The Role of the Older Brother

Last Sunday we heard these words in the Gospel: “He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you.”  This was Jesus speaking, our Divinve older brother.

Immediately, my mind flashed to these words, “He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”  You might recognize them.  These are the words of the Good Father to the Elder Brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

mineSee, the Younger (Wayward) Son squandered his inheritance.  He took his half and blew it.  So naturally, thinking only of Justice and not Mercy, the Elder Brother is concerend that the Father is going to take from the half of the inheritance due to him to restore his brother.  The Father in the parable, promises not to take that inheritance against his will.  As we envision ourselves in the parable, the greedy little seagull in us from Finding Nemo breathes a sigh of relief as we exclaim, “Mine, mine, mine.”

Then we encounter the true Elder Brother’s example.  Christ’s example.  He will be glorified by taking what the Father has given and giving it to us, to restore our inheritance, which we lost in our waywardness.  The Father does not take from us in order to restore our brothers and sisters inheritance becuase we are to imitate Christ, and in turn, the Trinity, by making a gift of what we have.

So, as we find ourselves in the shoes of the Elder Brother (or Sister), let us remember that we are only restored because Christ gave Himself to us and so let us give Him to another.

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QotD – Not an Optional Contribution – 05.23.2016

“The presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church.  It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved.  This message is indeed necessary.
It is unique.
It cannot be replaced.
It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation.
It is a question of people’s salvation.
It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents.
It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world.
It is able to stir up by itself faith – faith that rests on the power of God.
It is truth.”

(Paul VI, On Evangelization in the Modern World (Evangelii Nuntiandi), 4-5)

Temptations of a Heady Christian – “What? I Evangelize.”

A great temptation for a heady Christian is to let apologetics supersede evangelization.  “Sure, I’m a good evangelist” I might tell myself, “I can answer most questions people throw at me.”  Hooray for me…  Heart Christians, you probably already see what is wrong with this.  Apologetics, while it might be one of the natural consequences of evangelization, is not evangelization.

Apologetics is the reasonable response to questions and challenges regarding the faith.  It is inherently reactionary.  Evangelization is inherently proactive.  It is the active and intentional sharing of the faith and its fruits.

Apologetics is the defense of something as good, true, or beautiful.  Evangelization is the invitation to meet the one who is goodness, truth, and beauty.

Apologetics is about what I know and can express and teach well.  Evangelization is about what I have — or rather who has me —  and just openly sharing that relationship with another.

With apologetics, you can try to fake it till you make it by reading enough books and speaking eloquently enough.  With evangelization, I can’t give what I don’t have and can’t introduce who I don’t know.

This isn’t to demean apologetics, it is great stuff, but it is secondary to evangelization.  See, as a heady Christian, I like to think that if I can just answer enough of someone else’s questions then they’ll suddenly be a believer.  But our questions never end and an overemphasis on answers demands no belief or faith.  Instead, joy, peace, contentment, love, and different living should raise the question “Are you crazy? Or do you really have something I don’t?”  Apologetics is the Christian’s way of saying, “I’m not crazy.”  But it is evangelization that says, “and let me introduce you to the one who gives me this joy, peace, contentment, love, and calls me to this lifestyle.”

Helping others Hear

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter

There are some things people say we shouldn’t talk about at the dinner table.  Religion and politics are commonly found on that list.  For many people, I think circumcision might be on that list as well.  It is not a conversation piece that normally accompanies, “Please pass the bread”.  Interestingly enough, in today’s passage from Acts, Timothy is circumcised so that religion can be dinner table conversation.

Here is what we find in Acts, “Paul reached also Derbe and Lystra where there was a disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek.  The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him, and Paul wanted him to come along with him.  On account of the Jews of that region, Paul had him circumcised, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”  This is a powerful little chunk of information that Luke gives us.  Its power might be lost on us because we think of circumcision as a ritual akin to Baptism or a safe surgery at which no one bats an eye.  This is problematic because Baptism doesn’t cause pain and require recovery time.  Also, our nonchalance toward circumcision goes away as the recipient gets older and the medical practices get more and more primitive.  So let’s reformat what happened in Acts today.  Timothy has just heard that the Council of Jerusalem said he doesn’t have to be circumcised to be a Christian.  Then Paul shows up and asks him to join him because he would make an excellent evangelist.  However, Paul tells him that he should be circumcised.  So, adult Timothy, with the medical practices of 1st Century Rome, receives circumcision.  Yikes!

