Sunday, September 4, 2016

Reflection for the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Part 1

Monday – Tough Love

The Corinthian Church was rocked by scandal when St. Paul wrote to its members for the first time. One among them had done something horrible, something even the pagans scorned. He was living in an intimate relationship with his stepmother, and apparently he refused to repent and change his ways.

So Paul recommended some tough love. He told the Corinthians to kick the man out, literally to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh...” This man was already risking his eternal salvation through his misdeeds. The Church was merely to confirm his own decision.

But Paul had something more in mind than simply excommunicating the man. He had two very good reasons for doing so. First, he was trying to protect the Corinthian Church. “Do you not know,” he asked the Corinthians, “that a little yeast leavens all the dough?” In other words, the man's sin, if tolerated, could permeate the entire Church, weakening it and causing people to falter in their faith. This could not happen.

Second, Paul was considering the sinful man himself. Excommunication wasn't intended only as a punishment; Paul also had hopes of rehabilitating the sinner. Delivering him over to Satan might teach him a few things, like how good he really had it in the Church and how much danger he was in of losing his eternal salvation. Perhaps, Paul hoped, this remedial treatment might change the man's heart that, by means of his suffering, “his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” Yes, Paul must have thought, sinners sometimes needed some tough love to bring them back to the One Who is Love in person.

Tuesday – Spending the Night in Prayer

In today's Gospel, we hear that Jesus spent the entire night in prayer. Jesus was so close to His Father that even a whole night wasn't enough time to spend in His presence.

This should make us stop and think about our own commitment to prayer. Would we ever be willing to give up sleep in order to pray? Do we even set aside time during the day to speak and listen to God? When we do pray, do we pray with our hearts as well as our words? Is our prayer the intimate encounter with God that it should be?

Take some time today to reflect on your prayer life. Honestly answer the questions above and make a firm resolution to pursue at least two improvements that will draw you closer to God. There are endless possibilities here. You might commit to praying five minutes more every day or devoutly saying a decade of the Rosary during your lunch hour or reading a few verses of Scripture or trying to remain conscious of God's presence throughout the day. Whatever you decide, stick with it. And always remember that your goal is not to just pray better or more but to grow ever closer to the One to Whom you are praying.

Wednesday – Detachment

“From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully.”

At first glance, this advice that St. Paul gives to the Corinthians doesn't seem to make much sense. How can a married person act as though he wasn't married? How can someone weeping or rejoicing act as though he wasn't? How can a person buy something and act as if he doesn't own it? How can anyone who makes use of the world but avoid using it fully?

The answer is found in detachment. What Paul is talking about here is being detached from the world and from things and even relationships that are rooted in the world. When we detach ourselves from these things...not give them up...just detach, we are much more capable of attaching ourselves to God.

It's a matter of priorities really. Human beings have a limited amount of attention and focus. We can only concentrate on so much at once. Therefore, we need to determine some order to our lives. Paul helps us see that we need to put God in the first place...all the time. Our first attachment, our highest loyalty, must be to Him. Everything else flows from that: all our relationships, all our activities, all our possessions, all our emotions. We must love everyone and do everything with reference to God and for love of God.

Why? St. Paul explains when he says, “For the world in its present form is passing away.” Someday everything we know will radically change. For some people that change will come at their death. Others may survive to experience the end times when Jesus will come back and usher in a new Heaven and a new earth. Our attachment, then, our priorities must remain in the correct place: directly on God.

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