Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 365

We cause no one to stumble in anything,
in order that no fault may be found with our ministry;
on the contrary, in everything we commend ourselves
as ministers of God, through much endurance,
in afflictions, hardships, constraints,…

In today’s first reading Saint Paul ponders the mystery of his own ministry as an apostle. He has given himself totally to that work, abandoning his family and all previous connections. He does not support an identity beyond his apostleship. He occasionally earns a living by tent making but he does not do that as a hobby, whenever he needs to get away from being a disciple. He takes no days off or vacations; but his peripatetic lifestyle provides ample opportunities for contemplation and reflection. He is never so relaxed as when he is sharing the gospel with his friends and companions.

It seems his conscience – his “daily examination of conscience” -- is guided by this principle, “We cause no one to stumble.”
This is a great challenge for anyone who has taken vows as a religious, a priest, or a spouse. I must abandon some of my old behaviors. If I could use certain language among my high school or college classmates, I must forget it now in these new surroundings. If reading certain magazines or poring over certain pictures seemed harmless at one time, I must put those childish ways behind me. (As the oldest I remember my Dad read dime store paperbacks with -- shall we say interesting? -- illustrations on the cover.  Mom told him to leave them at work.)

As people totally dedicated to God, we cannot afford to cause anyone to stumble by unnecessary or sinful foolishness. It is not okay to say, “God will forgive me” when giving scandal to his little ones.
Saint Paul’s resolve in this new way of being was sorely tested. He recalled Jesus’ patience under torture – a forbearance he had personally witnessed when Saint Stephen was stoned – as he underwent afflictions, hardships, constraints, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, vigils, fasts…. Even under those circumstances he could not indulge in cursing his enemies: first because it would scandalize his disciples and secondly because it would break his own spirit.

As he guarded his thoughts, attitudes, words and deeds under such trials, he witnessed his own growth in purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in unfeigned love, in truthful speech, in the power of God…. How amazing that must have been to him! Who would have thought this adventurous, fire-breathing preacher could be so gentle and so happy?
As he grew in virtue he found in his hands weapons of righteousness at the right and at the left; through glory and dishonor, insult and praise.

Finally he discovered an amazing set of paradoxes,
We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.

Clearly this was not the accomplishment of one particular man; it was the Spirit of God moving in a vessel of clay to inspire the world.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.