Aloha Friday Message – February 24, 2012 – First Friday of Lent

1208AFC022412 – Catholic Letter Series

Read it online here.

In keeping with past years, I’ve decided on doing a series for the Lenten issues of the Aloha Friday Messages. They will be based on the “catholic letters” – catholic as in universal – from the New Testament. Altogether there will be ten messages beginning first Friday on Lent – February 24 – and going all the way through April 27, a month before Pentecost. This is the schedule:

# Date Epistle
1 February 24 Hebrews (10:24)
2 March 2 Titus
3 March 9 Philemon
4 March 16 James
5 March 23 1 Peter
6 March 30 2 Peter
7 April 6 (Good Friday) 1 John
8 April 13 2 John
9 April 20 3 John
10 April 27 Jude

The series may continue with a closer look other books of the Bible and/or important personages in Scripture. The last in the extended series will be on May 25th, the Friday before Pentecost.

The passage chosen from Hebrews today was chosen because it is the central theme of Pope Benedict XIV’s Message for Lent, 2012 also available here . In fact, his essay is so much better than mine that you might want to just follow one of those links right now and skip the rest of this.

KJV Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

NAB Hebrews 10:24 We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.

NLT Hebrews 10:24 Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds.

NJB Hebrews 10:24 Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.

This is a perfect corollary to the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It reminds me of that expressions often attributed to Anne Herbert, “Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

You might also remember the 2007 movie Evan Almighty in which the main character, Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell) is visited by God (Morgan Freeman) who tells him the world can be changed by doing one Act of Random Kindness (ARK) at a time. Taking all three notions in mind – The Bible verse, the bumper-sticker, and the movie plot – one can see that being kind arises from being loving, and that rather than be “merely random,” the objective is to be so consistently loving and kind that we are moved closer to the goal of The Gospel – that everyone should always love God and one another so intensely that love and good deeds are continuously spontaneous – being loving and kind to one another becomes habitual rather than calculated, premeditated, and potentially self-serving.  Aristotle is quoted as having said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

When God, speaking to Evan, describes performing Acts of Random Kindness, the action is qualified by the phrase “at a time.” There is an implication – and a very good one – that it will take more than one Act of Random Kindness to truly change the world. It will take many such acts, and even though the effect is cumulative, it is not necessarily lasting. Just as there are earthlings who consciously set out to follow Paul’s advice, there are also earthlings who consciously set out to perform Random Acts of Cruelty or Concerted Deeds of Evil, and the effect of these actions is to nullify the good others do with the objective of turning the tide toward the victory of evil and death. The battle lines in this war were once uncompromisingly delineated, but in our present era – which is characterized by pervasive compromises over any and all moral integrity and decency – it is difficult for many to see anything but a vast gray sea of endless storms and lost horizons.

Jesus’ message always comes back to the theme of Love. It is the kind of Love which is obedient to the Law and the Prophets because it fulfills the law and harkens to the prophets. It is the Love that adores God rather than self and serves God by serving others ahead of one’s self. It is such Love that God expected – but did not receive or observe – in his chosen people, Israel. Ultimately the promise of redemption made in Genesis 3:15 came into being through Christ. Paul’s lengthy letter to the Hebrews, Israel’s descendants, traces God’s constancy and love for his chosen people and helps us understand that what God expected from them – and duly expects from us – is love and respect for him and for each other. He wants us to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God. Because a seemingly endless succession of earthlings could never get that quite right, God did it for us by taking on our form and living among us. He expected ancient Israel to be a light to guide the nations because his Law leads to righteousness through which all the world will witness the Salvation only he can give. That Law is Christ’s Law of Love – it is Jesus who fulfills for all of us the purpose for which we were created: To show all the Peoples that there is no god like our God.

Paul’s letter to the Hebrews looks into the lives and accomplishments of the Three Patriarchs we know as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The letter also describes each of them as archetypes for Faith and Faithfulness flowering in Righteousness. They put their faith in God’s Faithfulness, and Paul wants his audience, including us, to understand that is precisely what God expects – our trust in his never-ending Faithfulness to his promises. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews also directs our attention to the incomparable status of Jesus, the Christ, the Living and Only-Begotten Son of God. In Christ and Christ alone are fulfilled all the purposes for which Israel was chosen, protected, blessed, and set forth as an example of God’s majesty and power. Although he had often revealed his will and demonstrated his purpose for designating Israel as his beloved, to love him, to serve him, and to be exemplars so as to lead others to also love and serve him, they often forgot his faithfulness and turned their backs on him. He sent priests like Melchizedek, Aaron, and Zadok, prophets like Samuel, Isaiah, and Elijah, Judges like Gideon, Samson, and Eli; though the Nation rallied under their influences from time to time, they soon forgot the Divine purpose for which they were created and fell back into the service of and devotion to false gods who could be fabricated from any material God had created. Paul uses the history of the Hebrews to demonstrate the sound wisdom of God’s plan for their salvation.

 

Paul follows along through the history of the Hebrews and at every place where they failed, in every instance where they were proven inadequate, Paul shows how great a triumph obliterates their failures and what elegant excellence easily exceeds all God’s earlier expectations. The result God originally purposed for his people becomes reality in and through the establishment of The Kingdom of God. Through Jesus’ life, passion, death, and resurrection all Peoples can be that Nation of Priests, Prophets, and Kings which God envisioned for his chosen ones from the very start. Because of this, we have all the benefits of the First Covenant and all the benefits of the Second Covenant as well.

 

Next week we will look at the pastoral letter to Titus and explore the fundamental processes of establishing a new community of believers in the Early Church.

Share-A-Prayer

As we prepare to celebrate the Easter Mysteries only a few short weeks away, let your prayers seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help you prepare a welcome for the Risen Lord. In the Upper Room of your prayer life, in the quiet recesses of your heart and mind, look for those things you cling to that stop you from depending entirely on God’s faithfulness to his promise.

Please pray also for all the intentions we have mentioned in the past month – persons with health issues, relationship problems, financial needs, loneliness, people who are experiencing big changes in their lives for any reason, and pray for anyone you know who needs to get closer to God (I think that covers all of us and everyone any of us knows!).

Especially pray for our leaders in government, faith communities, families, and at work. They are gifted by God with the authority to lead, so ask God to help them do that with morality, compassion, wisdom, and justice.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.

chick

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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