Will we live
big?

Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd playing Jake and Elwood Blues had just been released from prison. They went back to visit the orphanage in which they were raised. They find out that creditors are about to foreclose on the orphanage. Suddenly, the understood the big thing they had to do. They were going to pay off the debt. Their oft repeated statement of purpose was: “We’re on a mission from God.”

Paul was certainly on a mission from God. Yet, he says something very odd – especially on point for us in this day and age – give no offense. Many people tend to think (by our failure to live like Jesus) that giving offense is what the Church is all about!

Paul was focusing on the difference between insignificant matters, small ‘t’ traditions and practices and the essentials of faith. Don’t quibble, don’t focus on the small things, don’t create offense for anyone over small things. Rather, come together in unity on the big things, the essentials. In doing that, show off Jesus. Set an example of humility. Shine forth like Jesus – be like Him. Open the door to all in need of the big healing, big peace, big confidence, and big security only Jesus can give.

Think of what Jesus taught about the things that are key. Two things only. Two commandments. Love God, love each other. Any minor issues there, anything insignificant? Not at all.

Paul’s experience helped him to really understand what Jesus taught. Paul often focused on the greatness of the mercy that was shown to him. Paul saw and experienced, in a flash of blinding light, what Jesus focused on. It was never the small. Paul had been focused, in his pharisaical ways, on minutia. It his encounter with Jesus, Paul saw where he fell short in understanding. He finally got God’s big mercy. What counts is that God wipes out our small and the big mess of sins – our failure to love God and to share in that love as an act of love – so we can start anew.

If barriers are raised to our neighbors, by arrogance, being bound to the small and insignificant, then the path to Jesus’ big mercy is blocked.

As we begin our Pre-Lenten preparation, let us consider how we may remove any block on the way to Jesus. Are we opening the path to mercy? How will we live? What mission from God are we on? Who will we be imitators of?

Jesus healed the leper, and he couldn’t stand not to tell of the big mercy he received. …he went out and began to talk freely about [Jesus] and the people came to Him from every quarter.

Our Lord
gets us.

…let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Today our Holy Church calls us to confidence. This call comes directly from scripture.

We start by understanding that we have reason to hold fast to our confession. Our confession is not something without an accompanying promise. In fact, the promise of God is that those who confess Him have a mansion waiting for them in heaven. We who confess Him have the promise of eternal life. We are entitled to call upon Him, and when we do so in faith all that we ask for will be given to us. Confess with confidence.

If this were not enough, the Letter to the Hebrews goes on to explain that our High Priest is also our Advocate. Jesus gets us. He intimately understands us. This isn’t just because He is God, but because He has traveled the same paths we travel. He set aside and emptied Himself and took up our humanity. He ate and drank as we do. He laughed and cried as one of us. He was tempted, He was hungry, He was poor, He was betrayed, He was abandoned, He faced the desecration of His Father’s house, and He suffered and died. He was similarly tested in every way.

As both God and man, Jesus has deep compassion for us. He sympathizes with us. He stands before the Father and claims ownership of us. He and His Precious Blood stand between the Father and us to invoke the Father’s mercy for us. He pleads for us; and is ever ready to take up our cause. As such, we have reason to approach the throne of grace. This is not a mercy-seat on earth such as the high priests of Israel approached with animal and grain sacrifices. It is rather the true throne of grace. A throne won through Jesus’ High Priesthood and self-sacrifice for our redemption.

This throne was built for us, unworthy though we are – so that without qualification, pre-requisite, or preparation we may come, open our hearts, confess our sins, and obtain God’s blessing. It is a throne of glory and beauty built to encourage us to come. It is a throne where grace is freely, frequently, and plentifully dispensed. Grace for pardon and sanctification so that we may be fit for God’s service and praise. Grace is dispensed to us from this throne without money and without price.

Our Lord gets us. He needed the Father’s grace and blessing to carry out His Father’s mission. Thus He offers us the same chance to come to His throne of grace for all we need. Let us be confident, confess Him, and go to Him.

Reflection for Sexagesima Sunday

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But he hit me!!!!
You’re older. You can take it.

“But I say to you that hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.”

Don’t you just hate it when justice isn’t done, when someone wrongs you and they don’t get what’s coming to them?

In the words above we may find a childhood memory. The young people here may recall saying and hearing the same thing recently. Dad or mom step in and tell us to act our age, take it. There might be some discipline involved, but it is never really satisfying to us. Once someone has hurt or wronged us they cannot take it back. They cannot put the genie back in the bottle or the toothpaste back in the tube.

This is the problem of sin.

Holy Scripture describes sin as the breaking, or transgression, of God’s law (1 John 3:4). It is also defined as disobedience or rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7), as well as independence from God. The original translation of “sin” is “to miss the mark” of God’s holy standard of righteousness.

If someone hates us, curses us, acts as an enemy, abuses us, hits us, or takes our stuff our natural reaction, based on our tendency to sin, is to do the same. Hit back, take their stuff, punish them, and wage war. Doing all that perpetuates sin.

Think of it this way, if someone passes me in their car, cuts me off, honks at me, and is otherwise rude and annoying, what do I feel like doing? My broken self calls out to do the same to them, or even to others. I might be so perturbed that later that day I let a door slam in someone’s face, I fail to hold the elevator, or I give someone a dirty look. What do they do? More of the same! On and on, sin perpetuating the next sin.

Jesus’s instructions break that cycle. They call us to live holy and righteous lives without sin. We live as light in the face of darkness, responding differently.

Jesus is telling us to act our age. He considers us to be the older children of His body. As such we need to act maturely in the face of sin. When the rude driver cuts us off, we need to say a prayer for them and do additional acts of kindness. In doing so we have followed Jesus’ instructions. In doing this we trust in God’s justice. We can’t put others toothpaste back in the tube, but we can make sure ours doesn’t get out. Doing that, we are on the mark, hitting God’s holy standard of righteousness.