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(Part 54)


November 11, 2013

Today’s readings:
Wisdom 1:1-7
Psalm 139:1-10
Luke 17:1-6

This year, to enable us to embark on the New Evangelization, God has given us a powerful theme: Faith Works Wonders. But do we truly BE.LI.EV.E? Do we have the confidence that God enables us to do even greater works than Jesus? Often, we do not. Thus our constant prayer should be: Lord, “Increase our faith.” (Lk 17:5). If we truly listen to Jesus, if we truly understand our calling, if we truly realize how important our work of evangelization is, then we will hear Jesus tell us, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Lk 17:6). Now that is powerful! It is just the kind of power needed to assault the diabolical forces of the enemy.

But an essential part of experiencing such power is our living the way of Christ. We who have been given that great privilege of doing God’s very own work must be righteous. “Love righteousness, you who judge the earth” (Wis 1:1a). We must be holy instruments.

How do we grow in righteousness?

  • “Think of the Lord in goodness” (Wis 1:1b). Always think and reflect on how good our God has been to us. God is good; all the time! This fosters gratitude, faith, hope, endurance.
  • “Seek him in integrity of heart” (Wis 1:1c). We must have integrity. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Stand on your word, even at whatever cost to you. Do not renege on what you have agreed to do, especially living out our covenant. Do not stab brethren in the back.
  • Do not test Him, so that we will find Him (Wis 1:2a). Do not put God to the test. God does not have to prove anything to us, already showing us the greatest love in giving His very own Son Jesus. And time and time again He pours out His bountiful blessings upon us. We simply trust in Him, and take Him at His word. We obey whatever He tells us.
  • Do not disbelieve Him, so that He will manifest Himself (Wis 1:2b). Have faith. Believe in all His promises. If Jesus says we can do greater works than he, believe that. Know that our promised eternal reward awaits us.

The other essential part of experiencing the power of the Spirit in our life and work is for each of us to help build community, which is then used by God for His work. We are not just called as individuals, but also as a group of disciples. How do we build community? We need to relate well with our brethren, who are our co-workers.

Now we are all sinners. We can and will do wrong at times. Since we are our brother’s keeper, “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” (Lk 17:3b). Simple, is it not? This is the way to preserve relationships. If you think your brother has done wrong, go to him directly and point it out. If he repents, forgive him. The problem is (1) when we go to others to speak about what we think a brother did wrong, even if those we speak to have no authority over the brother, and (2) if we are unwilling to forgive. In fact, even if a brother is a persistent wrong-doer, if he asks for forgiveness, then we forgive (Lk 17:4).[1]

Since we are imperfect people in an imperfect community, there will be such wrongdoing from time to time. Our part is to try to make sure that we are not the ones who sin. “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the person through whom they occur.” (Lk 17:1). Now this is not just about our committing the sin, but also about how we handle the sins committed by others. If we can, we should rebuke the sinner directly. If we cannot do that, then what we should not do is to speak about his sin with others. This is gossip, which makes us, according to Pope Francis, Christian murderers. So we understand why Jesus has such a harsh word about such people. “It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Lk 17:2). The little ones are our innocent brethren who have nothing to do with the situation of others but who are influenced negatively by our gossip. When we gossip, we plant the seeds of unfair judgment of others, of unjust criticism of others, and in so doing are planting the seeds for dissension, disunity and even break-up of the community. The devil delights in promoting such. So Jesus says to us, “Be on your guard!” (Lk 17:3a).

How do we fall into this very dangerous sin?

  • When we give “perverse counsels” (Wis 1:3a). This is when we judge and end up maligning others and we speak about their perceived shortcomings with innocent brethren. Such acts “separate people from God, and his power, put to the proof, rebukes the foolhardy” (Wis 1:3b). It indeed is the height of foolhardiness when we allow ourselves to become Christian murderers. So be on guard!
  • When we become “a soul that plots evil” (Wis 1:4a). Now we might not think we are doing evil, and when done with others, are plotting evil, but that is what we end up doing. We say, “I am just thinking about the good of the community,” but actually cause tremendous damage to the body. We say, “We just want to discuss it among ourselves to see how to move forward,” but we already plant the seeds of dissent and disunity, thus actually setting the community and our work backward. With such acts, “wisdom does not enter” (Wis 1:4b). But what, or who, actually enters, is the evil one. So be on guard!

Thus the body is seriously affected negatively. With now not just the sin (perhaps) of the person criticized, there are now many Christian murderers. And wisdom does not “dwell in a body under debt of sin.” (Wis 1:4c). In fact, wisdom and the Holy Spirit flee! “For the holy spirit of discipline[2] flees deceit and withdraws from senseless counsels and is rebuked when unrighteousness occurs.” (Wis 1:5).

Why do the Spirit and the Wisdom that is of the Spirit of God flee? Because God cannot be in a body that is filled with Christian murderers. God cannot tolerate sin. “For wisdom is a kindly spirit, yet she does not acquit blasphemous lips” (Wis 1:6a). In fact, whether we gossip or not, if we hold judgmental and maligning thoughts, we are guilty. God knows, “because God is the witness of the inmost self and the sure observer of the heart and the listener to the tongue. For the spirit of the Lord fills the world, is all-embracing, and knows whatever is said.” (Wis 1:6b-7). So be on guard!

So God thoroughly knows us, His own creation (Ps 139:1-6), and God is everywhere so we can never avoid Him (Ps 139:7-9). Thus we must be on guard. How can we have the mulberry-moving faith? If in holiness we take on the wisdom of God. Then we stand on the very power of God’s right hand. “Even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast.” (Ps 139:10).

Wisdom and power that comes from God. Then our faith can indeed work wonders.

* * *

[1] Of course, in community there should also be the corresponding pastoral corrective actions.
[2] As used here, this is another name for Wisdom.

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