Welcome Home!

Blog: September 25, 2022

Fr. Jeff and others share reflections on the Sunday readings.

September 25, 2022

“But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,

devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. 

Compete well for the faith. 

Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called

when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

The Gospel reading is the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Familiar to us, it is so rich in terms of urgency for our decision to follow Jesus. There is no guarantee of a future option to choose belief and Jesus Christ. Now is the time. I was struck, however, by the second reading. Paul is charging Timothy with keeping the faith. In particular, Paul provides a counter cultural image of what it means to follow Jesus. In Paul’s day, and in ours, following Jesus does not accept the cultural norms, but calls us to something much more. If written for our culture, it might read, “But you, man of the world, pursue pleasure, popularity, possessions, potency, power, prestige, and privilege. Compete well for success. Lay hold of the good life…” The real danger is that with that as our mantra, we become willing to sacrifice the things that give meaning, bring fulfillment, provide purpose, raise happiness, and truly matter for our lives. When we substitute the fleeting for the rock solid, even transcendent, we are left with a foundation of sand. We can come to a point of emptiness, looking back at our life with regret. We may reach the good life, so called, but fail to attain a life well lived. 

Paul charges Timothy to live for a higher vision: righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Apart from a somewhat skewed vision of love, the rest of these are laughed at in our popular culture. Yet, there is something in all of these that raises our eyes, that resonates in our depths, and that affirms our best selves. Righteousness is living in right relationship with ourself, others, and God, respecting the dignity of every human person, promoting true human freedom and flourishing, fostering virtue, and committing to integrity and humility. Devotion shifts our focus from selfishness to something bigger than ourselves. It is a move to sacrifice for that which is greater than me, whether family, community, society, humanity, creation, or God. Faith, of course, is leaping into the arms of our Heavenly Father, believing in the face of uncertainty, trusting in the face of trial, and abandoning ourselves to find ourselves. It is dying and rising, again. Love is so much more than a feeling, a completion of ourselves, or selfishness disguised in doing good. It is a gift of ourselves for the good of another. It is our own sacrifice wholly on behalf of another. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for us because he felt like it, because it was his path to enlightenment, or because it bolstered his self esteem. He willed it because he loves us, for our good alone. Love is who Jesus is and who we are made to be. Without love, we are lost. Patience is love extended over time. It places others at the center and moves our desires out of the way. It is calm, resilience, and sacrifice in the face of turmoil. Patience waits for God’s providence. Gentleness is love extended in action. It is strength in the storm, restraint amid passion, and peace in conflict. It honors the other with dignity in the midst of weakness. Gentleness accepts and receives God’s providence. 

This is how we compete for the faith, how we lay hold of eternal life. It is not in pleasure, popularity, possessions, potency, power, prestige, or privilege, but in righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Ultimately, it is God’s work in us, but God requires our consent. He needs our yes. A life well lived begins with a yes to God.