Sunday, October 11, 2015

Reflections for the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – A Slave of Christ Jesus

St. Paul begins his Letter to the Romans with a shocking statement. He calls himself “a slave of Christ Jesus.” 

Some translations of Scripture try to tone down this claim a bit by translating the Greek word doulos as “servant,” but this is inaccurate. The Greek meaning is clear: doulos means “slave,” someone who is the property of another, someone who gives up his will to another.

This likely raises the hackles of most modern people. We usually view slavery as appalling and horrific and rightly so when slavery involves one person owning another. Such a practice stands in total opposition to human dignity. 

What, then, are we to make of Paul's assertion? Why would he use a disturbing word like “slave” to describe his relationship with Jesus? 

First, Paul wants to make sure that his readers are aware of Jesus' unique status. Jesus Christ is God. He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Creator of the universe, the omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent Divine Being. As such, all things and all people belong to Him by right. He has full authority over the entire cosmos and every being in it. Paul humbly acknowledges this reality. 

Second, Paul recognizes his place in the grand scheme of things. He knows that compared to God, he is smaller than an atom, next to nothing. God, after all, didn't have to create Paul or any of the rest of us. He doesn't really need us, but He wants us. Therefore, He created us out of His great love. We are nothing without Him.

Third, Paul uses the term “slave” to express his total surrender to God. He has chosen to give himself completely to Jesus Christ, all that he has, all that he is, everything. He has turned over his body, his mind, his will, his heart, and his soul to God through Jesus. He no longer belongs to himself. 

Fourth, because of this humble submission, Paul embraces obedience. He imitates Jesus Himself in saying, “Not my will but Yours be done.” He is ready and eager to follow Jesus in everything, trusting his Lord and Master to guide him on the right path that will get him home to Heaven. Everything Jesus commands, he will do out of love, understanding that Jesus' every order is for his own good.

Fifth, Paul knows that as a slave of Jesus Christ he will be loved, cherished, protected, and cared for by the best Master in the universe. Jesus longs for us to give Him our whole selves, and He rewards that kind of gift with greater blessings than we can ever imagine. 

To be a slave of Christ Jesus, then, is the best role we could ever embrace, the best position we could ever occupy, the most fulfilling rank we could ever hold. St. Paul knows that, and he offers us a great gift by telling us.

Tuesday – Seeing God in Creation

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.” Thus declares today's Psalm. Do you realize that you can know God just from looking at His creation? It's true! We human beings are endowed with reason, and by using that reason to observe the created world around us, we can know for 100% sure that there is a God. 

St. Thomas Aquinas describes five ways in which we can definitely know that God exists just through our own human reasoning.

1. Proof from motion – Everything in the world is in motion. Everything changes. Further, all motion and all change happen because of something else. Something happens to make something else move or change. But who started the motion to begin with? Who made the first change? The only One Who could do that must be Someone Who didn't have to be put into motion in the first place, Someone Who is unchangeable. Only God, the first Mover, could have started everything in motion.

2. Proof from causality – This argument is similar to the first. Everything in the universe is caused by something else. But Who caused the first effect? Who started the whole chain? Someone must have, and that Someone is God.

3. Proof from contingency – Everything and everybody in the universe is contingent. We depend upon others for our existence. We are not necessary. But if we are not necessary, if we are dependent, then Who is necessary? Who is independent? God, of course.

4. Proof from grades of perfection – We all recognize that some people and some things are better than others. There are always gradations in our world, and we have standards by which we determine those gradations of goodness and beauty and truth. Therefore, there must be an ultimate standard, Someone Who stands right at the top, to Whom we compare everything else. That's God.

5. Proof from finality or design – We are all heading some place. Everything and everybody has an end. This world has purpose and order. It moves in a particular direction in a particular way. That direction is God, the beginning and the end of all things, and that way is His way.

Yes, we can know that God exists simply by looking at His creation and discerning with our reason, but we are extremely blessed because God, in His great love, chose to reveal Himself and His plan of salvation in an even greater way through Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. In this awesome deposit of Divine Revelation, He tells us things we could never know otherwise, and He confirms what we can know on our own. What a wonderful God we have!

For a more detailed explanation of these five proofs, please read about them in St. Thomas' own words in the Summa Theologica.

Wednesday – Rest in God

St. Augustine once wrote in a prayer to God, “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

Today's Psalm expresses that very idea: “Only in God is my soul at rest; from Him comes my salvation.”

We will never be satisfied with the things of this world. Money, honor, fame, and power will always fall short of our deepest longing. God has placed a desire within the heart of every human being, a desire for Him, a craving to know Him, an eagerness to love Him, a yearning to be close to Him. We will never find true rest, true peace, anywhere else. Our salvation comes only from Him. He is our only refuge, our only stronghold, our only real safety. Only in Him will we find everything we've ever wanted.

May my heart be at rest in You, my Lord and my God.

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