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July 11, 2010

Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office

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Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
[389] Isaiah 1:10-17
Psalm 50:8-9, 16bc-17, 21+23
Matthew 10:34-11:1

Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. – Is. 1
If you find your life, you will lose it,
but if you lose your life for my sake, you will find it. – Mt. 10

Isaiah makes it so abundantly clear, as Amos did several weeks ago, that great external expressions of devotion don’t impress God. It isn’t what faith is about. What matters in our relationship with God is that we act justly, that we actively seek to make things right. He gives two concrete examples that are almost icons of this kind of faith: “Hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.”

Similarly, Jesus explains that being a follower of his is not about finding a place of easy, comfortable tranquility – an isolated home among family and friends who love us. He warns us that to embrace the Lord and his way will inevitably place us in some conflict with people around us – even loved ones. The central message is that if we try to save ourselves – if self-protection and self-care dominate our lives – we will lose ourselves, we will become caught up in ourselves and become caricatures of ourselves. But, the mystery when we call “good news” is that the way to find ourselves, that is, to come to become fully ourselves, is to lose our life – to let go, to surrender, to place our trust in God.

We’ve heard this many times. I don’t imagine there are many of us – except for a few very free people – who can say, “That’s what I want and that is how I live.” In fact, it is one of our self-protective, survival instincts deeply imbedded within us to avoid dying, to avoid surrendering control, to avoid even taking risks. It takes grace and practice to become free from these instincts, to let go of the fear of losing ourselves, in order to get more relaxed at “letting go and letting God” show us how to live in a way that thinks of the needs of others first, that seeks the common good and justice itself, no matter the personal cost. It is only with great grace and much practice that we can learn to spontaneously live heroic lives of self-sacrifice and generosity, freely and joyfully – lives with Jesus and like Jesus.

Readings like today’s plant the seeds for great desires and deeper prayer:
Lord Jesus, as you lay out this way to greater life before me, you stir my heart to desire greater freedom and greater love. Please give me what I need to live this way, to love this way. Calm my fears, heal the deep hurts and old wounds. Grant that I might grow in your grace and have the ongoing desire to practice loving more freely today.

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