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July 2, 2017

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

JMJ

The inspiration for these bulletin articles can come from a number of different sources and as a result of some personal encounters as well.

As you might imagine, many people come to me throughout the week with their concerns about life, and my challenge is to offer them some consolation, encouragement, advice, or direction. Sometimes I get my inspiration from other sources that assist me in assisting you. Take for instance just this past week, in my Tuesday Office of Readings, St. Gregory of Nyssa provided a teaching from many years ago that I feel is applicable for us today. It opened with these words: “The life of the Christian has three distinguishing aspects: deeds, words, and thought.” He said that our thoughts come first, can potentially become words, and then can lead to action. OK, pretty basic stuff. But, let me expand a little bit based on some of my weekly experiences.

Our thoughts are either acceptable or not. I once heard a wise old priest say that our thoughts are not our own. Think of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, with the conversation going on right between our ears, influencing us in some very subtle ways. We try to discern the nature of the thought as being either good or bad, positive or negative, helpful or hurtful. From there, those thoughts can become words. Our words are typically directed at others, and again, they will have either a positive or a negative effect, depending on our intent (perhaps influenced by pride and/or ego), and even how they are perceived by those who have received our words.

Where I’m going with this is that we have to be on guard with our thoughts so as to control our tongues. The basic advice would be to be gentle with all. As disciples of Jesus, we should follow his modeling in our treatment of others. Therefore, we would want to be gracious and avoid hurting  people who are already “the walking wounded”. This requires discipline and a lot of practice. But our conscience will tell us how well we have done in any particular encounter, and so we will try to do better next time. Right?

On the other hand, sometimes we are the recipient of a hurtful word or action. What kind of advice might we give ourselves when this happens? Well the Bible gives us some direction here. The disciple should be “slow to anger and quick to forgive”, being patient with them, remembering that the person who delivered the hurtful words is also a work in progress and may themselves be enduring some particular stress in their lives.

Yet another piece of advice is that the Holy Spirit might actually be at work in any of our encounters. The words we hear from others, as hurtful as they may seem, may ultimately be for our own good. To paraphrase one of the ancient Proverbs, we should consider the rebuke of a wise person as something good for us to hear. We should say, “Thanks, I needed that!” (Oh, being a Christian disciple can be soooo hard.)

So generically speaking, we should constantly strive to be kind and patient and generous and gentle and, and, and… The point being that the Christian walk of discipleship requires our constant reflection and evaluation, with a daily examination of our conscience to see how we might do better next time.

OK, one final footnote here. I’m a-work-in-progress, too. If any of my thoughts, that have become words, or even actions, have offended you in any way, please accept my humble apologies. I’m really trying to do better, every day.

Addenda: 

Happy 4th of July weekend. You are invited to conclude your festivities with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at 7pm on Tuesday as we offer thanks for all we enjoy as Americans.

For more information and writings by St. Gregory of Nyssa, see www.voskrese.info/spl/Xgreg-nyssa.html.  Fr. J

 

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