Others.

…complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.

Last week we considered the question of me, will God welcome me even if I am late in responding? We were reassured in hearing that if we have taken the opportunity to come, whether the first time, as a moment of return, or even for the 23,660th time, God and His people welcome us into the kingdom.

Today, our Holy Church takes time to reflect on the work of the PNU, Spójnia – and as God provides, we are given to hear Paul’s words about others.

This is the attitude of Christ’s Church, His very body on display before the world, that we are of one mind and action in love. Love moves us to encourage each other; to compassion, mercy, and singlemindedness toward others in our work.

Spójnia was founded in 1908, 112 years ago as the Church’s love response to the persecution its members faced for their faith. We seem to think that being persecuted for the faith is something that occurred in Caesar’s Rome, or perhaps in this and the last century in Communist or other oppressive regimes. Yet, the reality is that it happened here, in Schenectady, Albany, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Scranton and wherever we gathered to pray. Faith in Christ made us objects of derision and targets for active persecution.

As with the Solemnity of Brotherly Love, the Church did not declare war, did not respond in kind toward its persecutors. Rather, when we were cast out of fraternal organizations, banks, insurance companies; when savings were lost, and tragedies came to the faithful and their families – we built regarding others as more important than ourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.

In our day, this message resonates as perhaps it has not in years. How we live as the family of faith, how we treat others, respond, and build will be the markers by which our adherence to the gospel of Jesus is measured.

Paul goes on to illustrate the great sacrifice of Jesus for others – i.e., all of us. He laid it all down for us, to the point of death, even death on a cross

As Jesus has done, so must we for others. Therefore, let us set to work in the vineyard, for God will not regard our prior failure to act or respond, but our actual action today. 

What’s important
to us?

Brothers and sisters: If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Paul is advising the Colossians to be single-minded and to concentrate on the great gift they had received; something we all need to hear. We belong to Jesus. He is our treasure. He is greater than anything we could possibly acquire. We belong to heaven and Jesus deserves our total attention. Yet we get so distracted. That is what happened to the man who came to Jesus. The man wanted Jesus to resolve a family dispute over inheritance.

The man was not asking for advice. He wanted Jesus to stand on his side and “tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” He wanted Jesus to get the money for him, but Jesus saw the true problem in his heart – it was his focus. The man made money his priority even though he was standing in the presence of God. He could have asked any question, he could have asked for anything – healing, life, understanding, and a heart for God.

Jesus uses the opportunity to teach about priorities and the danger of misplaced priorities; of losing focus.

Look at Jesus’ story of distraction. The farmer is a happy man – a rich man – with a great harvest. He likely felt blessed by God. He so enjoyed being successful and rich. Suddenly he is looking forward to more – “And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”

In his happiness he lost focus. He allowed the good he received to consume him. The blessings now became the priority and he forgot the source of the blessing. Bigger barns and enjoying blessings were his “soul” goal.

For the farmer everything was fine and good until he is confronted by the reality of God’s dominion and his misplaced priorities. God takes account of our priorities and focus. “God said to him, ’You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.’”

God reset the farmer’s perspective. In his misdirected focus the farmer only made plans for this life but not for what is to come. God was in his life but he ignored Him.

These moments, this scripture, is an opportunity for us. We can rejoice in the blessings we have but must keep our eye on their source. Jesus wants us to see things in the right perspective. He gives us eternal riches that must always be accounted for and tended to first. God wants us to enjoy life with Him as our most important priority.

The in and out
of life.

He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts.’ You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

A few weeks ago, Jesus upset His listeners when He offered them His body and blood. To them, He was violating one of the most basic precepts of Kosher law.

Today, the Pharisees and some scribes confront Jesus. This was at a more basic level; Jesus disciples were violating traditional rules about hand washing. They confronted Jesus about this.

These Pharisees and scribes came from Jerusalem: They were an official delegation coming to evaluate the ministry of Jesus. A prior delegation had already condemned Jesus so this one already made up their minds. They just had to see it to confirm their opinion. Their minds and hearts were not open to God.

As to the washings we do not mean getting rid of the yuck factor. The Pharisees rather meant elaborate ceremonial washings. The Pharisees had raised a small ‘t’ tradition to the level of God’s direct commands. In fact, by the time of Jesus, this oral law was being honored as at least equal to, if not more important than, God’s Law. Jesus was trying to refocus Israel. Open your hearts and your whole selves to my Father. See in Me the goodness and generosity of your Heavenly Father.

It is easy for us to enter into the same kinds of error; to find salvation in outward practice, and in doing so to lose our way. We need refocusing too.

We can easily lose our focus and place trivial traditions in the way of our relationship with God. These can even become roadblocks that discourage others from coming to God. We can think that we are close to the Lord by what we say and practice – having the image of being religious or spiritual, but actually be far from God. We should regularly ask ourselves some serious questions: I attend church, read the Bible, pray, pitch in, minister, sing, even talk to others about Jesus but is my heart close to God? Is my entire being about being in Jesus?

If our entire being is one in God then all we do is about being part of His life. We worship in church, not to be exceptional or even to follow God’s law, but because we need to be with Him and offer Him the worship He deserves. We read the Bible, pray, pitch in, minister, sing, and talk to others about Jesus because our hearts are His. We are truly and fully in love with God. Lord, refocus us so that all coming from us is Yours!