Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The fire that Jesus longs to cast on the earth is the Holy Spirit building a community of hope.

Thursday of 29th week in course 2015

Joy of the Gospel

Those who are or were enslaved to sin, as Paul teaches, were liberated from righteousness, but it did them no good. When we have a habit of sin–whether it is pride or sloth or envy or lust or anything else–we really can’t do good. It’s like we are paralyzed. We may be able to do some good action, like give money to charity, but there’s no return, or in today’s language, no “blowback.” It’s just an action that does not engage the heart. Instead, our wills become so fixed on the perceived pleasure of the evil actions or thoughts that we can hardly wait to get back to doing them. And every time we do them, we get less and less pleasure and become more and more discontented. It’s like a drug abuser who takes more and more heroin just to keep from falling into withdrawal. It’s slavery alright. Bondage to bad habits that are self-destructive.

Moreover, if we are in a family or community that in some way is bound to bad habits, whether it’s gossip or overindulging in food, drink, TV or whatever, our conversion can lead to conflict. You want to watch EWTN and they want a football game. Of course, these days we have solved such problems–sort of–by everybody having his own handheld or notepad. We plug into something outside and ignore everybody else. I’m sorry, but that just sounds like hell without the flames.

The Holy Father is focused on building the kingdom community: ‘Reading the Scriptures also makes it clear that the Gospel is not merely about our personal relationship with God. Nor should our loving response to God be seen simply as an accumulation of small personal gestures to individuals in need, a kind of “charity à la carte”, or a series of acts aimed solely at easing our conscience. The Gospel is about the kingdom of God (cf. Lk 4:43); it is about loving God who reigns in our world. To the extent that he reigns within us, the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society. We are seeking God’s kingdom: “Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33). Jesus’ mission is to inaugurate the kingdom of his Father; he commands his disciples to proclaim the good news that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 10:7).

‘The kingdom, already present and growing in our midst, engages us at every level of our being and reminds us of the principle of discernment which Pope Paul VI applied to true development: it must be directed to “all men and the whole man”.[145] We know that “evangelization would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social”.[146] This is the principle of universality intrinsic to the Gospel, for the Father desires the salvation of every man and woman, and his saving plan consists in “gathering up all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10). Our mandate is to “go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15), for “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom 8:19). Here, “the creation” refers to every aspect of human life; consequently, “the mission of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ has a universal destination. Its mandate of charity encompasses all dimensions of existence, all individuals, all areas of community life, and all peoples. Nothing human can be alien to it”.[147] True Christian hope, which seeks the eschatological kingdom, always generates history.’

I think that’s very much about casting the fire of the Holy Spirit upon the earth. Our task is to be good ourselves, by God’s grace, and to share that grace with others. In whatever way we can, we should daily help others to grow in thirst for ultimate goodness, beauty and truth. With that thirst in our souls, we cannot devote ourselves to sin, because it’s bad, ugly and false. Let’s pray for each other and work to build up that community of hope, and generate a history of evangelization.

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