January 31, 2013 - Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time

Hebrews 10:19-25
Psalm 24:1-6
Mark 4:21-25

Our first reading from Hebrews reminds us of our duty to our fellow Christians: “We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works.” It is possible when trying to make progress in the spiritual life to confuse Christianity for one of those Eastern religions where a devoted person slowly achieves mastery and becomes very powerful, trying to become a Saint by mastering Christian spirituality. A Christian becomes a master only when they forget about themself.

When Hebrews tells us that “we should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another” a certain kind of selfishness is condemned, where a person thinks only of their own relationship with God and the progress they are making or failing to make. There may be a place for this kind of self-concern in the beginning stages of the Christian life, when the new Christian is actively converting bad habits of life. But just as an adolescent becomes an adult when they take responsibility for another, growing up in the faith means being less self-centered and more focused on others.

Eventually a serious Christian will reach a point where they have removed all attachment to sin and are ready to move on to the purpose of the Christian life: love of God and love of neighbor. This will not include the end of every sin or even the end of every tendency to sin. Though the Devil will always lie and call sin good, the attachment is broken when the lies are seen clearly and sins are committed with a sort of freedom which has all the potential for sanctity or for evil. It is a mistake when, upon reaching this point, the threshold of maturity, the Christian continues trying to root out every sin. This will never happen. We will be sinners until the day we rise.

The mature Christian instead ought to turn to those around them and love. They ought to forget themself and pay attention to others. This is the first way that a Christian becomes a shocking creature to the world. The world is not surprised by a person trying to make themself better. The world is astounded by someone who begins to truly encourage others. After all, we are lamps and Jesus did not light us in order to put us under a basket. After a lamp is lit, the lamp itself is forgotten and becomes useful.