Monday, November 24, 2014

Only What's Done for Christ Will Last

In the readings that lead up to the end of the church year we find graphic and awe inspiring descriptions of the end of the world. They tell of a time of great tribulation and cosmic unrest. They powerfully remind us that the world as we know it is passing away and that there will be a time of reckoning and judgment. The persons to be judged are the dead, small and great; young and old, low and high, poor and rich. No one will be considered so insignificant as to be lacking in talents to account for; and no one will be so great, as to opt out of giving an account of them. These images are sobering and daunting because they bring us face-to-face with our own mortality, something that we keep trying to ignore. They remind us that our time is limited and that we will be held accountable for how we used the time allotted us. However, while facing the stark reality of judgment, we also need to recall this comment attributed to St. John of the Cross, “In the evening of life, we will be judged by love alone.”

"In the evening of life, we will be judged by love alone."

God, Who is Love, will test the purity of our love. He will look into our hearts, as into a mirror trying to find a reflection of Himself. When we find ourselves face-to-face with God, He will not ask us how wealthy we are, or how educated we are, or how prominent we are. When we stand before the throne of judgment, God will ask us how much we loved others and how much we poured ourselves out in the service of the poor. God will ask us how much we sought to understand and comprehend the hearts of our brothers and sister so as to encourage them to become the best selves they could be. As we stand before the Flame of Divine Love we will be judged by love, and the measure of our love will decide the measure of our happiness. In the presence of the consuming fire of Divine Love, we will either be transformed by love or consumed by it. Standing before the Throne of the Lamb, we shall know as we are known.

At present, we are poor reflections of Divine Love. We are short-sighted and our vision is fuzzy. Recall how Saint Paul put it. “For now we see indistinctly as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now my knowledge is partial, but then it will be complete even as I am known completely” (1 Cor. 13:12). In the light of Truth, we shall be set free from all that binds us and we shall grow from glory to glory for all eternity. A heart that will not grow in love will be torn asunder by it. Those who grow in love will be perfected by it. Our great concern must be that when the Lord comes, He will find us open to Love and receptive of its cleansing Flame. I will close with this beautiful poem written by C.T. Studd.

Only one life ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last

“Two little lines I heard one day, Traveling along life’s busy way; Bringing conviction to my heart, And from my mind would not depart; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Soon will its fleeting hours be done; Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, And stand before His Judgment seat; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice, Gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave, And to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years, Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears; Each with its days I must fulfill, living for self or in His will; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore, When Satan would a victory score; When self would seek to have its way, Then help me Lord with joy to say; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep, In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep; Faithful and true what e’er the strife, Pleasing Thee in my daily life; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn, And from the world now let me turn; Living for Thee, and Thee alone, Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne; Only one life, “twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one, Now let me say, “Thy will be done”; And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “’twas worth it all”; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Meaning of the Little Scroll in the Book of Revelations

So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, ‘Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.’ So I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. 

 Then they said to me, ‘You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.’ (Revelations 10: 9-11)

What is this little scroll? It is God’s word. The eating of the scroll says to us that we must take God’s word and make it our own. We must chew on it, embrace it, and then proclaim it to the people. When we begin to follow God we often experience sweetness, but then as we proceed in the spiritual life, things grow more difficult. It is the same when we preach the word of God. The initial preaching is exciting, but when we call for repentance and conversion and speak about God’s justice and judgment, the message becomes hard to hear, hard to speak, hard to stomach. Instead of focusing on the difficulty of the message, we should be amazed that God speaks to us at all and that we weak human beings are capable of receiving such wisdom and grace as it comes from God. It is amazing, really. God loves us so much that he cannot help reaching out to us, loving us, showing his wisdom to us. He uses many ways to reach our hearts. This can be through the homily and prayers at Mass, through the work that we do, in people who speak to us, in quiet times and in the midst of great tribulation. We need to develop a listening ear and an open heart as God invites us to trust him and to listen to him and for him. God is reaching out to us. Take time to let this truth sink in. Chew on this message for a while, turn it over in your mind. Put God’s word into practice. Stop and listen throughout the day to the word of God speaking to you. Put God’s word into your own words, apply it to the situation. Let God’s word work in the world you know and believe that he is speaking to you. He cannot help but do so.

