17 June, Monday – Living for Eternity

17 June 2019

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2 Corinthians 6:1-10

As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.

We do nothing that people might object to, so as not to bring discredit on our function as God’s servants. Instead, we prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving. We prove we are God’s servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation; by the word of truth and by the power of God; by being armed with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left, prepared for honour or disgrace, for blame or praise; taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure yet famous; said to be dying and here are we alive; rumoured to be executed before we are sentenced; thought most miserable and yet we are always rejoicing; taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything.

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Matthew 5:38-42

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.’

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Now is the day of Salvation

I recently returned from my second pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Israel. It is a time and a space unlike any I have ever known. An experience I couldn’t imagine. An encounter that must be felt to be understood, in even the most basic way.

The Holy Land is the place where salvation was born. It is truly a life-altering place; unlike any other place, ever, because it is THE place where God became man. Even though I read these words inscribed above the doors of the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, they didn’t register: THE WORD BECAME FLESH HERE. HERE. As Hani, our guide said, here, where we are standing, no where else. To be in that place where Mary said ‘YES’ filled  every cell in my being. The emotion was overwhelming, so utterly complete that there was no room for any other thought or feeling mentally, physically or emotionally.

There is a sense of eternity, of salvation, in every breath in the land of our Savior’s birth.

Eternity is the biggest of words, is it not? With salvation, eternity is God in pure enveloping love. Without salvation, eternity is hollow, a painful emptiness. And I see so much painful emptiness in the world today, and I know it is because the world doesn’t acknowledge salvation.

My friend, who has coordinated four trips (so far) to the Holy Land, said to me after her first pilgrimage, “In Israel, faith is everything; faith isn’t part of them, it is WHO they are.”  I was eager to see what she meant. I went, and I saw her words come to life. I felt the words. It is like nothing I have ever even glimpsed in America, this constant visual understanding that eternity with God is all that matters.

I live in America, and here approximately 75% of Americans identify as Christian (24% Catholic). In Israel, it is about 1.5% Catholic Christian. Yet the faith of those in Israel is so strong a living faith it is visible. Our Catholic brothers and sisters in Israel live today’s gospel on a daily basis. They are their faith; they know scripture, they understand scripture, they share scripture, they live Jesus’ words. Their lives are surrounded by our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters, faith filled in worship of God, but blinded to the complete truth of salvation thru Christ. In Israel, our fellow Catholics walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek, give their tunic and cloak, and pray for and love those who neither pray for, nor love them.  There is an undeniable peace and joy felt and seen in these Catholic brothers and sisters, despite the subtle persecution they absorb daily. They are the caretakers of the holy places Jesus walked and lived and died and rose in. Life is hard, but they remain as a remnant of people who can’t bear to leave these holy places, because they know they are called to share the gospel where the word was made flesh, where our salvation was born. They cannot leave here and are willing, as Paul was, to suffer for the gospel, to suffer because they know and love Jesus.

Now is the day of salvation. How different would our daily life be if we acknowledged that truth every day? How different would our words be? Our choices of entertainment? Our time spent in prayer? Our time spent at mass… and in mass. How different would our hearts be if we truly lived those words of truth? How different would this world be if we, those who remain in the church that Christ left us, truly lived in the knowledge that this is the day of salvation.

(Today’s Oxygen by Gina Ulicny)

Prayer: Father God, help us as we work out our salvation. We are in awe of You, in the gift we don’t deserve and we cling to you asking for your mercy and forgiveness.  Help us to live our lives as a salvation people, sharing your words of everlasting life, sharing the gospel with our actions.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Heavenly Father, for loving us through death, through your resurrection and through all eternity. We desire to live this truth of your merciful love every day by loving all of those around us.

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