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Keeping Faith Alive (9)

 

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

Be in your prayer space, follow the usual steps and settle into silence.

Sit still…..Relax…….Do not rush………

Take a couple of gentle, slow and deep breaths…becoming aware of your breath going in and out… stay focused on this breath of life……

Now from the depth of your heart begin to wish your mind well……….

Take a moment. Bless your day. Let your day Bless you……Take another moment. Bless your world. Let your world bless you……

Every day that we wake up is a good day. Every breath that we take is filled with hope for a better day. Every word that we speak is a chance to change what is bad into something good…….Now from the depth of heart, wish your mind well……

Now I invite you to consecrate this day and all that come with this day….in your own way, in humble, simple, may be even inadequate words………..

I pray for you and I pray for all, who, at this moment, are receiving the gift of this new day! May God bless you and keep you safe in the center of His Love!

I invite you to pray for each other and for all, who, at this moment, are receiving the gift of this new day!

We continue our meditation on keeping our faith alive. Our last meditation was on the patience that enables us to persevere in our efforts to do what we are called to do. Many of the early Christians, tired of waiting for Jesus to return and tired of being tested and persecuted, became impatient and began to think of leaving the community. They became spiritually weak and tired of doing good and being good. To those who thus became impatient, the letter to the Hebrews was written. The Hebrew author, instead of giving them lectures, offered them heroes and heroines of faith for inspiration, among them was Abraham, the father of their spiritual tradition (Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19).

Abraham lived by faith. He journeyed not knowing where he was going with only faith in God’s promise as his security. The author of Hebrews suggests that we are pilgrims, often, going through the valley of darkness. Faith makes the journey meaningful and fearless. Abraham’s faith was tested and our faith also will be tested. Be grounded and growing in your faith. Like Abraham and Sarah, our fidelity to God calls us to journey, to move on, our roots sunk into no earthly place, our source of security in God and God alone.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews encourages us today to keep our “eyes fixed on Jesus” and keep “running the race” which lies ahead (Hebrews 12:1-4). Jesus endured the cross and its shame and did not give up. It is up to us to persevere in our efforts and follow the example of Jesus and be faithful. This is the way to keep our faith alive.

Disciples of Christ must persevere in running the race and must stay focused on Jesus.

The author of this letter encouraged his readers to stay focused on the journey, even when difficulties arise, even when hurt and pain set in (Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13). He challenged his readers to be disciplined. All discipline seems a cause for grief, not joy. However discipline, later, brings forth fruits of peace and justice to those who are trained in the school of discipline.

The author encourages us today, “Strengthen your drooping hands and weak knees”. Strive for peace with all….see that no one falls away from God’s Grace. Help each other walk faithfully……

Jesus used imageries familiar to his listeners. “Let your loins be girt” he said…in other words, pull up your sleeves; “keep your lamps burning”, trim the wick and replenish the lamps with oil….just be ready to welcome God as when he breaks in…you do not know the day or the hour!

How would you like God to find you when he breaks in? Faithful on the job? Your work completed? Your mission accomplished? Fulfilling the mission given to you? Your lamps burning bright?

Make sure that all is in good order! Keep your faith alive and your faith will keep you alive!

Jesus told them the parable of the faithful steward to emphasize the need for being prepared. He asked them about what would happen to a steward who was abusive in his master’s absence, unfaithful to his master’s plan and purpose.

Jesus called them to be faithful even in the master’s absence, even when no one is watching. Faithfulness is an enduring quality of a person and not just the fulfillment of duties and obligations.

Jesus challenged his disciples to make difficult choices and make the difficult journey….the door is narrow, he said (Luke 13:22-30). He himself had made difficult choices and was making his way to Jerusalem to face rejection and eventual death.

We are all familiar with expressions like “a narrow escape” , “a tight squeeze” and so on which suggest that we have accomplished something difficult, something that required taking risk, being vulnerable, diligence, vigilance, decisiveness and great precision. Even as children, some of us had narrow escapes from the bullies in the school, from major accidents on a bike, from major failures in sports, etc. As adults many of us can recall the narrow escapes we had from serious injuries, conflicts with others, major car accidents and so on.

We know how narrow the path forward can be when faced with life-changing decisions. We are often confronted with situations where all our options must give way to one choice. No one else can make the decision for us and no one else would suffer the consequences of that decisions. All our choices will come to this narrow “gate” that will define who we are, how we live and even define us into the future. We must walk through the narrow gate and enter the kingdom.

