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January 18, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 6

COLUMNS

Believe as you Pray »

In Light of Faith »

photo: Genevieve McQuade

believe as you pray

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 24

Nehemiah 8:2-6, 8-10
Psalm 19:8-10, 15
1 Corinthians 12:12-30 or 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21

Isn’t it difficult enough to get on in our world without being misled?

We absorb so much via the headline hungry media. Even common social chit-chat often contains someone else’s point of view along with rampant distortions.

The problem? We devour it without checking it out. It’s easier.

No one really desires to be deceived. Deception is making somebody believe things that are contrary to truth. One dictionary defines truth as the “quality of freedom from error,” but how might we recognize truth?

It helps to seek two dependable sources. You may find out facts, but better yet, and not so easy, is to seek the truth behind facts.

For both spiritual and temporal truths, one dependable source is the Bible. Looking at our gospel this week, Luke opens with a statement about his testimony “this gospel” regarding Jesus.

Luke tells us that he first examined eyewitness accounts and other imparted stories about Jesus. Then he declares strongly, “I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you… so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.”

I repeat, the: “certainty of the teachings you have received!”

Think of when you receive Holy Communion at Mass. You say “Amen,” meaning “it is so,” “it is true,” expressing that you believe the host and wine are really the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

So too, here in Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ actions are recorded and are true. Luke declares as free from error that Jesus did fulfill the prophet Isaiah’s words in the unrolled scroll.

Jesus had indeed enacted Isaiah’s words by delivering glad tidings to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, and recovering sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free.

In Nehemiah, our first reading, “all the people listened attentively” to Ezra, the scribe. All the people saw the wisdom and magnitude of what he was doing in opening the scroll of the law of God.

In awed response, they raised their hands, knelt down, and bowed before the Lord with faces to the ground. They believed.

Wow! What a sense of reverence towards and credence of scripture!

How do you respond to God’s Word and Jesus’ actions towards our salvation?

Do you listen attentively at liturgy as they did at theirs?

In the second reading, 1 Corinthians presents the truth that all the baptized, collectively, have received a diversity of divine gifts to serve the Body of Christ.

True! Do you believe that, too? Have you developed yours?

If you are impoverished by lack of faith, captive to others’ words, blind to truth, or oppressed by deceit, then listen attentively, believe, and trust this good news. It’s been checked out.

And use your gifts to serve Christ’s Body.

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in light of faith

Clues or Clueless

The truism that we learn from our mistakes has almost become a cliché. Nevertheless, I doubt we can overestimate the importance of lessons we learn along the way.

I was reminded of this over the holidays as I was playing a board game that we gave our grandchildren for Christmas. The game was “Clue” and although it has been around for decades, it was new to us and the instructions seemed anything but simple.

By the third re-read, we decided we had enough information for a first attempt, but once into the game, our initial response was “This doesn’t make sense.”

Since tenacity would not allow us to abandon ship, we plodded along and eventually, it paid off. The very issues that had been a stumbling block led us back to the instructions, which now with some on hands experience made perfect sense.

And isn’t that pretty much the way life works?

Too often parents and even grandparents expect those with less life experience to have the kind of insight and wisdom that it takes years to acquire. Consequently, while their gentle, or sometimes not so gentle, advice makes perfect sense to them, until those who are decades younger have had real life experience, they may come across sounding a bit like the adults in a Charlie Brown television special.

No one would deny that trials and tribulations are part of life, but they are also part of the learning curve. While we can appreciate lessons learned the hard way, we instinctively want to spare loved ones from life’s hard knocks.

But that may not always be in their best interest. Part of parenting involves alerting children to the dangers and pitfalls of risky behavior. However, when such warnings go unheeded, standing by with emotional tourniquets as needed goes a long way to ensure understanding at a later time.

Again we can turn to the Gospels for reinforcement of this principle. When Peter bragged that he would follow Jesus anywhere, Jesus warned him that within a few hours he would deny him.

The warning went unheeded and Peter denied the Lord all the same. Afterwards Scripture tells us that Peter deeply regretted his behavior and wept over his sin.

Failure, remorse and return is the way most of us make advances in the spiritual life. Trust does not come easily, especially when life does not go the way we hope or expect it should.

And yet, if we persevere and turn to our loving Father despite our doubts, the very teachings that we questioned earlier eventually make sense.

That may be why we need the Year of Mercy. We have Scripture and the teachings of the Church to guide us along the way and still we stray.

The human tendency to be lured into worshipping the false gods of pleasure, prestige and possessions is universal. Therefore, reading and re-reading the teachings of Jesus alerts us to the fallacy of a cultural doctrine that says we can have it all and right now.

Nothing of worth comes without personal sacrifice, perseverance, and patience, but in a world of fast food, Instagram and credit cards, delaying gratification does not come easily.

Whether we realize it or not, we all struggle with some form of addiction. It need not be alcohol or drugs.

Over indulging in exercise, shopping, social media, television or food — to name a few — can be a way to achieve immediate gratification to soothe an aching or restless heart.

Although these things are good in themselves, we can be lured into believing that they will make us happy. The Beatitudes tell us otherwise and until we have felt the emptiness of passing pleasures, we remain blind to the fact that the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for justice or are persecuted for Jesus’ name are indeed richly blessed.

Only when we experience first hand the disillusionment of what the world calls “Having it all” does the Sermon on the Mount make sense.

I am always amused when our adult children, who are now parents, pass on the very values that as children they questioned or rejected. Obviously adults have a different vantage point than children and the same holds true as we travel the road to Christian maturity.

We grow into our faith one step at a time. Like any good parent, God is patient with us, but we cannot feign ignorance forever.

Life holds plenty of clues. We have Scripture, spiritual books and the lives of the saints to help guide us, but one reading or even two are insufficient.

Several years ago I decided to read the Bible from beginning to end which took more than a year. Now habit, reading it has become a daily practice and I am always surprised by how much escaped me during previous readings.

While Scripture doesn’t change, we do, and so our understanding deepens with life experience.

It may not happen immediately, or even with every re-read. But over time we will find hidden within its pages clues that may have eluded us earlier.

On the other hand, we can adopt a ho-hum attitude, believing we know everything it contains and remain forever clueless. However, if we take on faith that God is present in every aspect of life, perseverance will pay off, our understanding will deepen and we will be better equipped to meet the challenges that are part of every life.

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