What’s Your Status Update?

Since my childhood, I have enjoyed the Star Trek universe. I attribute this affinity to my own father, who, as soon as I was old enough, allowed me to stay up late with him to watch the new episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation with him. The spaceships appealed to me. The battles, exploration, and the leadership of Captain Picard inspired me. One might also imagine how, as an eight-year-old boy, the military structure, ideas of “mission”, “duty”, and “prime directive” held for me a sort of noble mystique.

After sustaining some damage, the captains of the USS Enterprise would demand a damage or status report. This we would be wise to do as well, in our lives as Christians.

We ought to take a moment to assess our own status, to analyze the operations of our own systems of living, our routines, our relationships. A critical look at the ways we take in and discern information, or how we ascertain our position within our own sphere of life can yield very helpful and important information. It is especially critical to do this, as did Captains Picard, Kirk, et al, after receiving jarring news, or receiving new orders. Creating opportunities to do this kind of reflection while in the midst of turmoil requires us to create quiet space in which to look to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

The Scriptures in today’s Liturgy offer us a couple of uniquely helpful aids. First, each reading has some wisdom to contribute to the idea of adhering to our course in the Christian life. Second, we are treated to a lengthy discourse from the Lord himself, as he taught his disciples — among whom we can rightly number ourselves. We would do well to pay heed to these very real-world-applicable words from our Savior. It isn’t all that common that such a thread runs through all four readings of Scripture in any given Liturgy.

Sirach offers this exhortation: “If you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand.” And further, “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” This is a call to recognize that our choices in life collectively spell out our response to God.

The psalm response summarizes the whole text included in today’s psalm: “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!” The psalm elaborates, “Blessed are they…who walk in the law of the Lord…who seek him with all their heart…give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart.” It is clear that our response must be a whole-hearted one; a challenge that frames the tolerances to which we must hold ourselves.

In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul explains that “the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.” From this we learn: 1) the Spirit knows us through and through, 2) the Spirit makes available to us God’s own richness of wisdom, 3) God, the Holy Spirit, knows our spiritual progress, but leaves the responsibility to us to thoroughly know our own errors and to correct them.

Finally, the Gospel of Matthew offers us, in Jesus’ own words, some guidelines to help us in this self-recollection. Jesus begins with the Law as the framework within which we should be living, then raises the standard:

I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, you shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with brother will be liable to judgment…

Next is the familiar urging to be reconciled to others before offering our gift to God at the altar. This holds a particularly attainable meaning for us, as the movement of approaching the altar is one we make often. On the other hand, we may be less acquainted with the idea of giving at the altar when we approach to receive the Blessed Sacrament. Yet this is precisely what we do – even as Christ gives himself to and for us, we must respond in kind. As we come for this necessary spiritual exchange, we must be at peace with neighbor and with the community of the Church.

It is safe to say that we are in the midst of some spiritual turmoil in this current season for our parish. What we can glean from learning of the shortcomings of another, even one to whom we look for example, is the constant and critical need to examine our spiritual status.  How have we strayed from our course toward union with God? What damage have we sustained? What systems need repair? Will the damage prevent us from arriving at our destination?

If we fail to make this sort of examination from time to time, we risk losing our way, a system critical to our short- and long-term happiness, or our identity within the family of God, the Church. We ought to have a sense of purpose in the Christian life. We ought to feel motivated from within by the grace that comes to us from God. This sense of duty – of mission – is intrinsic to Christ’s call – not from mere authority but out of the self-sacrificial love we see in Jesus himself. Our relationship with the Trinity is the “prime directive” of the soul’s life. Thus we must ask ourselves, “Does my living out of the faith do justice to the love I have for God, and more importantly, the love God has for me?”

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