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Reflections on the Daily Readings
from the Perspective of Creighton Students

February 9th, 2014
by
Ann McMahon
Bio| Email: AnnMcMahon@creighton.edu

I don't think I need to say much about the first reading, because I wouldn't add anything that the Creighton community doesn't already know and practice eagerly. I'm very proud of the University and its enthusiasm to give back to the community at large, to serve the poor and promote justice. As a whole, we take the words of Isaiah to heart very well.

But after the second reading and the Gospel, I keep getting an irrepressible feeling that the Liturgy of the Word today is calling us on to something more. I think it lies somewhere in the subtle but important distinction between philanthropy and, well, sainthood. Holiness.

Philanthropy is good by its definition. It can be objectively measured by good deeds. Much can be given in a philanthropic gesture, and much good can be done for others because of it. Philanthropy by itself, however, does not necessarily demand much of us, does not require us to change, does not place demands on our relationship with God.

Sainthood does.

The difference between the two is virtue.

A miser could unknowingly give a fraction of the amount his colleague gives to charity, but if he has given out of a desire to overcome his own shortcomings, he has acted with more humility and courage than his colleague, who has done nothing at any real cost to himself.

Nothing that we can do that leaves us within our own comfort zone can be an act of grace.

Saint Paul's evangelization was not wildly successful across much of the known world because he was always in his element, confident in his rhetoric, or giving out of the surplus of his possessions. He poured his heart into his ministry and was himself very vulnerable in his work:

"I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power."

Brilliant rhetorician though he was, Paul's true genius was his vulnerability, his willingness to let God have mastery over his work, to transform it into something that transcends this world, and in the process, to transform Paul's heart.

Do we do the same?

I encourage each of us to ask ourselves: Is my good work simply done as I see fit? Am I promoting justice to satiate the hunger in my heart, my thirst for meaning in life but find myself still empty?

Or am I building up virtue in my life? Am I living the Gospel? Do I take time to actually know Christ, and let my heart be vulnerable to his love? Do I allow my life to be permeated with Eucharistic Amazement?

I think the actions of the righteous man in Isaiah and the Psalms are good and necessary, an important place to begin building up the Kingdom of God. But they are not enough, for the Kingdom of God is ultimately written in our hearts. Our task in this world is not only that we transform society for the better, for the material good we do in this world will pass away in the end, and what will truly matter is how we allowed God use it to transform us.

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