Reflection for Thursday, August 23, 2012: 20th week in Ordinary Time.

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Dilly, Barbara
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|The passage in the lessons today that I focus on in this reflection is in the Psalm reading: "Give me back the joy of your salvation and a willing spirit sustain in me." I am convinced that God calls us to repentance for our own good, not because he just wants to straighten us out. God wants most of all for us to be happy and to feel sustained joy. That can only come from a clean heart and a steadfast spirit, and that is what God wants from us in return for securing our salvation. It seems easy, but we know it is not. The Old Testament is filled with stories of God's people seeking happiness and security in all the wrong places. They looked to idols and they hardened their hearts to God and each other. We have our own 21st century idols and cold and stony hearts are everywhere to be found, even in our own bodies. But the stories in the Bible reveal that God never gives up on God's people. As God's chronic heart and stroke patients, God puts new hearts and new spirits within us on a regular basis.|That sounds wonderful, and it is, but not everyone sees it that way. There are people with stony hearts who feel no joy from the assurance of God's salvation, despite what it can mean to them. And sometimes those of us who think of ourselves as the faithful also forget the joy of our salvation. The Psalmist knew that we need to constantly call on God for a clean new heart and a stronger more steadfast spirit. Even those of us who know God's love and salvation as the source of our joy sometimes lapse into our old transgressions. We are tempted to offer something other than our whole contrite and humbled hearts and spirits to God. But we know that won't work.|So the Gospel lesson today fits us. We try to attend the wedding feast of life without the proper garment. God wants us to honor God and the Kingdom of heaven by responding fully to the invitation and putting on the appropriate demeanor ... in this case, contrition and humility. So I have been pondering lately what I need to do to respond to the invitation to enter the Kingdom of heaven and celebrate sustained joy in my life. I think each day I must confess my sins through a process of deep soul searching and each day offer my life to God in a state of greater humility. But it is difficult for me to connect humility with joy. Most of my Christian education has focused on trying to obey the commandments and practicing the sacraments. When I fall short, I feel contrite and humbled. When I stay on track, I feel pretty happy. So, not surprisingly, I have great difficulty connecting humility and contrition with joy.|To help me with this problem, I look to the Amish, who focus their entire spiritual life on humility. And oddly, to me, they also seem to experience so much joy in their faith. When I ask them how they can make that connection, they always point to the central tenant of their faith: "Love." They tell me that they feel sustained joy in their steadfast willingness to love God and each other. Their denial of self interest is not a burnt offering to God. It is the offering of their whole hearts and spirits to God. It is this kind of humility that brings joy to their lives. They are not bound to the stony hearts in their bodies that would make them unloving. They are free to live by God's statutes with a new spirit. I think that takes a lot of practice. It is not easy to offer up our whole hearts and spirits to God. It sounds so simple, but it's not. Unless we are brought up in a community that holds us accountable for humility, and most of us don't, this is a real challenge for us. So today, I pray that we will all find ways to practice humility, enough that God will place God's sustained spirit within our midst and we can experience the joy of God's salvation ... eternally.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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