Sunday, November 13, 2011

How Are We Doing?

      "When a defiling evil spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil.  When it doesn't find anyone, it says, 'I'll go back to my old haunt.'  On return it finds the person spotlessly clean, but vacant.  It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits more evil than itself and they all move in, whooping it up.  That person ends up far worse off than if he'd never gotten cleaned up in the first place.
      "That's what this generation is like.  You may think you have cleaned out the junk from your lives and gotten ready for God, but you weren't hospitable to my kingdom message, and now all the devils are moving back in."     -- Matt. 12:43-45

So many of the daily readings lately have been messages of warning or of God's punishment:  from Amos, Joel, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, and from John's Revelation.  Perhaps this is because the church year is winding down.  As the season of Pentacost, which celebrates the development of the Church, comes to a close, perhaps now is the perfect time to examine how well we are following Christ's "kingdom message." 

So, how are we doing?  Do we cling to our money like the rich young man, or do we give it away freely?  Do we forgive those who trespass against us as Jesus did, or do we hold a bitter grudge?  Do we judge who's in and who's out of the kingdom of God like the Pharisees did, or do we leave that to God?  Do we bury our talent in the dirt, and hide our light under a bushel, or do we use them fearlessly according to God's desire?  Do we have compassion upon all those in need, even people of other cultures and other faiths like the Good Samaritan, or do we turn away?

I don't know about you, but I have failed in all of these, and other, areas over the last year.  Oh, I've made some progress, learned a few things about myself and God, but I still need to work on distancing myself from my worst inklings. 

It's really up to each one of us to keep ourselves "hospitable" to Jesus' message.  Complacency, or resting on our laurels, is not an option.  Neither for ourselves, nor for the church which represents Christ to the world.  No one is immune from "losing the plot", so to speak.  You don't have to look very far, even in the Gospels, to see this is the case. 

All of the disciples who followed Jesus had a hard time understanding his kingdom message.  The ones that we know the best are the ones who mess up the most:  Peter, the "rock" and, all too often, the "stumbling block"; Judas, who thought too much about the money; Thomas, who had to touch and feel before he believed; and even Paul, the reformed Pharisee, who not only wrote the greatest homilies on grace, but also wrote the most rules for who was, or was not, saved. 

There is within each of us, like the disciples of history, the possibility of great miracles of goodness, and great feats of wickedness.   We must be aware of this.  And address our shortcomings.  Our greatest worth, St. Francis believed, was in striving to "transform into virtue the impudence, dishonor, unfaithfulness, and malice within."  How do we do this? 

First, we should look to the words and example of Jesus.  As Christians, Jesus, above all, is our guide.  Second, we must look at ourselves with complete honesty, and recognize where we fall short.  And third, we must seek God's help in getting us to where He wants us to be.

Dear God, please keep my heart and mind open to Your Word.  And please grant me the courage to follow your ways.  Love always, Pam

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