07 May 2012

Stand Up Straight Outreach Ministries

5th Week of Easter (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

If we were ask Jesus, “Lord, how do we know who loves you?”, he would say, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” Both our question and Jesus' answer imply that there will be those who love the Lord and those who won't. Judas (not Judas Iscariot), asks, “Master, why do you reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” As we have come to expect, Jesus doesn't answer the question Judas asks. Instead, he elaborates on his first statement, “Whoever loves me will keep my word. . .Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. . .” When we put these two statements together, we get, “Those who love me keep my word; those who keep my word love me.” In other words, Jesus establishes a direct connection between loving him as your Master and following his commands: it is impossible to love the Lord and at the same time ignore or violate his command to love. That you are seen and heard carrying out his command to love is conclusive evidence that you love him. When we love the Lord and follow his commands, the Father makes of us a dwelling place, a living temple of the Holy Spirit. 

Barnabas and Paul discover that being living temples of the Holy Spirit can be a dangerous temptation to one's pride. Preaching and teaching in Lystra, the two apostles see the faith of a crippled man. Paul shouts at him, “Stand up straight on your feet.” The man jumps up and walks around. The people who witness this miracle cry out, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” They name the apostles Zeus and Hermes and scramble to offer them sacrifice. Paul and Barnabas see an opportunity to create a little prosperity, a chance to do God's work and reaps some of the benefits for themselves. They accept the sacrifices and reinvest the donations in building up a global network of franchised ministries called Stand Up Straight Outreach Temples! They open the main campus of Stand Up Straight Academy and begin merchandising Stand Up Straight tee-shirts, mugs, banners, and Zeus and Hermes bobbleheads. They build a TV station, a radio program, and an amusement park. Within a few years, their global ministry is worth billions of drachma! Surely, these two are much loved by the Lord. Well, not these two. But the two real apostles are much loved b/c they redirect the fervor of the crowd toward the source of the crippled man's healing, “We proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the living God. . .” 

Paul and Barnabas love the Lord, so they follow his command to love others as they love him. Rather than take advantage of the crowd's religious fervor by lying to them, the apostles eschew credit for the miracle and tell the truth, giving all the glory to the Father. Paul tells the crowd that though they do not yet know God as He has revealed Himself in Christ Jesus, they were not left without testimony, “[God] gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filled you with nourishment and gladness for your hearts.” Even without the Christ, those who will to see and hear can watch and listen to the goodness of the Lord in His creation. His command to love is given in and through all that He has made. As living temples of the Holy Spirit, we are powerfully tempted to give ourselves credit for the good that we do. Remember what Jesus says, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” Our good works will bear fruit only if we remain in Christ. Only one spirit may live in the temple of our body: the love of the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit. 

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1 comment:

  1. Why is something that sounds so easy so hard, I fail at this far more often than I succeed, but thanks again for the lesson in humility.