Memorial, St. Ambrose

Scripture Readings for December 7, 2017

Isaiah 26:1-6, Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27, Matthew 7:21, 24-27

There was a time when I really didn’t like Jesus’ statement in Matthew about heavenly reward as available to “only the one who does the will of my Father.” It felt a lot like lock-step obedience which didn’t sit well with me. Lock-step obedience still puts me off but I’ve come to realize that is not what is being presented here. This is about responding to an offer of love, insight and wisdom. Today’s readings assume you already understand that God has made the first move. God unconditionally offers love and care and the historical Jesus tried to convey that reality emotionally by the way he lived his life and intellectually by the rather striking and clever parables he told. So there’s an offer on the table. The question is, are we going to accept it? Accepting it means putting into practice what we know about how God operates. God asks that we try to do what God does, live a life that gives to others, open caring based on who we are, giving what is ours to give. If we do that then we will be on solid ground. If we don’t we’ll discover that there isn’t any other real solid ground to stand on. All the rest is illusion, sand that can be washed away by any of the storms in life. So this isn’t about lock-step obedience it’s about being willing to discover where truth and justice live.

As the reading from Isaiah says, it all begins with trust.  Do we, in fact, believe in a God that offers good things, care and protection? This is clearly not obvious to many people. It takes more than readings from the bible to provide the basis for this view of life. It takes the experience of love and care to foster this view. It’s also why living a life that is caring and loving has such a concrete effect on our little part of the world. It’s why paying it forward makes such a surprising difference for people. It’s what we celebrate when we talk about saints, whether it’s St. Ambrose, St. Francis or Mother Teresa. These people decided to devote their whole lives to paying it forward. They felt such a strong love from God that they wanted to share it with others, especially those who weren’t getting it from anyone else.

For us, if we believe we have been blessed by God, the question is will we respond to what we have been given? It probably doesn’t mean rebuilding the Church, going to foreign lands or feeding street people. It does mean paying it forward to others who may not expect or even deserve our generosity or love at that moment. Those moments occur all the time in families, with friends and colleagues. My own challenge is while driving. I think people should follow the rules of the road, when they don’t, I’m not very good at being generous. No doubt there are situations in which you are less likely to give way or turn pleasantly helpful. There are, of course bigger issues than facing our daily frustrations but there is no better place to start. It’s a way to begin to look at who we are in all that we do. Do we trust enough that God is with us to act justly, give generously and love unconditionally in real everyday situations? Not so much when some charitable organization needs a donation but when we are challenged, when there’s a risk, a cost to giving something of ourselves to others. Our first reading from Isaiah says that if we are willing to do that, then God will be with us and peace will be the result.

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