Philippians 2: 12-18; “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling...”
Psalm 27: 1, 4, 13-14 “…One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life…”
Luke 14: 25-33 “…’This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’...”
Blessed John Duns Scotus (1266-1308) known for his humility, this Franciscan Friar had a knack for developing illustrations in his teachings, which left a great impression on the minds of his students. He appreciated the teachings of “Augustinian-Franciscan tradition, the wisdom of Aquinas, Aristotle and the Muslim philosophers, and still managed to be an independent thinker.” (Saint of the Day website). In 1307 he so ably defended the Immaculate Conception of Mary that the University of Paris officially adopted his position. It was this great work that Pope Pius IX drew upon to solemnly define the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854. Blessed John Duns Scotus, on his way to being declared a saint; is a great example for those who teach our Faith in higher Education. Of him they said “he placed his best thinking at the service of the human family and of the Church”.
In today’s first reading from the letter of Paul to the Philippians, we find St. Paul writing from prison. Paul’s words are so personal and loving they could only be inspired by someone growing ever closer to our Lord. His connection to the people is strong and has the feel of family. Many of us experience this within our own small faith communities where we think of ourselves as family; brothers and sisters in the Lord. Paul writes about obedience, and of course even in his confinement, his words very much encourage the people to persevere. The one thing he says that sticks with me is to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” and I believe this is the theme that runs through today’s readings. (Phil 2:12) It is good to recall the meaning of the word fear which was used to convey a deep level of respect. The Catholic Study Bible says further that the phrase, fear and trembling were Old Testament terms meaning awe and seriousness. God has a plan and it is perfect, because while Paul was imprisoned, others felt the need to do for themselves, what they had let one or two do. Like them, we are called to spread the Gospel message with everything we think, say and do, holding firm to Christ’s teachings. Like them who were working out the day to dayness of life, working towards the only thing that matters, we are to be looking towards salvation with deliberation.
In the reading from the Gospel of Luke, Christ uses many examples of getting prepared-planning. He’s calling us to follow Him. Just like the Philippians, working out their salvation, deliberately. Jesus says you wouldn’t construct a tower with out sitting down and calculating the cost to see if there was enough for completion. If you couldn’t finish much above the foundation, you’d be laughed at and ridiculed. The same for planning our lives working towards salvation, we are being called to follow the Lord. Calculate, plan, be deliberate about your actions. If it doesn’t serve to accomplish the goal, it might not be worth doing. You don’t want to run out of time and not have your tower built.
On that day, with the crowds following Him, Jesus said to do whatever you have to do in order to follow Him, even if you have to renounce your family. He asks us to carry our own cross; we all have one, some heavier than others. Jesus asks us to renounce our possessions, so that we can cling to Him and be his disciple. The less meaning our possessions have, the more we’ll be able to focus on the Lord. Paul certainly clung to the Lord, and can be our example today.
Help us Lord, we are so fearful of handing our care into your hands. We grew up learning how to take care of ourselves, and to not trust strangers. May you not be a stranger in our lives; that our trust in you may grow. We pray especially today, to be able to take these words we’ve heard over and over and commit them with fear and trembling into our own lives. As the Psalmist says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” We ask this in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
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