Thursday after Epiphany
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Jesus returned to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.
I believe. Every Sunday we say the Creed: “I believe in one God, the Father the almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible…” To me, this is the least demanding part of my faith. But the Catholic faith is more, much more, than just an act of the intellect. It is also an act of the will.
“I believe” means more than “I agree.” It means “I will.”
“Beloved, we love God because he loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar” (1Jn 4:19).
We love God because he first loved us. Why must the Christian love his estranged brother? For the same reasons Christ loves us. Love generates love. This is the great bet the Lord has made. He bet His life on it. Why? Because He can see more to us than just our sins. He created us. He knows us. He knows the good we are capable of doing. Hence, He has a lot of “faith” in us and He “believes” He can work around the failures and faults in each and every one of us.
Proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. How funny! How funny God is. When I read today’s Gospel passage I nearly broke a rib out of laughter. God has a great sense of humor.
Just a couple of days ago a commentator asked for my opinion regarding a year without God. I thought to myself, A year without God? Done that. Seen that. Been there before. Actually, I did it for ten years, from the age of 15 to 25. I didn’t go to Church, I didn’t pray and I definitely didn’t kneel.
I was a different person back then. I never volunteered. [I am speaking about myself, no one else.] I didn’t “donate” anything unless it was broken or I no longer wanted it. I was vulgar. I used profanity…and a lot of it. But I still considered myself a very good person. Hey, I never killed anyone! But I did what I felt like doing: nothing more and nothing less. What’s wrong with that? Pain was to be avoided and carrying a cross was definitely out of the picture. I thought kneeling was a pain in the you-know-what. I wasn’t alone. I knew a lot of people in New York that shared my “values.”
But then I recovered my sight and senses and a lot of things changed. I never imagined spending time in conversations with the elderly or visiting the sick on a daily basis. Do I like doing that? Not really, and to this day I still do it because the Lord commanded me to do it. “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). But little by little my heart is changing and this “duty” is becoming less and less a burden and more and more a blessing. If the Lord had not insisted upon it, I would never have experienced it.
I never thought I would enjoy working long hours and for so little pay. Never! If I had, I would never have bothered spending six long years getting a Master of Science degree and only using it for four short years in the business world.
But the biggest change my “conversion” (it wasn’t a one time deal, it’s still going on, and will till the end) is making is with my friendships. Boy has Christ (and His Church) changed things up for me. It’s definitely his fault!
As a minister, the Lord and the Church have brought all types of people into my life. They have insisted I show to others unlimited love and mercy. This is personally challenging to me. Mercy and love does not come naturally to me. In fact, it never even crossed my mind until the Lord crossed paths with me. This is all the Lord’s fault!
There are many Catholics in the Catholic Church. There are many Christians in various denominations. Not all of us are at the same heights of holiness. I am no Mother Teresa or John Paul II or Pope Francis, and I may never be. But it won’t be because of the Lord’s lack of trying; it will be because I stopped trying.
In the lives of the Saints, we have their faith, their doubts, their victories and their defeats before us. This gives me great comfort and courage to know that the same Lord who created them also created me.
By allowing the Lord to love us first, He surprises us in how we can love so many others. (0)
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