Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: we must focus on the efforts we need to make to improve our imaging of Jesus and Mary.

Thursday of Seventh Week in Course

Joy of the Gospel

We continue in the season which the Extraordinary Form calendar still calls Septuagesima, or the seventy days before Easter. The penitential season of Lent begins on March 1, and we must focus on the efforts we need to make to improve our imaging of Jesus and Mary. It is a lot easier for us to focus on what other members of our family, or office, or parish organization need to do to improve their imaging of Jesus and Mary. Ourselves, not so easy. I was in conversation with a colleague recently, who told me why they had left the Church before marrying, and then later mentioned that the oldest child had a same-sex “life partner.” It would have been so easy to speak judgementally–“well, do you think your leaving the Church and not raising your children as Catholics might have something to do with that?”–but it would have alienated a colleague and made it pretty impossible to be of service later. I told this acquaintance that the only person I can judge is myself, and I’m not very good even at that! Both Jesus ben Sira and Jesus give good advice to us who are doing daily examinations of conscience. Especially Sirach’s warning not to presume on the mercy of God. Repent daily, and you’ll never have to count on a priest being around when you are dying.

The Holy Father is setting down some principles for building a just and peaceful society, and now talks about time and space. When he says “space” he is writing about territory and the number of people involved:

‘A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness evokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, “time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space.

‘This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation, and to give a priority to time. One of the faults which we occasionally observe in sociopolitical activity is that spaces and power are preferred to time and processes. Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power and of self-assertion; it is to crystallize processes and presume to hold them back. Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces. Time governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return. What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.

‘Sometimes I wonder if there are people in today’s world who are really concerned about generating processes of people-building, as opposed to obtaining immediate results which yield easy, quick short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fullness. History will perhaps judge the latter with the criterion set forth by Romano Guardini: “The only measure for properly evaluating an age is to ask to what extent it fosters the development and attainment of a full and authentically meaningful human existence, in accordance with the peculiar character and the capacities of that age”.

‘This criterion also applies to evangelization, which calls for attention to the bigger picture, openness to suitable processes and concern for the long run. The Lord himself, during his earthly life, often warned his disciples that there were things they could not yet understand and that they would have to await the Holy Spirit. The parable of the weeds among the wheat (cf. Mt 13:24-30) graphically illustrates an important aspect of evangelization: the enemy can intrude upon the kingdom and sow harm, but ultimately he is defeated by the goodness of the wheat.’

So spend some time this week asking yourself whether you are being patient with the Lord, and trusting Him to act in His own good time to convert hearts through our own goodness.

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