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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Torrents of Love: Reflections on Paul, Ezekiel and Matthew 18

The readings for this Sunday are themed around being attentive to the directions of God, and helping others to be attentive as well, even if it means that drastic measures must be taken. And Gazelle's post last week on Lectio Devina is a terrific guideline for how to really stop and listen to that ever present voice of the Spirit.

 This is always hard for me because I have this ADD tendency to flit around the Scriptures seeing nuggets of beauty and wisdom here and also there, but never settling down to get beyond my sentimentality, biases, or maybe even boredom. I am either pulled in different directions, and thus, quickly overwhelmed, or I stop too short and fail to hear the Word of God in its depth and fullness.  If I follow the guidelines of Lectio, I will allow the superficial to filter through, and the still small voice begins to emerge.  For me, I usually do not settle with one of the readings, the Spirit often emerges as an image of water flowing through the readings the Church has put forth for us.

 I love the peacefulness of water.  In my mind I first see romanticized images of still lakes, filled with the glorious reflection of the setting sun or softly chattering streams that draw you to dip your feet in and refresh yourself after a long hike.  Even the powerful, but beautiful waterfall invites me to linger and meditate on how inspiring the water is.  And so I often let the readings flow like this to refresh my soul and revive my Spirit.

In Romans 13: 8-10 Paul speaks of love:
Brothers and Sisters:  Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  The commandments. "You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be are summed up in this saying. namely, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfillment of the law.

 That flows so sweetly and gently, but, upon further reflection I realize that water can  also flow like this:

                                            Gavins Point Dam, Yankton SD

Ez 33:7-9
"Thus says the Lord:  You son of man I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.  If I tell the wicked, "O wicked one, you shall surely die," and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death.  But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself."

Ezekiel now comes crashing down upon me as a torrent, stripping away the sentimental idea that love just accepts and tolerates.  The love of God does not will me to be a captive of sin, and each one of us is charged with bringing this true freedom to our brothers and sisters.  And this freedom does not release me from the commandments, as we read in Paul it brings upon those who grow in it the strength and courage to live those commandments with integrity.  We begin to love with the love of Christ, dying to ourselves, availing  ourselves to that scouring torrent of love for the sake of others!! Thus the ability to bestow the fruits of our freedom on others by encouraging and strengthening those around us is made greater by loving others as we love ourselves, or else we ourselves will become weaker and  more complacent, or full of pride and judgmental.

I now begin to see that Paul's message of love is not the sentimental, shallow message that I can so often settle ;for ( and quickly get bored with).  It is not "everyone must get along at all costs";   it is the message that growing in holiness is growing in strength and courage and passion for others.  The river of love can be a gentle stream, but it can also be a surging wall of water, scouring, cleansing and putting to death the evil in our midst (even in the midst of our own souls). But, how do we separate our own failings, self righteousness and hypocrisy out of fraternal correction?  Matthew points us to start out in the gentlest way possible, and from there to proceed with the facts being established in a credible and just way, so that no public accusation is made hastily or arbitrarily, not so easy for any of us, especially if we have not really strengthened ourselves in love!  The final judgement is made by the church, where it is binding, and may include the casting out of the unrepentant.

Matt 18: 15-20
Jesus said to His disciples:  "If your brother sins against you go tell him his fault, between you and him alone.  If he listens, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take on or two others along with you, so that every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  If he refuses to listen to them tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  Amen, I say to you whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and, whatever you loosed on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth for anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.  For where there are two or three gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them,"
And it should grieve our souls that individuals would choose to be separated from the community, rather than be reconciled, and it should demand reflection of our own interior dispositions.  Some people endure separation from the community for reasons that eventually prove to be unjust or they are in a situation that they do not yet have the strength to correct.  What do these situations demand of us?  They demand prayer and humility, endurance and prayer.  The profane is washed away in the churning river of Christ's love and passion and the humble and the repentant will rise again.  They demonstrate that the path to holiness for each individual is treacherous, that our faith is not niceties or warm fuzzies, but our faith demands an attentive soul, and a courageous willingness to allow God's love to wash the profane away, to soften the hardened heart and, above all, the tenacious belief that in Christ, though we die to ourselves we will eventually rise in Him.

Psalm 95
If today you hear his voice harden not your heart; come let bow down in worship; let us kneel before the Lord who made us; for he is our God and we are the flock that he Shepherds.
Peace and Grace to all,

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