The Character of Heaven
Today (the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time) St. Paul says; “…be of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for their own interests, but for those of others.” For me, this is always a goal, a model, and a wonderful description of a healthy community—and a description of the character we must evince as Disciples of Christ! We know that there is encouragement in Christ, solace in love, participation in the Spirit, compassion, mercy and joy in being of the same mind and attitude of Jesus. St. Paul is telling us how to move into a life in Christ in that we need to put-on-Christ in all things: What Would Jesus Do?
Sometimes it is hard to remember that our goal here is not to try to find heaven here, but to learn and display the character of heaven here—no matter what we may face in our world. Things are not going to be fair, much less always easy; the crosses are large especially now on this side of glory—we certainly can see that with all the myriad crises in our homes, communities, country and world. Sometimes we simply have to hold on to the truth that heaven is in our future and God will not forget our works of service when we spend much of our lives in pain and turmoil. This is God’s mercy for us. We have to hold on and trust that the problems we face here will melt away when the Lord dries every tear from our eyes and welcomes us to the home he has prepared for us. Heaven awaits us, and its glory is beyond our abilities to comprehend, or describe. But that doesn’t mean that we get to stand by, to wait for later and not act in the here and now.
Being Disciples of Jesus is never easy. We are called every day, indeed in every moment, to struggle against our prejudices, our knee-jerk, emotional responses, our sinful reactions and actions in any and all situations—especially those that are fraught with our own self-interests. The world is a fallen and broken place; and many people here do have very heavy burdens to carry. You know them: the friend with cancer or the virus, the bullied teen, the over-worked single parent, the downsized and jobless husband, the lonely old and the loveless young. In this place (as Pope Francis teaches) we have the continuing injustice of our economic and medical system; racial prejudice; science ignorance and denial; the disappearance of basic respect.
The hymn quoted in St. Paul continues about us having the same attitude as Jesus: we must empty our own selves, and humbly serve others. “At the Name of Jesus—every knee will bend and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.” And He is the Lord—and the example we are called to demonstrate here on earth in all of our relationships—in our marriages, families, churches and communities. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if by just saying His name we could remind each other and ourselves about how we are called to be here? We should never ignore these anti-Jesus behaviors and attitudes in others, or especially in our own selves—and with loving and non-judgmental responses say the name of Jesus—reminding us all that at His name every knee should bend—and every mind should turn—and every heart (especially our own) should burn—with love! We are called as true Christians to practice kindness, mercy without judgement and to love in the face of hate, injustice, unkindness, selfishness, greed, fear, anger and sin.
For us as Disciples of Christ and Baptised believers, this kind of witnessing behavior should always be our goal, our model. This kind of loving and unselfish conduct among us is what creates healthy communities—something St. Paul wanted for the Philippians (and for us). God is found in His people. God’s (and our) work is always about our relationships: how we treat one another with respect and love.
What Would Jesus Do could be expanded to What Would Jesus Think and What Would Jesus Say…This truly is the character of heaven we are called to live in this world.
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a note: I really miss singing the Gloria with you in our weekend masses. (I look forward to when we may do so, again!) So, for now, I am sharing a lovely sung setting of a Gloria from my son Elliott’s professional choir (on zoom for thier weekend service). Enjoy!
Dove Gloria: https://youtu.be/SdIfe9vERCA
For most of us, generosity can be a risky proposition. Jesus calls into question this perspective of generosity as He reminds us today that our values are upside-down: that God’s fairness seems unjust; that the joy of receiving doesn't begin to compare with the joy of giving, that the clearest evidence of God's blessing in a person's life has less to do with how much He has than with how much He gives, and that God's work can be more clearly discerned in what He does with what you surrender—than with what He drops into your lap. These are counter-cultural revolutionary statements that call into question the economic realities under which we humans mostly operate. We know we're supposed to believe it and live it; we just struggle with finding a place for such a belief in the world in which we operate.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” And good thing too! We know from the readings today (this Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time) that God is generous to a degree that we cannot understand. God is generous to a point that to us limited humans, His generosity actually seems unfair! (Especially to those of us, here in this area of the world, where collective bargaining is a way of life!)
Maybe, in the end, it has to do with faith. People who choose to define blessedness by what they give and not what they receive do so because they believe that in one way or another, there is enough for everyone to enjoy. They trust! Where others fear shortage or being short-changed, these people see God's grace and plenty. When others give in to the impulse to hoard (like toilet paper in the early days of pandemic lockdown), the trusting people are ruled by the generosity of the Holy Spirit. Where others fear about their share and worry about comparing, trusting ones are content with what they have received and work at being happy to make do. Where others clutch their possessions more tightly out of fear, trusting persons’ hands are opened by the sharing nature of the One who opened his hands to the nails on the cross.
Make no mistake. This kind of generosity, this sharing can be risky. What if, after all, the world is right? What if you share generously and then, whenever and wherever the accounting is done it turns out that you don't have enough? What if you don't get your “fair share?” What if no one passes a portion of “your” bread and fish back to you? What if no one else acknowledges your contribution? That's all possible. And yet Jesus promises us that a lifestyle of giving, not receiving, is the way to live in true joy and under God. It strikes me that Jesus never lived a life of plenty and yet He always spoke of God's blessing as if he knew it first-hand. Maybe giving and sharing will open up whole new realms of joy and peace and abundance for you that receiving never even hints at...
So, how can we foster a more generous way of life? Like any discipline, it takes practice—that is, a willingness to start where we are now, with the hope that through time, grace, and experience, generosity will become an ingrained way of life for us all. Here are a few practical suggestions that you might consider trying in practicing generosity:
These are just a few ideas (thanks to Anthony De Mello!). I know that with prayer and consideration you may have other ideas too. (Share them!) God is so generous in all things, we can only try and be generous too. St. Paul reminds us today to conduct ourselves in a way to be “worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” Be generous, openhanded, charitable, compassionate—kind and merciful. Stop reading this and go find a thing and a way and a place to give. Time. Talent. Energy. Possessions. Money, of course. Food. Lose the fear and worry about stuff, and generously give away your love.
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: Something about how there is nothing (no thing) better than God, and His generosity…
Graves Into Gardens ft. Brandon Lake | Acoustic ... - YouTube
Family Formation - September 13, 2020
David J. Conrad, M.A. Theology. Our Director of Faith Formation.
St. Aidan Catholic Church
17500 Farmington Rd.
Livonia, MI 48152
Weekend Mass Schedule
Saturday Vigil: 5:00 PM
Sunday: 7:30, 9:30, 11:30 AM