SFX Bulletin, 31 August 2014: How often must a Christian pray or think about God? St. Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390AD) said, “We must remember God more often than we draw breath”. The Catechism elaborates by saying, “Prayer is the life the new heart. It ought to animate us at every moment. But we tend to forget him who is our life and our all” (CCC2697).
More specifically, in thinking about God, St. Paul urges us to direct our thoughts and adoration to God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, “Think of God’s mercy…and worship him…”. St. Paul encourages us then, to respond by consciously welcoming the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit – wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord (wonder and awe) and live “...in a way that is worthy of thinking beings”.
As renewed “thinking beings” baptised into Jesus’ death (cf. Rom.6:3), we should live each day “…offering our living bodies as a holy sacrifice, truly pleasing to God”. This means being conscious that every action we take should draw us closer to God and not away from His presence. St. Paul’s wise advice - “Do not model yourselves on the behavior of the world around you, but let your behavior change, modeled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do” (Rom.12:1-2).
The advice sounds simple enough but is always a challenge to live out. Like the prophet Jeremiah, we may be derided and ostracized when we are prompted by the Spirit to speak against impending “violence and ruin” especially in the spiritual and moral areas of life in materially secure Singapore. We can become “a daily laughing stock, everybody’s butt” (v.7).
Some of us may have experienced Jeremiah’s anguish when we try to ignore the Holy Spirit’s prompting, “…there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it” (v.9).
It is possible but not easy to “put out the Spirit’s fire” (cf. 1 Th.5:19). When one succeeds in doing that, one has also chosen not to be modeled by his “new mind” and chosen instead to be modeled on the behavior of the world around. In Job, such a Godless person is labeled “a wicked man”, “The lamp of a wicked man is snuffed out; the flame of his fire stops burning” (Job. 18:5).
Perhaps this was what Peter was trying to do when Jesus spoke so harshly to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s” (v.23). Peter had earlier won praise from Jesus for welcoming divine revelation by acknowledging Jesus’ divinity, “Simon, son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven…” (Mt.16:17), but now, hearing Jesus speak of grievous suffering and death as the way to the miracle of resurrection, Peter made his choice of preferring temporal earthly life rather than miraculous eternal life through resurrection.
“Apart from the cross there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven” said St. Rose of Lima. The cross represents Jesus’ obedience to God’s will even to the point of death. It also reveals trust and faith in God’s word that He has the power to overcome death and resurrect those obedient to doing His will. Jesus affirms this, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it” (v.24-25). Through baptism, God has given us “new minds” to contemplate, understand and welcome this mystery of suffering by offering our living bodies as a holy sacrifice. Let us pray that we will not reject the cross.
SFX Bulletin, 1st September 2014