September 27, 2008
Saint Vincent de Paul. Memorial
Luke 9: 43b-45
While they were all amazed at his every deed, Jesus said to his disciples, "Pay attention to what I am telling you. The Son of Man is to be handed over to men." But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, in this Jubilee Year of St. Paul, I turn to you with renewed zeal for the salvation of souls. I believe in you and your love for me. Teach me to live and spread the Catholic faith ardently. Increase my faith, hope, and love so that I may exclaim with St. Paul, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
Petition: Lord Jesus, grant me the maturity of faith to respond not emotionally, but virtuously to the graces you work in my life.
1. Paying for Grace
The Gospel states that the disciples who accompanied Jesus were “amazed at his every deed.” God’s action in my life is a grace. Grace is a gift from God; human merit alone cannot purchase grace. Yet Christ suggests here that it is wrong to think that grace is simply never “paid for.” The first kind of “payment” takes the form of paying attention: “Pay attention to what I am telling you.” Giving attention requires work. If I do not pay attention, I might miss the graces that are intended for me. Christ warns that following him will not always fill me with amazed and blissful emotions – even if I have experienced these consolations on other occasions. There will be times when fidelity to Christ might mean that not only my feelings will betray me, but also the sins of other people will affect me.
2. Grace Unpaid
The second aspect of “payment” is that grace does need to be “paid for.” Christ paid that price. Jesus said, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.” Redemption from sin will not be for free; salvation from death will come at a high price. Luke reports that Jesus’ disciples “did not understand this saying; its meaning was hidden from them so that they should not understand it.” Jesus’ followers are “amazed at his every deed,” yet not sober to what this display of deeds will end up costing them: Jesus’ life. Do I understand my debt? Do I comprehend just how much I owe? Is my underlying attitude as a Christian driven by a “for-free” mentality? How often do I confess my sins? How often do I seek forgiveness? Has it occurred to me that God might expect a sacrifice from me? As St. Peter wrote, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). Perhaps Christ will ask me to live like him to help redeem ungrateful and sinful humanity.
The crux of faith is that faith in Christ leads to the cross. Christ does not want me to be simply a “follower”; Christ hopes to send me forth as an apostle. Therefore, I must be prepared to imitate his deeds; I must be prepared to bear witness to my faith publically. The original Greek work for “witness” in the Gospels is “martyr.” Martyrs are the ones who pay a price, small or great, for their fidelity – whether in hidden acts of charity or in the public shedding of their blood. If this posture is intimidating, St. Paul offers me strength: “But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:12). By calling me to respond in faith to his wondrous deeds, Jesus portions out to me a participation in his redemptive work, as stated in St. Paul’s reflection: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).
Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, fill me with a knowledge of your will. May I respond with generosity and courage. Let me not shrink from the sacrifice of being faithful. Your yoke is easy and your burden light, if I shoulder my daily cross with your love. Help me to act for the salvation of souls.
Resolution: Today I will perform an act of charity toward a person whom I find dislikable, or I will face a difficult situation generously and responsibly.
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