25 September 2006

Make no arrogant claims, refuse no one

25th Week OT (M): Proverbs 3.27-34 and Luke 8.16-18
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

What is the best you can offer to the rest of us, to all of us here and to everyone out there? What riches have you piled up? Which of your many talents have you neglected? How much time do you fritter away waiting waiting waiting for something to happen to you, for you, against you—time squandered, unworthily spent, time better offered to us, all of us here and to everyone out there. What is the best you can offer us and what is the best we, the Body of Christ, can offer to the world?

Proverbs says: “Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him.” What is the good for us, the best for us? Who has a claim on this good? And when is it in our power to do this good for those who have a claim on it? In the gospel Jesus teaches us that no one lights a lamp only to hide its light. No one does the work of enlightenment, the arduous labor of seeking, finding, and obtaining the truth only to hide it away, to conceal it in a vessel or set it under a bed. The good for us is the light of the gospel truth shining out from us—not hidden but clearly, brightly visible.

And who has a claim on this light, this truth? Anyone who sees it, anyone who needs it. The theological thrust of Paul’s missionary efforts to the Gentiles is that the saving truth of the gospel is universal, feely given to all for all. There is no race, sex, nationality, creed, sexual orientation, political allegiance, martial status, socioeconomic class, or handicap that is excluded from seeking, finding, and obtaining the saving truth of the gospel. To all who have ears, listen. To all who have eyes, see.

When do we have the power to do the good for those who will listen and see? Always. We always have the power to shine the light, to direct its beam and focus its illumination. There is never a moment when we are restrained by any power beyond our own volition from giving the gospel truth to those who need it. Never. True, we often feel constrained. Social pressure not to cause trouble with religious discussions. Embarrassment at some of the scandals in the Church. Reluctance to “impose” your beliefs. Worries that others will think you are a zealot or a nutter. All are anxieties that tempt us to silence when a holy noise is required.

Proverbs says: “Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him.” We always have the authority—each of us has the authority—to teach and preach the truth of the gospel to anyone who needs to hear it and is willing to listen. Refuse no one, then, this good. Refuse no one your witness. Refuse no one your generous, charitable work. Refuse no one the ill-kept secret of what we become when we take on Christ and fail and rise and fail and rise. “To anyone who has, more will be given.” Faith exercised in good works, in public witness builds a stronger, more resilient trust. “From the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Faith without good works, without witness is empty, it only “seems.” And even this little bit will be taken away.

“Take care, then, how you hear.” Arrogance in your witness to the truth is vanity. A triumphal certainty that one “possesses the truth” is conceit and as such witnesses only to meaner, baser spirits. To the humble does the Lord show kindness. To those who see and hear the gospel truth and offer it freely in humility, these the Lord blesses with clarity, peace, and the fire of the true Spirit.

Refuse no one the light, the love, the help, the comfort, the fire, the passion, the suffering, the death and the new life of Christ in the Spirit. Refuse no one.

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