Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Lectionary: 281


 And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them,
I do not condemn him,
for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.
Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke,
it will condemn him on the last day,
because I did not speak on my own,
but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.


As Christians announcing the Word of Salvation we seem doomed to walk a perilous line between blessing and condemnation. We are sent to save but tempted to condemn.


I have been hired by the Veteran Affairs Hospital in Louisville especially to bring the sacraments and assurances of our faith to Roman Catholic Veterans. It is an extraordinary privilege granted by the federal government because of the preponderance of Catholics in the United States. Travelling long distances from their homes to receive medical care and beyond the reach of their overburdened pastors, they require my attention.


I was certainly not sent there to condemn anyone for his behavior, choices or life style. I think I avoid that temptation pretty well despite my inside knowledge of their worse habits. All I ask, really, is that they be willing to accept me into their life during their brief stay in the hospital. Give me that much welcome and I can lavish sacramental graces, prayers, sympathy and encouragement upon the Veteran and his family.


Surprisingly, there are some who refuse the opportunity. I am always astonished by that, and somewhat confused. The refusal may be as blunt as “no.” But it’s usually more subtle; an indifference to my presence, as if the priest doesn’t exist, matter or make sense; as if the Sacrament of Holy Orders has no claim upon the faithful. 


Of course I try not to take it personally; they don’t know me from Adam. But my offer was very personal. Denied access to the Veteran’s life, I go somewhere else, often to find a more enthusiastic welcome.


Jesus advised his disciples under similar circumstances to “Shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.” I interpret that to mean, “Forget about it. Don’t give it another thought. Let me handle it. It's not your problem.”
In his letter to the Colossians, Saint Paul tells us,
“It pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in him, and, by means of him, to reconcile everything in his person, both on earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross.”
As Anointed Christians we too absorb everything in our persons.  We make peace by our willingness to be welcomed or rejected, without judgment or resentment, without looking back, grateful for the opportunity to do what Jesus does. 

Sometimes -- I am sure it's happened though I don't keep score -- the patient who declined my visit several times has welcomed me since then. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

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.