From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
September 25 – Twenty-sixth Sunday Ordinary Time
“Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life…keep the commandment without stain or reproach!” St. Paul’s charge to Timothy in our second reading this week is a challenge to each of us as well. We are each called in Baptism to eternal life – but we must choose to embrace that call. At first, it would seem to be a no-brainer that we would say ‘yes.’ But God’s call comes with the challenge to righteousness and to do ‘good.’ We must fight for our faith, not because we can earn eternal life, but rather because evil stands ready to draw us elsewhere. When we die and go before God, it will not be good enough to say “God, I stand before you as a man who has done nothing wrong.” God will ask, “Show me what you have done good.”
We see evidence of this in both our first reading and in the gospel parable. “Woe to the complacent” we hear from the prophet Amos. God does not condemn wrong-doing, but rather laziness. We are reminded from last week that this is particularly true in how we treat the poor. Likewise, the rich man in the gospel did not do wrong, but rather failed to help lift up Lazarus – the poor man at his door. He even knew his name, which tells us he clearly was aware of his poverty. And yet, he did nothing to help him. We live in a society and time when we have been blest with great riches. Recall that last week, Jesus specifically told us we cannot serve two masters. We must choose to “pursue the life of faithfulness, love, patience and gentleness” lest we be drawn away from the heart and poverty of our Lord. Our gospel acclamation says “though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” It is in His poverty, and in service to the poor, that we find the love, patience and gentleness we seek. We come to understand that faith is an attitude of trust in God, and that our faith is buoyed by the hope which he offers to us.
The choice is ours to make. Satan works tirelessly to convince us of the need to do nothing. He offers us empty promises wrapped in the riches of the current day, and offering comfort and easy living. Jesus offers us the cross, a life of selflessness and devotion to others, and a life of virtue. When we trust in God, we deny the temptations of evil, choosing to “compete well for the faith, and lay hold of eternal life.”
As Vincentians, we seek out the poor and the vulnerable that we might turn toward God who is most readily found among them. They are our masters and we are their servants. They offer us the opportunity to grow in virtue as we walk with them and make their challenges our challenges. When we seek God’s will for them – and for us – we come to grow in humility as we grow in our trust of God’s ways. Through gentleness and patience, we come to know each other, growing in our love for neighbor and God. We compete well for the faith when we act with zeal and passion to make visible the hope of Christ to those whom he brings to us. How well do I compete for the faith, caring for those who are suffering? Do I seek comfort – or do I seek eternal life?
Lord Jesus, give me the courage to compete well for the faith. Remove my complacency and open my eyes and my heart to those who are in need. Grace me with the will to pick up my cross and to follow your path. With gentleness and patience, help me to love others as you have loved me. I pray all of this in your name. Amen