August 16, 2015
ORDINARY 20 (B)
Be filled with the Spirit … giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Father. – Eph. 5: 19-20
All too often we Christians give the appearance of living by the doctrine of Justification by Misery rather than by faith. Somehow the deep joy that abounds in Christian literature has been replaced by a solemn, serious approach to life that is more concerned about rules for living than about living. We would rather complain than compliment, & our ability to quarrel equals (if not exceeds) the ability of non-christians to quarrel.
In too many instances Christianity has become equated with the kind of politeness & respectability that goes to great lengths to preserve the Holy Picture we have of ourselves & of Sunday liturgies. In short, the image we offer the world is of people who fear life rather than those who have the key to Joy (with a capital J). It is this lack of deep, quiet, confidant Joy, this failure to be open & responsive to other people which reveals our spiritual poverty, in short, the absence of the Spirit within us.
I myself have been thrown into situations that I want nothing to do with; & like Jeremiah I shake my fist at God & say, “You can’t do this to me! I won’t stand for it!” But I’ve found the hard way that God is the hardest of taskmasters who does not let us bear His name cheaply. The God who dies on a cross does not allow us to follow Him merely because we believe in a book called the Bible, or enjoy seeing a Holy Picture on Sunday morning. I find that when I get angry with God it means He is showing me my own spiritual poverty, my lack of freedom, my selfishness, & my inadequacy to do the task He has given me.
Humility & the ability to give thanks for all things is SO costly that it is not humanly possible. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Until the eucharist becomes part of us we will remain poor witnesses to Christian Joy. We will neither sing in our hearts to the Lord, nor stop quarreling & start disagreeing with mutual respect because these things require us to be subordinated to one another in the love of Christ. It has been said, “If men cannot gather around God’s blood, they will spill each other’s blood in perverted anger.” If we cannot make eucharist here, don’t expect to outside.
How do we know when we are making eucharist? One sign is when it begins to cost us in terms of our personal value systems, our favorite prejudices, & our selfish desires. We instinctively sense that the Hebrews were right: never look at God or you will never be the same again. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “God will not make Himself manifest to cowards.”
The Greek word for ‘spirit’ is pneuma, from which we get words like ‘pneumatic,” & ‘pneumonia.” Pneuma can also be translated as ‘wind’ or ‘breath.’ Thus the Spirit within the Church is like the breath of a physical body which renews life by repelling stagnation. It is a constant, quiet, peaceful revolution against death: “Be filled with the Spirit … giving thanks always & for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Father,” AMEN!