Saturday, August 21, 2010

Christian Humility and Charity

Reflections on the Readings

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 29, 2010 - Year C

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

Christian Humility and Charity

"For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted...But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you." - Jesus

My maternal great-grandfather, a pioneer Pentecostal preacher,  preached Jesus Christ and him crucified in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the early 1920's, the First Christian Church of Huntingburg, Indiana invited him to pitch his gospel tent in the grove just north of their church on N. Washington St. 

Many accepted Rev. Samuel Seibert's  invitation to commit their life to the Lord.  So many came to the Lord that a congregation was formed, the Pentecostal church of Huntingburg; the church of my childhood and young adult years.

Converts grew in number in those early years of the 20th century. Living new lives, these new believers began paying their bills with the merchants in town. You can imagine the interest this created in the Pentecostal church.  

The church building, called the Tabernacle in those days, allowed several hundred inside; many more peered through the open windows or stood in front of the open door out to the street.  Why?  Because they wanted to hear Samuel Seibert preach.  And preach he did, for two to three hours.

Christian charity characterized the new congregation as well.  At Thanksgiving, the pews in the Tabernacle were pushed aside while tables were set up where the poor and hungry in town could come and get a meal.  And the church grew.

God, in his goodness, makes a home for the poor.  It is the Church's calling to be that home; the place where there is food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, clothing for the naked, a haven for the stranger among us.  

We preach not ourselves; doing nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility counting others better than ourselves.(2 Corinthians 4:5; Philippians 2:3) Jesus talked about freely giving what we have freely received.  The Church, rich in the mercy she has received, stands before the world with open arms.  Recently in Morning Prayer, one of the intercessions included, "Help us to serve one another out of reverence for Christ."

Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.  This is the meaning behind Paul's exalted understanding of the Incarnation: ...Who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 

It is in this mystery of Christ's humility we are asked to look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. (see Phil. 2:1-6) As we bear one another's burdens we fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal. 6:2) Certainly Christ looks out for our interests, for our great need for the friendship of God, as he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  

Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9)

Every time I look upon the crucifix above the altar, I'm reminded of all the violence, hate, ridicule, and scorn, of all that is the fruit of Adam's disobedience.  I'm also reminded of the hope of salvation while gazing upon Jesus on that cross.  For into himself, Christ took every foul word, every assault, every abortion, every broken heart, every broken promise.  

And, from the cross, Jesus heard not only Abel's blood crying from the ground, but all of the blood ever spilled wrongly and unjustly.  In that hour, releasing grace that is greater than our sin, Jesus took into his Sacred Heart Abel's violent murder, and every hostility in history that man would ever unleash against his neighbor and said, "It is finished."

Upon the cross that we carry is the finished work of Christ.  Into all the world we must also go. As Cardinal Rigali said to us at Diocesan Day, "If we don't do it, sometimes God leaves it undone.  That's how much God depends on us." Our calling is to be the face of Christian charity and humility to everyone we meet; always remembering why Jesus came to us.  He came into our world, not to condemn us, but to love us, to save us, to restore us, to make us the daughters and the sons of His Father.  

And to show us he really meant it, and that he will never leave us nor forsake us, he left us a memorial of our redemption, that which we partake of this morning, this bread and this wine, the precious body and blood of our Savior.  


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