Thursday, May 17, 2007

Am I an Athenian?

Sixth Week of Easter
Mass Readings:
Acts 17:15, 22—18:1
John 16:12-15

St. Paul goes to Athens and is hit with a pretty amazing sight. The Athenians were such a religious lot that they wanted to make sure they didn't miss an opportunity, or really tick off a god. So they made a shrine to the "unknown god". Just in case they missed something! Don't want to get on the bad side of a god they missed.

Okay. I shouldn't make fun of the religion of people who have been dead for almost two thousand years. That is bad of me. The scene is almost comical and we can shake our heads and talk about how we think the Athenians got it wrong. Problem is that in many ways, we can be just like the Athenians.

Over the course of my priesthood so far I have met folk who are so petrified of getting God angry that they practice any and every devotion they can find. These folk are so afraid of doing something wrong that they live in constant fear of God. That isn't faith. Now don't get me wrong. I have daily devotions that I practice and they enrich my daily life. The problem is that if we are not careful, we can develop a faith complex. This faith complex drives us to try and hit every spiritual base known and unknown in an attempt to keep God happy. If we fear we have missed something then add another prayer or make up a new ritual for we think that surely will make God happy. Then, we become like the Athenians.

Devotions are good. Praying for the intercession of the saints is good. However, we must first heed Jesus' command to be faithful. Jesus does not want us to live in fear of committing an unknown sin so bad that God chucks out the window! A life of faithfulness is one that relies upon the mercy granted by Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Trying to get in every possible devotion we can and making some up just in case we miss something is not the life we are called to. We ar called to serve and not shut ourselves off in fear fo doing soemthing wrong.

Our life of faith must be founded upon Jesus' call to discipleship and faithfulness. Our prayer, our devotions should spring from our desire to serve Jesus and not out of a fear that Jesus will strike us down. That is no way to live and it is in no way what Jesus calls us to.

We can learn a great deal from the Athenians of 2000 years ago. St. Paul gives us an example of what toxic faith can do to us. It can cause us to rely upon doing instead of being, following ritual at the expense of faithfulness. We must always remember who and whose we. We are God's children, the faithful disciples of Jesus the Savior and vessels of the Holy Spirit! How blessed we are! Let's not burden ourselves with the fear of missing something that will send us to hell. If we live like that then we will miss the freedom of salvation. Let us be faithful Christians who pray our of gratitude and not out of fear.