Friday in the 6th Week of the Church Year.
Saint for the day: St. Peter Damian (1007-1072)
“Jesus says, ‘faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.’” (James 2:16)
This saying brings us face to face with an all-encompassing dilemma that has persisted since the beginning of the Christian era. Any attempt to resolve this usually brings us to a point of choosing one over the other: do we sit in the silence of the chapel and pray that God will bring about change in our world? Or do we get out there at the crossroads of the world and try to meet the challenges of people in need?
This will not be the first time I’ve said it. But it bears repeating: “It’s never either or” but “both and!” We need to find that thin line of balance where our prayer and our works can meet and bare much fruit; fruit that will last.
The opening words of today’s Holy Gospel puts all the focus on walking the Jesus path: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Then this statement is “qualified” by the next line: “whoever wishes to save his life will loose it but whoever loses his life for my sake … and that of the Gospel will save it.”
To put this in some kind of order we have to see that it is our prayer relationship that allows us to get out on “the way” where more than enough “crosses” are found. If we look at almost any of the popular saints we can see that their holiness was enhanced when they went outside of their comfort zones to minister some love and healing to those on the pathways of life. They were able to make their journey a part of their prayer because they had already formed some kind of foundation of prayer in the quiet moments of their life.
I will always remember the time when a young man stopped me in the church asking, “Brother, can I talk to you about some problems in my life?” I told him I was just on my way to evening prayer … and before I could even that sentence, he came back with, “No, Brother! You go to pray. That’s what you need to do. My problem will still be here when you’re finished.”
All too often “prayer” is the first thing we religious tend to drop – for whatever reasons – under the guise that “ministry” or “works” are the most important things we do. It’s a matter of balance. We don’t want to become like the ultra-legalistic Jews who can’t take even one extra step to do a good work but, at the same time, we can’t be all work and no prayer.
In a few days we’ll begin the great season of Lent when we’ll be hearing about the cross and the crosses that come into our lives. We’ll have another chance to re-evaluate our own spiritual lives and many will look to see what they should “give up” during Lent. Too many people miss the point of this Lenten Practice and I want to suggest that you, rather, think about what you could “take on!” After all today’s Scriptures are talking about picking up our crosses. Too many put too much focus on trying to give up candy or watching TV. Why don’t you try to do one deliberate act of kindness to someone who is having a difficult time with … whatever? That could be just like picking up a cross in order to ease the cross of someone else. That’s all I have to say about that for now! Amen!
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