“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny… This means to say that we should not passively exist, but actively participate in His creative freedom, in our own lives, and in the lives of others, by choosing the truth. To put it better, we are even called to share with God the work of creating the truth of our identity. We can evade this responsibility by playing with masks, and this pleases us because it can appear at times to be a free and creative way of living. It is quite easy, it seems, to please everyone. But in the long run the cost and the sorrow come very high. To work out our own identity in God, which the Bible calls ‘working out our salvation,’ is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many tears. It demands close attention to reality at every moment, and great fidelity to God as He reveals Himself, obscurely, in the mystery of each new situation.”
~Excerpted from “Seeds of Contemplation” by Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO
Monday, July 25 ~ Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
Feast of Saint James, Apostle
Holy Gospel: Matthew 20:20-28 The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard this, they became indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Meditation: There are many who seek places of honor, position, and prestige. Many seem to have an unquenchable thirst for fame and recognition, to seek the limelight and be the center of attention, to have their voice or opinion heard through a web site, blog, Facebook or Twitter for example. Should we be surprised to see some of the disciples of Jesus thirsting for power, authority, and position? James and John, the sons of Zebedee, urged their mother to strike a deal with Jesus, their Master. They wanted the distinction of being in the highest position of authority and power, next to Jesus, of course! When Jesus called the twelve apostles to be his inner circle of disciples who would rule on his behalf, he did the unthinkable! He taught contrary to their understanding of power and position, by reversing the order of master and servant, lord and subject, first and last!
Prayer: Almighty ever-living God, who consecrated the first fruits of your Apostles by the blood of Saint James, grant, we pray, that your Church may be strengthened by his confession of faith and constantly sustained by his protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Contemplation: What kind of cup does the Lord have in mind for us? For some such a cup entails physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom. But for many, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, challenges, struggles, and temptations. As disciples we must always be ready to lay down our lives in martyrdom for the sake of the gospel and be ready to lay it down each and every day in the little and big sacrifices required. What makes such sacrifice a joy rather than a burden? It is love — the kind of “love which God has poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (ref. Romans 5:5). An early church father summed up Jesus’ teaching with the expression: “to serve is to reign with Christ.” We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service and love for one another, just as Jesus did for our sake. Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus has taught and modeled for us?