’s what integrity is, according to the Apostle Paul.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells the story of the manager of a household who has lost sight of the fact that the owner will, at some point, return and demand an accounting of how things have gone in his absence.  This manager is a person who lacks integrity, someone who presents one face to the servants of the household while the owner is gone yet hopes to present a much different façade to his boss whenever that person returns.  Jesus points out how much better and less anxiety-producing it is to be the person the homeowner trusts every single day than to scramble at the last minute to clean up days, months or years of a less than stellar act, or worse, be caught in the act as a Jekyll and Hyde type.

Acting with integrity as a Christian is no easy feat.  Like the Christians in Rome, we are tempted to point fingers at others’ transgressions, forgetting we are sinners ourselves. Or like the manager of the household in the Gospel today, we are tempted to treat people with something less than charity or compassion.  Doing the right thing is often the more difficult path to travel in life.

When we are praying today, perhaps we could ask Jesus for the strength to be people of integrity, to treat others as we would like to be treated, to love our brothers and sisters as God loves us.

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