Monthly Scripture Reflection
God “wills everyone to be saved.”
Last month’s readings admonished us to keep our eyes on the prize of heaven. This September we have five Sundays of being coached through our sincere efforts and back-sliding failures in that attempt.
First, Sirach counsels us that the more humble we are, the better. That we should listen to the wise and not overreach our puny strength. Wisdom reminds us that if we can’t figure out what is what on earth, how can we know what God in heaven intends? So in the past we have become timid, unsure, have many concerns—and might give up. Exodus recounts how in the past we became “a stiff-necked people,” depraved. The prophet Amos angrily points out: you trample on the needy, destroy the poor, think only of ways to increase your profits. All the while lying comfortably on couches, eating well, drinking and playing music.
St. Paul in his Epistles brings us to our senses. Turn your eyes, he says. To “the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” In a letter to the convert Philomen he gives an example of doing good voluntarily, not being forced. “Welcome [your former slave] as a partner, like me. He asks Timothy to “pray for everyone, all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life with devotion and dignity.” Christ Jesus is our go-between with God, having given himself as ransom for all, so please, just pray without anger or argument. Paul reminds us that he was once arrogant and blasphemous and a persecutor. But God treated him mercifully, an example of the patience of
Jesus, in St .Luke’s Gospel, echoes Sirach in a call for humility. Don’t seat yourself in the place of honor. Don’t invite dinner guests who will then ”owe you” in return. Rather call in the poor, crippled, the lame and blind. Because if you want to be my disciple, there’s a lot you will have to renounce: other relationships and possessions. “You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
Jesus tells parables about seeking the lost sheep and lost coin. About welcoming a returning wastrel son and reassuring the angry brother that “everything I have is yours.” About the beggar Lazarus and the comfort-loving rich man—Lazarus now in heaven and the rich man in torment, begging for pity. Remember, God says, “You received goods during your life.”
From time to time in the Old Testament we are shown God becoming angry with his covenant-breaking people. Chastising them, yes, but also showing mercy. But Amos warns us, “Woe to the complacent!” comfortably lying on couches, eating well, drinking and dancing. “You who trample on the needy and destroy the poor of the land” and think only about ways to increase your wealth, hear the Lord as he says. “Never will I forget a thing they have done!”
Have we unwittingly fallen into complacency? Are we doing all we can to make life better for others? Let us heed Paul’s advice:
“Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life
to which you were called.”
Terry Schulte, MASL