Monday, January 30, 2012

Christians in Relationship: What Gives?

Tell me the truth: Does this describe the relationships you experience within your parish, your diocese?

We thank God constantly that in receiving his message from us you took it, not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God at work within you who believe.

Brothers, you have been made like the churches of God in Judea which are in Christ Jesus. You suffered the same treatment from your fellow countrymen as they did from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and persecuted us. Displeasing to God and hostile to all mankind, they try to keep us from preaching salvation to the Gentiles. All this time they have been “filling up their quota of sins,” but the wrath has descended upon them at last.

Brothers, when we were orphaned by separation from you for a time—in sight, not in mind—we were seized with the greatest longing to see you. So we tried to come to you—I, Paul, tried more than once—but Satan blocked the way. Who, after all, if not you, will be our hope or joy, or the crown we exult in, before our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? You are our boast and our delight.

That is why, when we could endure it no longer, we decided to remain alone at Athens and send you Timothy. He is our brother and God’s fellow worker in preaching the gospel of Christ, and so we sent him to strengthen and encourage you in regard to your faith lest any of you be shaken by these trials. You know well enough that such trials are our common lot. When we were still with you, we used to warn you that we would undergo trial; now it has happened, and you know what we meant.

That is why I sent to find out about your faith when I could stand the suspense no longer, fearing that the tempter had put you to the test and all our labor might have gone for nothing.

But now, brothers, since Timothy has returned to us from you reporting the good news of your faith and love, and telling us that you constantly remember us and are as desirous to see us as we are to see you, we have been much consoled by your faith throughout our distress and trial—so much so that we shall continue to flourish only if you stand firm in the Lord!

What thanks can we give to God for all the joy we feel in his presence because of you, as we ask him fervently night and day that we may see you face to face and remedy any shortcomings in your faith?

May God himself, who is our Father, and our Lord Jesus make our path to you a straight one! And may the Lord increase you and make you overflow with love for one another and for all, even as our love does for you. May he strengthen your hearts, making them blameless and holy before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. (1 Thess. 2:13 - 3:13, Grail Translation)

What has happened to the ability of Christians to have a holy ardor one for another, the type of which St. Paul bears witness to in his letter to a church he birthed through his preaching. What stake to we have in each other's lives?

Sin separates us from God, within ourselves, and from our neighbor. It almost seems we seek comfort in this separation. Everyone knows some horror story of relationships between Christians gone crazy, whether it is an account of a pedophile or of a preacher's thinly veiled attraction to adultery disguised as a new revelation to lead his congregation to greater "spiritual intimacy" with one another. Wild stories scare us perhaps because our own propensity to sin scares us. After all, we don't want to fall into some sort of horrendous sin, right?

Such "fear of sin" might simply be a cloak for sin itself. Fear might simply confirm one in spiritual torpor and sloth.  Remember what Bl. Teresa of Calcutta said of the West:
“You, in the West, have millions of people who suffer such terrible loneliness and emptiness. They feel unloved and unwanted. These people are not hungry in the physical sense, but they are in another way. They know they need something more than money, yet they don't know what it is.
“What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.” 

We cannot hope to share the gospel of Christ in any meaningful way without sharing our lives. We cannot share our lives with the sin that separates us left as an obstacle which we avoid rather than address. Forget preaching to others unless in the first place we bend our knees and fling our hearts open to radiance of the Blessed Trinity. Let the ardor of Christ captivate and transform you. Then, live the reality He has shown you.

No comments: