Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflections for the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Part 2

Thursday – A Lesson in Perspective

Today's Psalm provides a lesson in perspective. First, God is eternal, and we are not. Our time is limited. Death may overtake us at any moment, and our bodies will return to the dust of the earth. God, on the other hand, counts a thousand years as a mere watch in the night. He is outside time, and He operates on His own schedule. So when we feel as though God is not answering our prayers, perhaps He is merely telling us small time-bound creatures to wait for the timing of the Master of all time. 

Second, we need to learn how to number our days that we may gain wisdom of heart. In other words, we must get our priorities in order. In the midst of our limited time, we must select and focus on the things that are really important and not waste precious minutes on things that are not. We must turn our full attention toward loving God and loving our neighbors and let material distractions and quests for fame and power slip away into nothingness.

Third, we should pray to God for the things we really need: His love, His kindness, His joy, His mercy, His care, His peace, and His definition of success. This isn't to say that we can't ask for material things or intercede for the well being of ourselves and others, but we should do so from the perspective of humble children asking our loving Father to give us all the great gifts He has in store for us.

Friday – Holiness 

In today's first reading, St. Paul reminds us that God calls each one of us to holiness. What do you think of when you hear the word “holiness”? Purity? Virtue? Goodness? Love? Truth? Beauty? Light? 

Indeed, holiness includes all of these, but it is also something more. The Greek word used in this passage is hagiasmos. It refers to both consecration and sanctification. Holy people are people consecrated to God. They are set apart, reserved, and dedicated for Him. Holiness means, above all, to belong to God, to be wholly His, and to live and love in an intimate relationship with Him. Holy people are also people who are being transformed. To be holy is to be sanctified, to be transformed into a transparent being that allows the truth, goodness, and beauty of Being Himself to shine through, and to be immersed more and more in the wonders of divine life. 

Saturday – A Strange Collection

Today's readings are a rather strange collection. They just don't seem to fit together, at least at first glance. The Gospel for this memorial of the death of John the Baptist tells the story of John's execution by Herod. John refused to keep quiet about Herod's marital irregularities, indeed marital sins, and thanks to the machinations of Herod's so-called wife, Herodias, John lost his head for speaking out. It's a rather gruesome story actually.

The first reading doesn't seem to correspond to the Gospel at all. In it, St. Paul basically tells the Thessalonians to love each other as brothers and sisters and to live tranquil lives, working quietly and minding their own affairs. John the Baptist certainly didn't do that! In fact, he had a penchant for ticking people off. But he always did so out of love. John loved Herod and Herodias. He wanted the best for them, and when he saw that they were far lacking in that best, he spoke out even though it cost him his life. We might think that John was sticking his nose into other people's business instead of minding his own affairs, but really, he was busy with God's work, helping to save souls. 

Finally, today's Psalm is a joyful song of praise. Again, this seems odd considering that we are remembering John the Baptist's death. John, however, would not have agreed. He knew that death wasn't the end. He recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God Who had come to take away the sins of the world. He understood that God's plan of salvation was about to reach its climax. He had an inkling that very soon he would be reunited with Jesus and immersed in more bliss than he could ever imagine. This was a cause for celebration, not sorrow. 

John may have gone to his death, but he did so out of fraternal love and with great hope that he would soon see the Heaven that God was preparing for His people.

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