Thursday, September 3, 2009

They Have Left Everything To Follow Jesus

Today’s First Reading (Colossians 1:9-14) begins where yesterday’s left off. In the previous verses (1:1-8), Paul had told the Christians of Colossae how grateful he was for what God had already done for the Christians of Colossae. Now, he prays that they will know what God wants from them in the future, and that they will live in a manner pleasing to the Lord, that they will grow in their knowledge of God, and that the good deeds they perform will bear fruit.

A Christian can please God only with the help of God’s grace. Paul prays that the Christians at Colossae will be strengthened by God’s power, so that they might have endurance and patience. Paul reminds the Colossians that among the gifts of the Holy Spirit are counted not only patience and endurance, but also peace and joy. He invites them to give thanks to God the Father, who has made them fit to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

The opposite of light is darkness. In the Scriptures, “darkness” refers to the Satan and his works. The Lord Jesus has freed us from the power of darkness, and has brought us into the realm of light, where Christ our Lord is King. It is through Christ that we are children of the light and of the day, not of the darkness and the night. We have been freed from the darkness of sin, and brought into heavenly light by the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, which freed us from our sins, and opened for us the gates of the Kingdom of God.

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“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing!” said Simon Peter in today’s gospel (Luke 5:1-11). When Jesus called him, Peter had given everything had to follow him. Not that he had very much to begin with: a boat and a few nets, which doesn’t sound like much, but it was all he had. It is not so much what Peter possessed that might hold him back. Rather, it was that the boat and the nets were all he relied on to feed his family, including his mother-in-law. Peter had the courage to come to the end of his resources. Before the end of the story, he would be dragged even further. The carpenter from Nazareth whom he followed would be crucified, and, having nothing else to do, he would return to where his story had begun, to Capernaum, on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. Yet, John’s gospel tells us that night he would catch nothing. Now he was a man without a past or a future. But soon, he would see a specter walking on the water, a phantom that looked like that carpenter from Nazareth. But that, as the teller of tall tales would say, is another story.

How significant it is to come to the end of your resources! “Jesus allowed pitch blackness to envelop my soul”, wrote the young French novice in her journal. “I wish I could express what I feel, but it is impossible. One would have to travel through that same sunless tunnel to have an idea how dark it is … There is a wall that towers to the sky and hides the stars.”

And then, how amazing her next words: “I have never before so strongly felt how gentle and merciful God is. He sent me this heavy cross just at the moment I was strong enough to carry it. … Now, nothing hinders me. I want nothing any longer, except to love, until I die of love. I am free, and I fear nothing.”

A French biographer of Saint Thérèse said it was typical of her to always be at the end of her resources. She never gave of herself by halves – always everything she had. She never had anything up her sleeve: no tricks, no disappearing acts, no clever excuses, no blaming others, no delays. That is why she always remained fully present and totally vulnerable to her experiences. That is the reason God could give her so great a burden. – He knew she had the capacity to bear it. The Prince of Darkness also knew her capacity, and made sure she was rarely tested at less than 100%. Then again, for those who love God and are called according to his plan, everything works out for the good.  But that comes about only in the final paragraph of the last chapter of the Book of Life.

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