Thursday, June 29, 2017

Live in Truth; Live in Love

Today is the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul in the Catholic Church.  Statues of the two great saints stand above either side of the entrance to the church I visited this morning, as if they were guardians of what was inside.  I believe they helped me understand what they were guarding a bit better this day.
A little book I read each morning contains the New Testament and Psalms, and I open its two bookmarks, sequentially reading a NT chapter and a psalm each morning.  Today I read:
“What sort of persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God … (2Pt 3:11)
“So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters.  There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”  (2Pt 3:15-16)
“O house of Israel, bless the Lord!
O house of Aaron, bless the Lord!
O house of Levi, bless the Lord!
You that fear the Lord, bless the Lord!”  (Ps 135:19-20)
On his feast day of the two great saints, I “happened” to read words of St. Peter, where he praises Paul?  By chance, I read the only place in the Bible where he does so? And the Psalm I read happened to call for unity of teachers, even as Peter was talking of unity with Paul?  I don’t believe in coincidences regarding matters of faith. 
And I also read this morning the words of St. Paul:
“Then after fourteen years, I went up to Jerusalem … prompted by a revelation, and I laid out for their scrutiny the gospel as I present it to the Gentiles … all this in private conference with the leaders, to make sure the course I was pursuing, or had pursued, was not useless … They made me add nothing.”  (Gal 2:1-6)
St. Paul never spoke with the apostles for fourteen years and “coincidently” he was preaching the same gospel?  Again, I don’t believe in coincidence.
One of the other things I read this morning was from a sermon by St. Augustine, in about 400AD, talking about the importance of this feast day honoring the two saints.  This feast has obviously been celebrated since the beginnings of the Church.
And so, for me, what do I think God was telling me with my readings and these coincidences?  I am a man who seeks the facts, truth.  I question; I study; I pray, --- to understand.  Even as He did for St. Paul, God has opened my heart to understand many things which once I did not.  Yet even I have things which “are hard” to understand, yet I will accept them in faith, that perhaps one day I will be given understanding.
The Catholic Church has great emphasis on St. Peter.  The popes are said to have been handed his keys, in leading the Church.  Many Protestant churches have a great emphasis on St. Paul, whose words and letters are more often quoted in the Bible.  And all varying churches, Catholic and Protestant, place emphasis on these teachings or those, as they seek to live and evangelize the Christian message.  And even individuals take it in their heart to emphasize some portion of the message, and minimize some other, and often change churches to find one suiting their emphasis --- thinking they know the Gospel more than most, and seeking like-minded others.
This morning my heart was opened to see that all these people are right in seeking the truth, but that many of them are wrong in not living it.  Jesus said: “I am The Way and The Truth.”  Sadly, how often we think that we are.
This morning my heart was lead to see that none of that, the seekings and searchings to understand the truth, are as important as living it.  There was another thing which Jesus He is: He is Love.
In our culture, there is much proclaiming that: “I know the truth,” and others are wrong.  Congress people argue: “Here is the welfare program people need,” or “here is the insurance program they need.”  “I know the truth of the matter.”  And similar words are echoed in many Christian churches.
The truth is that what this country needs, what its people need, is love.  Love is not a truth; it is something you do.
I’ll spend time this afternoon working with a Protestant minister and his wife helping the poor, loving our neighbors.  I don’t need to understand the truths justifying their actions or mine, for in my heart I know what love is, what love does, and how that is the key message of the Gospel so often forgotten.  And as for those other matters of what is truth, I will trust in God and love my neighbors.  Saints Peter and Paul showed us how to do that together.
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As I was writing these words, the lights in the chapel went out.  Later, driving home, the local traffic signals were dark.  Seeing that, I had an initial inclination to search the radio channels to find the truth on how widespread the outage was, but I didn’t.  I merely waited in line at the intersection, politely letting others go until I took my turn.  A darkness had entered the light of my fellow commuters, and by my politeness I was being a little light to them.
I think that’s what we are all called to be.
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But I saw more this morning.
As I had pulled out of the Church parking lot, I could not but notice the young woman speaking there with our pastor.  She had two young boys at her side, and an even younger one in her backpack.  And she was totally bald.  And I realized that Fr. Ed was, in his way, also being called upon to bring light this morning.
Some of us face a deeper darkness than others, but we can all get past our own concerns and be a light to those in need around us.

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