Deciding…

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We live in a time of decision, a time marked by outpourings of incredible passion focused on issues pressing on all of our hearts. It is an opportune time to hear Jesus ask us: ‘What and who do you love?’

Jesus defined love as only God can, perfectly. His love is a love open to everyone who will accept Him. His love is for those who come to Him when facing hopelessness or fear, or when they are just in search of understanding. His love is there for doubters and the even the angry.

Jesus’ definition of love calls us to be God directed and other directed. He calls us to an all-consuming and selfless expression of love each and every day. His definition of love requires us to acknowledge what we know inwardly and to express it outwardly. We are required to share His love, invite all to this love, and to avoid all hypocrisy. This is why the Pharisees and Sadducees and lawyers failed, they lived in hypocrisy and refused to acknowledge what they knew.

We are to love with right passion. What kind of passion is that? It is one that places Jesus and His kingdom front and center as our sole focus. It is passion for the gospel message and the great commandment. It is a passion for evangelism, to baptize the world in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It is often said (going back to college Latin), ‘O tempora, o mores!’ ‘O the times, o the customs!’ We have this knack of looking at our times and thinking them the worst, the verge of disaster. That phrase goes back to 70 B.C. This time is indeed a time of decision, and passion. We face the same decision we have faced from time immemorial: Will I receive Jesus, or will I let misplaced passion block me from Him? Will I love like Jesus and lose my life, or will personal passions block by heart?

What and Who do we love? If our love is formed and conducted in the way of Jesus and our passions are for all that is His, we live properly. Our passions are rightly focused. If our passions and love are for anything else, for just having our way (i.e., not losing our life), it is the time to re-evaluate and find true life, to decide to live and spread Jesus’ way of love.

Stir it
up.

stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. 

St. Paul is writing a closing letter to the Bishop he installed over the Church in Ephesus. Timothy had been Paul’s student and coworker, traveling on Paul’s missionary journeys. Timothy learned from Paul and like Paul was filled with zeal for the faith. He wanted people to know about Jesus, and like him, to leave all behind to follow Jesus. Timothy cowrote some of Paul’s letters to the Churches and he was entrusted with important missions. After being installed as bishop, he oversaw the Church in Ephesus for thirty-three years.

In spite of all this, the co-work, zeal, the fact he left everything behind for Jesus, Paul issues this last letter filled with reminders. Included therein, thankfulness for Timothy’s work, today’s reminder on the gifts Timothy received, examples of the suffering Paul endured as a reminder that Timothy will also be called on to suffer at times, reminders about proper conduct as a witness to the power of the gospel, the care Timothy must use in facing the dangers of the last days, and a reminder of the reward that awaits him.

While only four very short chapters, this letter reminded Timothy, and reminds us, of the deep obligation incumbent on us to preach the word and to make Jesus known with patience, courage, constancy, and endurance. We have the gifts to do all this and more even in the face of opposition, hostility, indifference, and defection.

I mentioned, in spite of all this… Timothy could have said, look at all I have done. I don’t really need reminders. But he did and so do we. In reality it is far beyond reminders. Stirring it up is more than someone helping us recollect what we are called to. It is igniting our passion – passion for Jesus’ way of life. Passion that calls us to exemplify, in even the smallest of things, the gospel life. Passion that will not help but cause us to sing out rejoicing in our salvation. Passion that will not let us sit by and let any go unsaved.

Paul called Timothy, as he was called by Jesus. He passes those words to us: Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. Reach up! Stir it up!

Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

5529

I can’t help myself.
Isn’t it ok?

“Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

The theme of our readings and gospel all center on doing things for the right reason, having the right priorities. They obviously focus on avoiding greed as the antithesis of proper living, “…the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?

As Christians we are to guard against placing our priorities wrongly. As we reflect on Carson’s baptism, we should recall our baptism. We descended into the waters of baptism, dying to the world and buried. Emerging we came into new life in the resurrected Christ. As people living in the resurrected Christ we have new priorities.

St. Paul says this plainly: For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. He reminds us that our focus must be changed – and we need to be reminded because we forget: 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.

The problem we face in setting priorities as Christians is how far and how fast we need to go in re-ordering our reasons, focus and priorities.

Can we find a word that simply expresses the overwhelming love and dedication we are supposed to have for Jesus Christ? It has to be a word that describes a love and dedication that is more than something that just bubbles under the surface, but rather radiates out of us, making our lives evidently different to all those we meet. Perhaps the right word is “crazy?” Crazy can mean mentally deranged; demented; insane; senseless; impractical; totally unsound. It can also mean intensely enthusiastic; passionately excited.

So how do we get to the kind of crazy that shows an enthusiastic and passionate life with Christ? It starts with commitment and practice. Baptism is the first step in commitment and dedication. From there, with the help of our parents, we practice – in Church, by reading scripture, and in regular prayer – learning Jesus’ way, focusing on educating ourselves about Jesus’ direction for our life, and working in community to do His will. With that education and practice we learn to live the right way and with the right priorities.

When we get to the kind of crazy that radiates passions in line with Jesus’ priorities we become restorers of hope in the midst of our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, and in the wider world. We find that we cannot help ourselves in a way that is absolutely ok – more that ok – it is wonderful. It is crazy right.