September 25, 2022
by Chas Kestermeier, S.J.
Creighton University's Jesuit Community
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 138

Amos 6:1a, 4-7
Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Luke 16:19-31

Praying Ordinary Time

Judging Others? Or Ourselves?

          Psalm response: Praise the Lord, my soul.

When I was younger, I heard a lot of comments / complaints that we didn't preach on sin anymore.  The smartmouth response was “And when we did, did it make any difference?”  If we now tend to be more positive and to focus more instead on what it takes to be truly Christian and truly alive in that belief, I think that we might compare our more recent approach to the difference between being sick and being healthy: there are all sorts of ways to be sick, but concentrating only on attacking each malady as it comes to affect us doesn't make us healthy. 

Health comes from good diet, good exercise, good rest, and a refusal to indulge in harmful activities and substances (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, vaping, stress, etc.).  We should concentrate on healthy activities, which generally hold the unhealthy or sinful tendencies at bay: prayer, real conversations with the Lord, is of course primary, but we also need to develop healthy habits in our daily lives.  It is not a matter of working hard at our progress, as if we were solely responsible for the change, but we do need to discern where we are weak and to address that first in prayer and then in making changes our lives.

I especially want to point out that we do not eliminate sins from our lives by simply going cold turkey: we need to slowly and faithfully counter the evil tendency or activity by replacing it by a positive virtue or activity.  Instead of using God’s name frivolously (as in the all too common exclamation “Oh, my God!”) we need to find an expression we would rather use, such as “Good grief!”  If we catch ourselves doing what we wish not to do, we need to pray quickly for forgiveness and help and to remember our positive substitute – which we will come closer to using bit by bit by this process until it replaces what we wish to avoid. 

How does all this fit with today’s readings?  Today’s reading from I Timothy is good, but it is an encouragement and not extremely helpful to us personally.  We need to have personal goals and an appropriate means to reach them.  Scripture gives us lists of virtues, or maybe better, virtuous attitudes or habits.  We have the gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, and fear of the Lord) in Isaiah 11:2-3, while Galatians 5:22-23 gives us the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).  Beyond those are the cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance), the theological virtues (faith, hope, charity), but also such things as humility, simplicity, gentleness, and awareness/presence.  The beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) are of course also valuable. 

What is important is that we wish, with the help of the Spirit, to choose one to concentrate our attention on...

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