This compels us to ask “Why?”  The quick answer is, “for the sake of the Gospel.”  However, the Gospel doesn’t require circumcision.  It isn’t necessary.  Wouldn’t Paul avoid confusion about the role of circumcision in the Gospel if he had forbidden it to Timothy instead of requesting it of him?  I think the truer reason, which happens to be tougher to imitate, is that Timothy did it for the sake of those who might hear the Gospel.

Timothy had no reason to take on circumcision except to be more acceptable to his listeners.  The fact that he took on circumcision so that his voice would be heard should challenge the whole Church as we strive to imitate him.  I think we are tempted to burden and inconvenience the evangelized.  Yet, Timothy would seem to say “No, no.  Quite the opposite.  Evangelists take on whatever burden they can so that the heart of the evangelized can be free to respond and to prevent the impositions of evangelists from being confused with the demands of the Gospel.”  What are some inconveniences and sufferings that we can take on ourselves in order to share the Good News with them?

Lord, give us hearts like Timothy and Paul.  Hearts that desire so strongly for others to know you, that we are willing to undergo hardship to help others be open to you.

He’ll do the Rest

Saturday in the Octave of Easter

Scripture Readings

The movement in today’s gospel is fascinating.  Through this movement Mark captures important truths about salvation history, discipleship, and evangelization in this one short passage.

First, the circles of people in this passage are ever widening.  The Risen Christ is initially only known, according to Mark, to Mary of Magdala.  Then he becomes present to the two on the road, followed by the apostles, and finally the whole world.  This progression, which reflects the ever-expanding covenant of God, beautifully captures what we need as disciples.

So what do we need?
We need the personal encounter and prayer life of Mary Magdala, one that goes to Him at first light.
We also can’t survive without close, vulnerable, brother and sisterhood on this journey.  Like the two disciples mentioned, we walk the road together and there needs to be a close person who can hold us accountable.
However, we are also meant for something larger than just a pair of us.  We need the larger more diverse community, just as the Apostles needed one another.
Finally, we need the world to share the Gospel with.
A disciple needs: a prayer life; to be nurtured in a small intimate setting; to be a part of something bigger; and finally a mission.  This mission is always somehow evangelistic: through word, deed or example.

This sense of mission is seen in the way that each person goes from their encounter with the Lord to telling another about Him.  Notably, those who know a lot Jesus, the disciples, are not excluded from being witnessed to.  None of us outgrow the basic proclamation of the Gospel!  We should take heart when we pay attention to the initial results these first evangelists saw.  They weren’t believed right away.  The mission is not to force another into belief, nor is it a promise to always see our successes.  Instead, it is a challenge and a command to share authentically and let God do the rest.  Some seeds are planted deep in the earth and take forever to surface.  That’s ok, even the apostles didn’t believe at first.  Then the Risen Lord encountered them, confirming all the others had told them.  We must be honest, authentic, and obedient to our call.  He’ll handle the rest.

– Spencer Hargadon

Preach Always: in Word & Deed

 Reflection from the First Saturday in Advent

Scripture Readings

Disciples are sent to go and make new disciples.  We cannot remain merely recipients.  This is a tough part of the process.  We are constantly struggling to make sure that we are not imposing the Gospel and that we aren’t arrogantly failing to learn from those we go out to reach.  The struggle I find addressed in the Gospel today is the balance between words and actions.   Continue reading “Preach Always: in Word & Deed”

Whatever Happened to that Guy?

Reading: Acts 28:16-20, 30-31

Have you ever sat around with friends and reminisced about someone?  It usually starts with, “Hey, do you remember the time that so & so did this?”  An hour later you all have smiles on your faces as you’ve relived every positive memory.  Then it comes to a close as someone asks, “Whatever happened to him/her?”  Maybe there are vague guesses as to their marital state, the possibility of children, or which “M” state they live in now.  I wonder if this scenario ever occurred with Paul and his Roman guard. Continue reading “Whatever Happened to that Guy?”