Correct Correction

In our passage from Romans today we find Paul saying, “I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another.”  I think the order he presents here is the recipe for being able to correct one another or receive correction as Christians.

Brothers and Sisters
First, there needs to be a recognition of the familial nature of our faith.  If I see you as another member of the club you are fleeting and transient.  However, if I see you as my sibling, then we are in this together for life.  Thus, whether I am correcting you or you are correcting me, we are there in the long run.

Full of Goodness
To be full of goodness is to live a life of charitable love reflecting the Lord’s.  Christ’s love is never self-interested, so if we are reflecting his love then there is confidence and reassurance that correction isn’t coming from a desire to boost my own ego.

Filled with all Knowledge
As a human with finite knowledge, this phrase means two things to me.  The Holy Spirit, who possesses all knowledge is dwelling in me.  That doesn’t mean I know everything He knows, rather He gives me the wisdom to know what I don’t know, and either for correcting or receiving correction, that is of great importance.

Admonish One Another
Finally, at the end of the recipe Paul presents admonishment, because he knows that we need to look out for one another, but we need to do it as siblings, in love, and wisdom, and ultimately for the good of their pursuit of the Lord.

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Healthy Honesty = Humility

This is the end of today’s first reading from Romans 14:7-12 and I want to focus on the emboldened line:

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written:
As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.
So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.

This one line is a call to a healthy honesty that will lead to humility.

Healthy Honesty

This is healthy honesty for a few reasons.

One, I will deliver an honest account of myself, not because of coercion, but because how are you going to lie to God?  You can’t!  My honesty will be freely chosen, because I will have a clear recognition of who God is, and seeing things as they really are is the best definition of sanity I’ve ever heard.

Two, it is healthy because I will not be condemning or acquitting anyone else, but instead giving an account of myself.  It is too easy to lie to myself and make someone else my scapegoat.  But, the sick person doesn’t get any healthier for diagnosing his neighbor.  I know this sounds stupid, but emotionally and spiritually I do this ALL THE TIME!

Three, I’ll give an account of myself.  This is neither exclusively positive nor exclusively negative, simply honest.  So what does that mean?  It means I’ll be honest about the good and honest about the bad.  That is healthy!  I’m gifted at retaining knowledge, but a chronic procrastinator… that’s the honest truth.  It would be false humility to say I don’t know anything and prideful to say I’m so gifted at working without deadlines.  Those lies destroy humility, because to be humble is to see yourself as you really are, strengths and flaws.

Humility

So if honesty, before God, with and about self leads to humility, how can this line about giving an account when we die apply to the present and our pursuit of humility today?

  1. Whether in public or secret, recall this line as you choose between right and wrong / the Gospel of the Lord or the draw of the World, because you will relive this moment.  Not only will you relive, you will be the very one retelling it.  How humbling!
  2. Do not be ashamed of your gifts, nor despairing of your shortcomings.  One day you will stand before God telling him about the great stuff and the terrible stuff, why wait until then to recognize them?
  3. Frequent confession.  Why wait until you are dead to start to give that honest account of your sins?  Start now by standing before the mercy seat of God, the throne of grace.
  4. In your prayer do not forget praise so you remember who this God you can’t lie to is; do not forget thanksgiving so that you can begin to be honest with yourself that your gifts come from the Lord; and do not forget to pray for yourself because as you become more aware of your weakness you’ll see how much help you really need.!

Discipleship: All-in or Fold?

Jesus confuses me sometimes.  At times in the Gospels He tells us to love our enemies and then here in today’s Gospel he tells us to hate our loved ones and even ourselves (which doesn’t seem to bode well for love your neighbor as yourself).  What’s the deal, Jesus?

The deal is two things: how do we define hate and the larger picture is what Jesus is saying about discipleship.

Concerning hate, we should be careful reading it as we commonly use it.  There are certainly times hate means loathe, abhor, etc, but those are instances like “God hates sin.”  However, in today’s Gospel Christ implicitly sets hate in contrast with love for Him.  This distinction is common in Scripture.  When Scripture presents  hate and love in a compare and contrast relationship we should hear preference and priority, not revilement.  Thus, Jesus is not commanding us to despise our family, but to love Jesus the most.

We should not assume that this clarification in language somehow lessens the force of this passage.  This is still a heavy passage on discipleship. Christ clearly tells us that discipleship is an all or nothing affair.  We need to be all-in or we will be a laughing stock or worse a defeated King whose loss impacted countless others because we became a discredit to the Gospel.  With discipleship, when it comes time to ante, you have two calls, all-in or fold.

Practically what does this mean?  Among others, I think Christ is trying to tell us that the response to discipleship requires discernment and a penetrating prayer life that can reveal to us our attachments that are going to threaten our discipleship.  Without seeing them we become the ill-equipped builder or the outnumbered king, but when we know them and recognize them, they  become a part of the cross we bear.  A cross that we share with the Lord.  This is healthy for Ignatius and Hosanna were God’s children before they were mine and Bess’ truest lover is always Christ before me.  To love Christ before all else prevents me from usurping his place in the lives of those I love.

Blessed are Those Called to the Supper of the Lamb

Blessed is the one who will dine in the Kingdom of God.

These words are said to Jesus as he sits at table in the beginning of today’s Gospel.  He then proceeds into a long parable about a feast to which the rich and great are being invited and turning down the invitation.  The Master of the house responds by widening his circle of invitations not just to the poor, blind, and lame, but even to the highways and hedgerows (seemingly a place where robbers lay in wait).

In telling this parable, Jesus affirms this person’s statement, but flips it on its head.  Like the speaker, we commonly think “I’m invited because I’m blessed, because I’m good, because I’m great.”  Jesus is saying, “You are blessed because you are invited.”  The difference is substantial.  The former leaves me where I am, for if I was invited because I’m good then nothing needs to change.  The latter calls me to a higher station, thus it calls me up out of whatever mess I’m in at that moment.

So, at Mass when we hear the words “Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.”  We rightly respond, “I am not worthy” because we aren’t kneeling in front of the Lord because we are great, but because He is great and, by His invitation, hopes to make us Blessed.