Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

It's Over - But Really, It's Just Beginning

Well, folks, it's over. Christmastide, that is. Now we are back in the day-in day-out of ordinary Christian living marked governed by the ordinary ordinances of Ordinary Time. And it's no coincidence that this period begins today with the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. Isn't it baptism that begins all of our lives in the Lord?

Here is the first reading from today's Mass (Is 42:1-4, 6-7):
Thus says the LORD:
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations,
not crying out, not shouting,
not making his voice heard in the street.
a bruised reed he shall not break,
and a smoldering wick he shall not quench,
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

I, the LORD, have called you for the victory of justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant of the people,
a light for the nations,
to open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
So many messages for the Christian life:

"Here is my servant whom I uphold": God upholds us, as a Church and each of us individually.  We can rely upon Him.  He does that not upon our own meritorious character, but because of our intimate union with His Son: the "chosen one" with whom he is actually "well pleased."  In the beginning, all of creation was "very good," (Gen 1:31) but sin damaged all of creation very badly.  Now, in Christ, we can be a new creation (2 Cor 5:17) that is again pleasing to God the Father (Heb 13:20-21).

The Christian follows Christ in bringing forth "justice to the nations," but he does not do it with riots, rebellions, crying out, or "shouting... in the street."  Instead, the Christian brings uprightness to the nations without breaking even anything as fragile as "a bruised reed."  The ways of the world are not the ways of a Christian, who is always on guard to be delicate, delicate with souls, lest he "quench" the "smoldering wick" of someone's embryonic faith.  He persists in his pursuit until the very edges of the world, the "coastlands" hear his teaching - because they are eager for it.

The LORD, the great I-AM, calls us "for the victory of justice."  He grasps us by the hand as a father takes his little boy, his little girl, and leads them step by step.  The distance seems far to us only because we are small, but our Father is very great, and he will grow us, form us into Christian men and women.  We will serve as a living covenant, a living sign of the commitment of God to His creatures and of those as of yet unruly creatures to their God.  The very way we live our lives - uprightly, doing what is right whatever it cost us, merciful to the weak and the poor - will make us a "light for the nations."  Our life in Christ will "open the eyes of the blind" so that they too can come to know His immense love for them.  People who are "prisoners" to the "confinement" and "darkness" of sinful ways of life - irresponsible borrowing and spending, excessive eating and drinking, shallow and broken relationships, promiscuity, lies, wrecked families, dependency on glamorous false solutions to life's problems - these people will see Christ in the conduct of our lives, and they will come to follow Him and be saved.

Or not.

The difference could very well be in how effectively we set our egos out of the way and let Him work in us.  We will do this setting-aside by taking up our cross daily (Lk 9:23) and following Him, even if it is to a place we would rather not go (Jn 21:18).  In this daily voluntary setting-aside of our desires when we cannot legitimately set aside our sufferings, we will know joy.  Joy is not ecstasy.  Daily ecstasy would be too much to bear for us right now anyway.  Joy is knowledge of the of the acting of God, of the providence of God, kingdom of God, in our daily lives.  It does not make the suffering go away, but it makes everything fit into a big picture, and makes even our sufferings sufferable.  Ordinary Time is the time to practice this daily joy in the midst of daily suffering for the daily sanctification of the world.

Ordinary Time doesn't sound so ho-hum now, does it?

1 comment:

Fred S. said...

Cool pic. Looks like the Rohirrim making the charge at Pelennor fields. Cool image of the spiritual warfare of day-to-day suffering.