Wednesday, May 15, 2013

“It is best to first listen to others before we attempt to help them.”

The Most Blessed Sacrament is Christ made visible. The poor sick person is Christ again made visible.
 - Saint Gerard Majella

(Scripture Text: Acts 20:28-38)
At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus:
“Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock
of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers,
in which you tend the Church of God
that he acquired with his own Blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you,
and they will not spare the flock.
And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth
to draw the disciples away after them.
So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day,
I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears.
And now I commend you to God
and to that gracious word of his that can build you up
and give you the inheritance among all who are consecrated.
I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing.
You know well that these very hands
have served my needs and my companions.
In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort
we must help the weak,
and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

When he had finished speaking
he knelt down and prayed with them all.
They were all weeping loudly
as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him,
for they were deeply distressed that he had said
that they would never see his face again.
Then they escorted him to the ship.

Every community, every congregation, every extended family has its own “weaker” members. Through whatever combination of genetics, upbringing, sin, and even hard luck, it is unlikely that they will ever be able to take care of themselves adequately. But Paul singled them out especially. He grasped Jesus’ words that those with more should care for those who are in need.

Such a philosophy goes against our human nature. Those who move quickly can find it irritating to slow down for the ones who lag behind. It can be hard for someone with a quick mind to have to explain things to someone who just doesn’t get it. Instead of putting ourselves in their shoes, we tend to expect them to walk in ours. This wasn’t Paul’s way, and it certainly isn’t Jesus’ way!

Do we acquire wealth for its own sake, seeking to accumulate the most we can regardless of the cost to us?  Is wealth an end in itself, or is it a tool to provide for ourselves, our family, our community, now and in the future?  Do we see wealth as something to be hoarded or something to be shared?   Remember why Jesus said it is so hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom – if we see wealth as a right, it becomes difficult to let go of it, and if one cannot let go, it will rule our decisions.

So if we believe we do not “belong” to this world, then we should act as if this world is temporary, and that what we “have” is transitory, and that ALL the possessions, the wealth we have, including life itself, are not “owned” by us but instead are borrowed from the Creator.  If we are not of this world, we should be detached from our “possessions” of this world, and treat them as loans from the Creator rather than ours alone.  If we only have possessions on loan, then we should use those possessions as the Lendor intends, not as we wish.  If we are using these loans as the Lendor desires, then we will help the weak and we will seek to give rather than receive, because by doing so we recognize the divine in each of these fellow souls created by God.  If we seek to give rather than receive, to share rather than hoard, then when the time comes for our temporary life in the world to end, it will be easier to let go of our sensory being because we know we will be stepping through the door into the world of which we truly belong.

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