Thursday, October 13, 2011

The mystery of grace: it never comes too late

“For grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them.” - Saint Augustine

(Gospel Lk 11:47-54 ): The Lord said:
"Woe to you who build the memorials of the prophets
whom your fathers killed.
Consequently, you bear witness and give consent
to the deeds of your ancestors,
for they killed them and you do the building.
Therefore, the wisdom of God said,
'I will send to them prophets and Apostles;
some of them they will kill and persecute'
in order that this generation might be charged
with the blood of all the prophets
shed since the foundation of the world,
from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah
who died between the altar and the temple building.
Yes, I tell you, this generation will be charged with their blood!
Woe to you, scholars of the law!
You have taken away the key of knowledge.
You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter."
When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees
began to act with hostility toward him
and to interrogate him about many things,
for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say.

As I reviewed the readings for today, two themes were apparent to me, grace and hypocrisy. The first reading (Romans 3:21-30) and the responsorial psalm (Psalm 130:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6ab) resound with God’s grace and mercy. In the gospel, Jesus clearly takes them (us) to task for hypocrisy and dishonesty in living God’s word.

I have often spoken of grace in my reflections – I love the sound of the word, I love the meaning! Grace is such a beautiful concept, yet almost beyond comprehension. God so freely gives this to us and sometimes, we do not even reach out and embrace it. I remember well a teacher in High School teaching us history in an Accelerated curriculum. She was not about to let us think our intellectual gifts were anything but God-given. She frequently reminded us that there but for the grace of God go I. At any moment, she reminded those abilities could be lost in an accident. I realize that at least once or twice daily, I use the expression, “by the grace of God.” It is not lost on me that all the goodness in my life I owe to God and that all I do should be for the glory of God. Of course, once again what I know and what I do are not always consistent. Clearly, my actions do not always reflect God’s glory as my goal. My feet are definitely of clay although as I age I can see this more rapidly and try to change it more consistently. A recent gospel reminded us that intentions alone are not enough, to say we will follow and do not, does not get us to our goal.

The gospel addresses such inconsistencies. Jesus is very clear in his message, He will not accept hypocrisy! While this idea of building temples and appearing to be reverent yet rejecting the word of God may have pertained directly to the scribes and Pharisees at that time, it still pertains to us at least symbolically. It sometimes seems that as a collective we have strayed far and wide from the intent of many of the teachings of Jesus. Our actions oftentimes belie our values. We describe some values or even people as being of the utmost importance yet there is no evidence to support this in our daily lives. I love the words from St. Francis of Assisi, Preach the Gospel and if necessary, use words. The message is obvious: through our actions, our words, our very being, anyone should immediately know our values and who we really are. We speak of being “centered” yet what is at that center of our being and how is it expressed to others?

One last closing thought: Our lives are God’s gift to us, what we do with our lives is our gift to God.

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