Feast of The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Feast Day reflection; daily reflection follows).
Holy, holy, holy Lord, mighty God! (Responsorial: Revelation 4:8; Psalm 15).
The symbolism in Revelation 4:1-11 is daunting, but the message is clear: God is “Holy, holy, holy.” He is beyond any human understanding of greatness, goodness or holiness. He is “Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come.” He surpasses, transcends, overflows all boundaries of space, time and being. He is simply unimaginable.
And the response we should make to him is unimaginable. “O Lord our God, you are worthy to receive glory, honor and power!” How can we praise, thank, honor, worship, or adore him in any way commensurate with what we owe him? He is the Source, the Giver of our very existence. Without his original and ongoing act of creation, each of us is one “who was not, who is not, and who will not be.” Of ourselves we are nothing, created from nothing, with nothing to keep us in existence except God’s continuing desire and choice to do so. This is true of us and of everything we see, touch, feel, use, admire and enjoy: “You have created all things! By your will they came to be and were made!” Take God out of the picture and there is simply no picture left. We who know the Father through Jesus the Son pray, “Hallowed be thy Name!” But there is no way we could ever “hallow” it enough.
In the light of this, and returning to yesterday’s Reflection, is it not objectively blasphemy to be a “lukewarm” Christian? Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) said, “To deal with God moderately is an abomination.” Wikipedia quotes him: “God is either of no importance, or of supreme importance.” Both are true: we simply cannot deal with God as one among many. God is One. God is All. The only appropriate response to God is to abandon all we have and are to his service. To “love the LORD our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our might.” If two plus two makes four, all minus any- thing equals zero. Take anything from “all” and there is no more “all.” Hold anything back from what you give to God, and whatever you give, it is not to God (Deuteronomy 6:5).1
If all we had were the logic of this, we might despair. But God is love. He accepts us as we are, works with us, waits for us to grow into the “perfection of love.” Once we love and want to give him all, he just asks forward motion.
Luke 19:11-28: Jesus says we are judged, not as performers, but as persons; not by what we produce, but by how we choose to use what we have to work with. True freedom is not psychological or physical but personal.
Action: Pledge all but pay as you go. God invented layaway.
Same Day: November 21, 2017: Tuesday, Week Thirty-Three
The Responsorial (Psalm 3) gives support to fidelity: “The Lord upholds me.”
In 2Maccabees 6:18-31 ninety-year old Eleazar chose a brutal death rather than give a bad example to youth. He was being forced to open his mouth and eat pork, contrary to the Covenant. When he spit it out, his friends arranged a deal for him: if he would just pretend to eat the pork, they would substitute kosher food instead. But he refused: “Many young people would suppose that Eleazar at the age of ninety had conformed to the foreigners’ way of life and might be led astray by me.”
This was “faithful stewardship.” Eleazar held himself accountable for the use he made of the faith that had been given him and for fidelity to the Covenant.
He was accountable above all to God. Just before he died he said, “The Lord sees that in my soul I am glad to suffer because of the awe he inspires in me.”
We can’t help comparing the image of Eleazar spitting out unclean food to ourselves in Communion, taking into our mouths the Bread of Life. We are bearing the same witness: that we are a covenanted people. That in the mystery of Baptism, renewed and made present in the Mass, we accepted to be made one with Christ on the cross, to die with him and to everything this world offers, in order to rise out of the waters a “new creation,” the body of Christ, pledged to let him live and act “with us, in us, and through us” in everything we do. When we receive Communion we affirm that we have accepted, by Baptism and by participation in the Eucharist just celebrated, to be Christ’s body and to be offered with him and in him in the world as he was on the cross. When we drink from the chalice we “drink to the Covenant” and to all it entails.
Jesus invited us in the Eucharistic Prayer:
Take this, all of you, and drink from it. For this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal Covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many....
When we do, in the Rite of Communion, we affirm our faith in Jesus’ promise:
Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life. I will raise them up on the last day.... They abide in me, and I in them.
In our fidelity to that Covenant we give an example, “not only for the young but for the whole nation.” We pray it will inspire the youth to similar fidelity, and to express it in fidelity to the Mass.
Luke 19:1-10: Not all “senior citizens” are faithful. Zacchaeus was a “senior tax collector and a wealthy man.” He was also a crooked politician who collaborated with the Roman government. But something in him was “anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was.” He climbed a tree to see him. Jesus, looking up, invited himself to dinner. That did it. Zacchaeus said: “Look, I am going to give half my property to the poor; and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay back four times the amount.”
He finally recognized he was a steward of all he had. And Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house.” Zacchaeus had shown himself a true “son of Abraham.”
Action: Live stewardship. Be accountable for what your life says.