Saturday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial verse tells us: “I rejoiced when I heard them say: let us go to the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122).

In Ephesians 4: 7-16 Paul gives us reason for rejoicing when we assemble in the “house of the Lord.” Each of us has gifts from God “for … ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Through Jesus acting in each of us, “the whole body grows and builds itself up in love.” We assemble to experience this.

Some have the gift of authority, whose function is to hold the community together, in union with each other and with the Church “catholic,” or “throughout the world.”

Only a few are authorities. But every single member of the community has the gift of leadership, whose function is to move the community forward. Whoever happens to see what needs to be done — whether through inspiration or insight, expertise or experience, or just by chance! — has the duty of making that known and trying to lead the community in the right direction. Authorities should encourage leadership, because it does not undermine authority, but nourishes and supplements it. But whether they do or not, every Christian has the right and duty to keep trying to lead the community into a more authentic embodiment of Gospel goals and values. This is inherent in our baptismal consecration as stewards of the kingship of Christ. No one can take this away from us. No one can dispense us from it.

In Luke 13: 1-9 Jesus makes it clear that we must all take responsibility for reforming the Church — in every age. The Church as a whole will eventually survive and triumph; Jesus has promised that. But Christianity can decline or die in any particular place or time. We have seen once-Christian countries swallowed up by apostasy and atheism. In some instances, separation of Church and state, which is wise and good, has been distorted into militant secularism, into government-sponsored opposition to religious values as such. We can hear Jesus saying to us, “Unless you reform, you will all come to the same end.”

Who is responsible for bringing about reform? Everyone who has been consecrated by Baptism as a “steward of the kingship of Christ.” We all have to ask if Jesus could be talking about us when he says, “For… years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?“ If we are just taking up space in the pews, someday we may find that we don’t have enough faith even to do that.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. React against anything that keeps people from “rejoicing when they go to the house of the Lord.

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Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial Psalm pinpoints the desire that shapes and motivates the Church:Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face” (Psalm 24).

Ephesians 4: 1-6 describes the principle characteristic of a life that is “worthy of the calling we have received.” It is a striving toward unity and peace. As “stewards of the reign of God,” we are charged to “make every effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This is the guiding goal of our efforts, the animating and restraining force in our efforts to transform Church, culture and world. Why is this?

The truth of Christ’s Church is that there is one body, one spirit, one common hope, one Lord, one faith and one Baptism. That is a pretty strong foundation for unity! And the ultimate source of it is the Father. We are all children of the one Father of Jesus who is “over all, works through all, and is in all.”

It all goes back to the Father. Jesus came to make his “name,” his person, known and loved throughout the world. This was his first priority in prayer: “Father, hallowed be your name!” It is how Jesus summed up his work: “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.” He came that we might “have life, and have it to the full,” and he said the fullness of life is found in knowing the Father: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” No wonder we describe ourselves as “the people that longs to see your face.”1 If this is our over-riding desire, and we recognize it in one another, nothing can deeply divide us.

Stewards are responsible for using well what is entrusted to them; for example, common sense and the ability to read the “signs of the times.” In Luke 12: 54-59 Jesus accuses his people of hypocrisy because they know how to read the signs of impending weather, but pretend they do not “know how to interpret the present time.” To those stuck in blind party loyalties he says, “Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?”

One of the clearest “signs of the times” in our day is the Spirit moving Christians to pray and worship together, to share their experiences of God and acknowledge the faith they hold in common — “making every effort to preserve [or restore] the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” — before focusing on their differences. It is time to step out of the box of our cultural assumptions and begin to “judge for ourselves what is right” with open eyes as a people that longs to see God’s face in everyone we meet. We will find in those we think are different an amazing unity of shared faith, common hope and divine love. Expressing, experiencing and acknowledging that unity should be the starting point of all our dealings with one another.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Look for signs of grace in everyone.

1 Matthew 6:9; John 17: 6, 3; 10:10; 12:28.

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Thursday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial Psalm urges us to draw courage by reflecting on God’s presence and love: “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33).

In Ephesians 3: 14-21 Paul’s starting point is that God’s “power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.” And what Paul asks for us is far beyond what we can imagine:

that Christ may dwell in your hearts…. that love will be the root and foundation of your lives….that you may grasp fully… the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses knowledge….

And all this: “so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Then through us, living and acting as the embodiment of Christ’s love, the earth will indeed be “full of the goodness of the Lord

This is our task as “stewards of the kingship of Christ.” It is also our vision, our obsession and our dream.

This is the “fire” Jesus said in Luke 12: 49-53 that he came to “light on earth.” The fire of God’s own love blazing in the hearts of all who live by his life; the fire of God’s driving love animating and orienting everything people do in this world; the fire of God’s passionate compassion consuming hurts and cauterizing wounds in every body and soul; the fire of God’s boundless mercy responding without limits to every human need; the fire of God’s love burning with zeal for justice, “laying the axe to the root” of every destructive and damaging social structure and aberration in society; the fire of God’s love for truth driving away all darkness, reducing to ashes every error and distortion, exposing every cover-up and “spin.”

This fire is not universally welcome. “This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.”1 Some people will try to extinguish both the fire and those who bear it. We are stewards of truth at our risk.

But it is a risk we embrace. What proves — even to our own self-deprecating hearts — how much we love God is how much we are willing to lose for God: whether through the deliberate renunciations of monastic life or through the inevitable risks of social and professional involvement in a world opposed to Gospel principles. And more is at risk than money: Jesus warns that “Households will be divided: father against son and… mother against daughter.” Faithful stewardship subjects us to the “refiner’s fire” that brings all love to perfection.2 No matter what, The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Welcome the fire that renews the earth.

1 John 3:19.

2 Malachi 3:2.

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