Sunday, September 2, 2018

Walking the Talk

Jesus as Our Light
Labor Day is an invitation to take pride in our work. Whatever our life’s work, do it well! That's what holiness is all about: doing our life’s work as best we can.

The word of God today has relevant advice. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses pleads with the Hebrews to be faithful to their promises. Yes, God promises blessings if they keep God’s laws. This challenges us to be faithful.

The Letter of James tells us boldly that there shouldn’t be a discrepancy between faith and action. Action, not just words. Do we walk the talk?

In the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus distinguishes between external behaviors and internal attitudes. The scribes and Pharisees are hypocrites, Jesus says. They publicly condemn behavior they do privately. They pay lip service to God but they’re thinking immoral thoughts, e. g., greed, dishonesty, lust, envy, pride.

Jesus asks us: do we try to live a life of integrity?

The three biblical passages, from one viewpoint, indicate that human beings are a bundle of contradictions.

Who really are we? Why were we born?

Leo Tolstoy wrote a book called “A Confession” in which he describes his own search for purpose. Yes, he asked, what is my life all about? Tolstoy discovered that many ordinary people were able to answer this basic question by virtue of faith in God. They had a relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. That friendship sustained them. Jesus was indeed their way, their truth and their life.

In life, we will face crises of one kind or another. Now the word “crisis” has a twofold meaning: a moment of disaster, or of opportunity. I prefer opportunity.

We believe we’re moving toward a life with God forever: that's our true destiny. Time and again, we have to let go of friends, loved ones, perhaps health or job, and ultimately we will have to go of our earthly life.

The Catholic answer to the question “why are we here?” acknowledges the brevity of human life. It also acknowledges our freedom to choose good over evil, the true over the false. Hence we are responsible for the way in which we choose to live. Tragically, some people choose evil over good. There’s something not quite right with humankind. The Book of Genesis highlights this brokenness.

People long for healing, for salvation. Some have sought human solutions, looked for answers in the world of things, demagogues, “isms” of one kind or another.

The Catholic tradition looks beyond that, beyond ourselves, to an awesome and overwhelming and compassionate God who became flesh in Jesus and is alive by the power of the Spirit in our midst today—especially in the community we call the Church, especially in the sacramental signs of water, bread and wine, oil.

We possess within our fragile selves the incredible treasure of faith. But each of us must continue to struggle. As the Letter of James advises, “keep oneself unstained by the world.”

16th century Carmelite reformer Teresa of Avila, got it right, “Let nothing upset you, Let nothing startle you, all things pass;…Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone is enough.”

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