--Father James Kumbakkeel, O.S.B

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Parable of the Ten Gold Coins: Use the Gift You Have Been Given to Build up the Kingdom

 As they were listening to this, he went on to tell a parable, because he was near Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. So he said, ‘A nobleman went to a distant country to get royal power for himself and then return. He summoned ten of his slaves, and gave them ten gold coins, and said to them, “Do business with these until I come back.” But the citizens of his country hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to rule over us.” When he returned, having received royal power, he ordered these slaves, to whom he had given the money, to be summoned so that he might find out what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, “Lord, your gold coin has made ten more gold coins.” He said to him, “Well done, good slave! Because you have been trustworthy in a very small thing, take charge of ten cities.” Then the second came, saying, “Lord, your gold coin has made five gold coins.” He said to him, “And you, rule over five cities.” Then the other came, saying, “Lord, here is your gold coin. I wrapped it up in a piece of cloth, for I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man; you take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.” He said to him, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked slave! You knew, did you, that I was a harsh man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money into the bank? Then when I returned, I could have collected it with interest.” He said to the bystanders, “Take the gold coin from him and give it to the one who has ten gold coins.” (And they said to him, “Lord, he has ten gold coins!”) “I tell you, to all those who have, more will be given; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.” ’ (Luke 19: 11-28)

            As I pondered the parable in this Gospel reading, I had to stifle the urge to revert to the more familiar, parallel version that tells of the talents. This account is different. Similar to the parable of the day laborers (Cf. Mat. 20: 1-16) who are hired at different hours of the day, each servant in this parable is given the same amount, one gold coin. Each is instructed to use the amount as seed-money to start an enterprise for the building up of the kingdom. It is important to note that they are not commanded to produce a profit, but only to work with the money they were given. Their guide throughout this enterprise is to be their dedication to the King. Knowing that they are loved and trusted by the King, they should proceed without fear.
            Each character in the parable was given the opportunity to make decisions concerning how each would serve the kingdom. Having decided, each was then held accountable for his subsequent actions. Until the Master’s return, each servant had to live out the challenge of building up the kingdom drawing upon his abilities, skills, and values. The King provided each servant with the tools to start his venture, it was up to them to use productively that which was given them. They had nothing to lose. They had the opportunity of their lives to experiment with whatever they dreamed of doing. Only fear of failure could hinder their progress. I am reminded of a commitment made by St. John Paul, “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” The King had no doubt that his servants had the capability of performing well and expected them to know that about themselves.
            The parable tells us that this is a time to try something new, using the gifts that we have been given for the building up of the kingdom. This is not a time to be ashamed of the Gospel, but to lovingly and courageously plant the seed of the Good News in the hearts of all we meet. By using the gifts we have been given, we will contribute to the building up of the Kingdom. Like the servants in the parable, this is our responsibility until that day when the Master returns. 
            The parable reminds us that to do nothing is to betray the trust God has put in us. Having been gifted by God for the service of the Kingdom, we can confidently trust God to bring our meager efforts to fruition. It is our choices and not our successes that will matter when the King returns. The prominent abolitionist, William Lloyd Garrison stated it this way. “The success of any great moral enterprise does not depend upon numbers.” Because God has furnished us with all that we need to carry out His will, He expects us to act accordingly. Cooperating with the graces that God has given us, it is up to us to make appropriate choices. Living out God’s will requires us to take risks of failure. No matter what the cost, we must not be afraid to serve Christ and His Gospel.
            As a closing reflection on the condemnation of those who refused to accept the authority of the king I would like to offer this quote from the Great Divorce written by C. S. Lewis.  “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

--Father Jerome Machar, OSCO