1Cor 10:14-22; Ps116:12-13,17-18; Lk 6:43-49
The question today’s psalm asks is always a good question for us to ask ourselves. “How shall I make a return to the LORD for all the good he has done for me?” Before such a question would arise in our hearts, we must be aware of the countless ways in which the LORD has rescued, healed, comforted, saved, and embraced us. Back in the day, it was the practice of a good Christian to make an examination of conscience at the end of the day, part of the monastic practice of Compline, night prayer. Perhaps we need to revive and redesign such a nocturnal moment of reflection. Perhaps we need to recall both the times of weakness and failure and repent, but we also need to recall the times of blessing and kindness and give thanks. Both movements of prayer in the Judeo-Christian tradition lead to the other two movements, petition and contemplation. Indeed, a great way to end the day, everyday. Our thanksgiving unfolds completely in our taking up the cup of salvation and calling upon the Name of the LORD in the Eucharist. Here we offer with Christ the Great High Priest a sacrifice of thanksgiving; here we fulfill our vows in the presence of all his people. As Saint Paul teaches his spiritual children in Corinth, every idol is a thing of naught and we cannot drink from the cup of the LORD and the cup of a “no-god”. We are one with those who share the One Bread and One Cup in the Eucharist. Indeed the Lord Jesus commands us to build our house on the rock of faith that we might be strong when the floods come, and we can be sure that they will come.
Saint Paul both challenged and comforted God’s People throughout his ministry. Saint Paul summons his beloved ones to avoid idolatry. It seems that some of his new converts were still participating in the pagan rituals even as they participated in the Liturgy of the Lord Christ. Members of the Body cannot participate in the meaningless and deadly sacrifices to demons. How could one so rich in the love and glory of the Lord Jesus take any refuge in the rituals of a pagan, “no-god”? Saint Paul warns his beloved ones that they had better not provoke the Lord to jealous anger, for surely they are not stronger than the LORD God. Private property was seen by many holy bishops as one of the results of Adam’s fall from grace; our resources in this world are intended to make us rich in glory, by giving them away. Likewise, the tradition challenged both husbands and wives to the same fidelity; at a time in history when men thought they had license to fool around while their wives were expected to be pure and faithful. The blazing truth of the Gospel cuts between the bone and the marrow, lest we gradually and unconsciously revert to our pagan origins. Drifting from darkness to greater darkness, rather than moving from glory to greater glory.
Early in the history of the church, the emperor often tried to use the influence of the Church to impose his will and win the favor of the wealthy and the patience of the poor. Many monks confronted their newly ordained ministry from the deserts of Syria, because they were not seduced by the power and glamour of the world. Today’s gospel instructs the disciples of Jesus how to discern, “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.” Power in both state and church must be used to serve the Lord and his people, who struggle to overcome temptation and grow in virtue. Indeed, those who lead both church and state model such a vital growth process for all who behold their example. Indeed as the Divine Teacher instructs us, “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” With what do we fill our hearts? What do we hear ourselves saying? Indeed we must build our lives of gratitude upon the solid rock of Christ, who alone can transform our weakness into his strength. Indeed, we who build upon Christ have such a solid foundation that we are not afraid of winds without or storms within our souls. Rather, times of danger and challenge reveal who we really are and whose we really are.