As always, the Scriptures challenge us in several ways.
The disciples in the Gospel, as well as Joshua in the Old Testament, are concerned that others outside their group are exercising God’s power. Jesus, and Moses before him, remind them (and us) that God can use anyone he wishes to work his wonders among his people. It’s very easy for us to become like the disciples and forget to rejoice that the Spirit of God works in many unexpected ways. Do I, do you, keep our eyes and hearts open each day in expectation that the Spirit of God may visit us in unexpected ways and through unexpected people?
The words of St. James offer us a challenge. The Oblate community has worked hard to provide us with all we have here. We have much more than many of our brothers and sisters. How do we live our vow of poverty when we have our needs taken care of so well? We can identify with our poor brothers and sisters by being grateful often each day. We can share our sufficiency through our hospitality to guests. And we can remember our brothers and sisters who have much less than we do, and cut short our complaints when we don’t have everything we may think we need.
When we take the time each day to be aware of God’s abundant providence, we also continue to be aware of our own ingratitude. We are aware that there are things about us that draw our attention away from God’s graciousness. Jesus challenges us to total concentration on the God who loves us. If something causes us to sin, cut it off. Jesus is not calling us to mutilation, but he is calling us to decision-making. If we are serious about responding to the great love God has for us, then we will make serious efforts to accept God’s grace throughout the day and choose to move beyond those things in us that lead us to be self-centered.
We have all lived long enough to know the things about us that tend to distract us from God’s loving providence. De Sales reminds us that these tendencies ought to become the subject of our morning preparation of the day. Together with God, we can develop a graced plan which will help us to become more dependent on God’s grace during our day. In this way, we learn to make practical decisions that “cut short” our tendencies toward selfishness and self-centeredness and refocus our attention on God who is providing for us.
Let us not overlook the challenges of today’s Scripture readings. They call us to grace.