Jesus challenges us to make difficult choices, make the difficult journey, walk the path of trials, face testing times, enter through the narrow door………The way to the kingdom is not easy, but it is just the right way, the way made to fit our needs!

From the beginning of scriptures, we read about great men and women being called to make difficult choices and they in turn called their people to make hard choices. Moses and the prophets and finally Jesus offered people choices between life and death; way of the just and way of the wicked; good and bad; foolishness and wisdom and so on.

Take a moment: think of all the people whose lives once characterized by “no” to God and to God’s goodness and then transformed into a decided “yes”, into a final answer “yes”.

Peter did…… Thomas did…Paul did….Augustine did……

Thomas Merton, one of the great mystics of our times moved from “No” to “Yes”. Orphaned at 16, he traveled Europe at 18 maintaining a bohemian lifestyle. A vowed communist at 20, a reporter for New York times at 24 and Trapist monk at 26.

Some of you may remember John Newton’s dramatic conversion during a storm at sea. He was a slave trader. His “yes” to God is memorialized in “Amazing Grace”.

The Gospel of Mathew Chapter 25 invites us into a vivid imaginative courtroom scene where judgment of those who are worthy to be welcomed into eternal life is taking place (Mt. 25:31-46).The highlight of the scene is the criteria for the judgment of worthiness: loving kindness. Loving persons do loving acts. Kind people do kind deeds. It is help in simple, ordinary things, response to daily needs of ordinary people: giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, comforting the sick – things that anyone can do, things that do not require training in skills or a degree or diploma from a university. It is not performance of miracles or preaching of great sermons or donations of large sums of money or holding higher positions in society or any recognition offered to a person by the world that make us worthy of eternal life, but simple acts of loving kindness which has become part of the very nature, character of a person.

Acts of kindness are done not for a reward, not even thinking that it is done for the Lord, but it has become part of a person’s nature. It is help which is uncalculating. In the parable, those who helped did not know that they were helping Christ and gaining merit for eternal life. And those who failed to help said, “if we had known it was you, we would have helped”.

Acts of loving kindness flow from loving hearts, from loving people without expecting praise, reward and merits….it is the nature, the character of loving people to do loving things in response to the simple, everyday needs of ordinary people.

The judgment is about what you have become and not what you have done or not done. You have become a new creation. You have become a noble person. You have become sons of God. You have become sensitive to those around you. You have become especially sensitive to the marginal people in the community. You have reached out in kindness because you just couldn’t do otherwise….you just have to be faithful to who and what you are……

We are noble people. Noble people must live noble lives. We are kingdom people. Kingdom people must live kingdom values. The values of kingdom are lived out in response to the simple, daily need of ordinary people.

I remember reading a story about Peer Holm whose neighbor owned a fierce dog. Peer warned him that the dog was dangerous, but the old man was very rude in his response. One day Peer Holm came home to find the dog at the throat of his little daughter. He tore the dog away but the teeth had gone too deep and the girl died. The sheriff shot the dog and the neighbors were bitter against the owner of the dog. When sowing time came, they refused to sell him any grain. His fields were plowed, but bare. He could neither beg, nor borrow nor by seed. Whenever he walked down the road, people sneered at him.

But Peer Holm could not sleep at night thinking of his neighbor. He rose very early one morning, went to his shed and took his last half bushel of barley, climbed his neighbor’s fence and sowed his neighbor’s field. The fields themselves told the story. When the seeds sprouted, part of Peer’s field remained bare while the filed of his neighbor was green…..Peer Holm couldn’t do otherwise! He had to be faithful!

Keeping faith alive means sowing good seed in your neighbor’s field, even when part of your own field may remain bare.

Let us take a moment and pray that our “Yes” to God will be transformed into a final, decided, committed “yes”.

Let us Surrender our life to Christ! To surrender is to “give over” and not “give up” or resign or hand over or give in – but give over in utter confidence, in trust, in love.

Be grateful for today and every day, for the miracle of life, for the amazing grace and blessing of your history, for the men and women who gave you spirit and tradition and for today, be specially grateful for your family and your community…….

May the “Year of Faith” be God’s wonderful gift to you and I pray that you will make it a gracious and joyful gift to others.

Keep your faith alive and your faith will keep you alive!

Fr. Gus Tharappel, msfs