The Practical Needs the Holy Needs the Practical
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
One very sloppy winter afternoon a student walked into my office to tell me that he wanted to talk about prayer and holy stuff. “I think we make way too much of the religious side of things and way too little of the practical needs of people. When I think about Jesus, the holy stuff takes a back seat to the practical stuff. The point of everything is that people are in need and God wants us to help them.”
“There’s a lot of truth in what you’re saying but there’s an important problem too,” I answered. “Think about what Jesus asks of us: we’re to love others – including our enemies – as we love ourselves. We’re to be merciful. We’re to share what we have with those in need even when that sharing lessens our personal security. We’re to put our selves and our welfare on the line for the welfare of folks who are threatened. We’re to totally focus our energy on the world of justice and love that’s God will. Nothing is to be more important to us than that: nothing.
“When we realize all the necessary areas of cooperation with God that Jesus stressed, the task is superhuman. That’s where the holy stuff comes in. Everything that our Tradition holds sacred is something that puts us in touch with God’s involvement in human life. It reveals God’s power at work in and through us. It reminds us that we face faith’s daunting task alone.
“There’s a saying: we can’t give what we haven’t got. The holy stuff strengthens us for the practical stuff. It’s to align us with God’s work day in and day out, when we feel up to it and when we don’t, when it seems to make a difference and when it doesn’t.”
Sometimes it sounds like the holy stuff is all that matters for a Christian and the practical stuff of life is a distraction to faith but it’s not so. The holy and the practical are inseparable. The prayer and sacramental aspects of our lives are necessary for the success of the love and justice part of our lives. And the love and justice part of our lives give meaning to the prayer and sacramental part of our lives. They’re the inhale and exhale of Christian living.