7th Sunday after Pentecost 23.7.17 Character
We are promised a very great reward at the end of our lives, eternal joyful life.
But we would like a little more happiness before that. We might have a feeling that we are not being sufficiently compensated in the short term.
We love the idea of heaven, but is there anything sooner?
Well, reward comes in many forms. Our Lord promised His disciples that if they forsook father, mother, etc they would be repaid a hundredfold …even in this life (Mk 10,29-30).
Not a hundred times more assets, but in terms of satisfaction we would be a hundred times happier than if we remained attached to all those things.
We find that in this life we can have a workable level of happiness. While we do not usually feel like dancing in the street, there is a steady sense of contentment that enables us to proceed in hope of better things coming.
If we do things God's way we will experience love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Ga 5,22). We will have these things in ourselves even if they are not in surrounding circumstances.
If we need extra incentive we are told (epistle): the wages of sin are death. Sinful life leads to sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy (Galatians 5,19-21).
We keep a slow and steady pace, realizing that whatever difficulties we encounter are permitted by God for our purification.
And to increase our capacity to enjoy eternal life. This can be called the building up of a Christian character. The suffering enables us to direct ourselves to longer term goals. We recognize the transient nature of earthly happiness, so we look beyond for something better.
Christian character means that we understand doing good and being good, not just as obligations, but arising from a purity of mind and heart which seeks to please God.
In such a person there is a consistency between thought, word and deed - all of which are designed to please God, whether they be public or private, and whether or not they will receive approval from others.
This is our reward! If we are developed to this point we find that goodness will flow naturally from a proper relationship with God – like a branch from a tree (Jn 15, 5).
Or like a tree which bears good fruit (today’s Gospel). We bear good fruit because we are good all the way to the inside.
The goodness asked of us is more than just doing a few helpful deeds around the place, like bringing in the neighbour’s rubbish bin, or lending the lawn mower.
The good asked of a disciple of Christ is much more demanding. It requires us to love God above all else, meaning to put His will ahead of one’s own at all times.
This requires all sorts of things, like forgiving enemies, helping the poor, never losing our temper, always being humble etc.
It takes constant prayer and interaction with God to be like this; to get the right perspectives, so that we are not looking for instant delights all the time, but able to go the whole distance.
And to see that our religion is our whole life, not just a part thereof, or an external gloss.
The wages are coming. Not in money, but in interior joy; simply being good, and the peace that comes with that.
We are then like a bird in flight, or a fish swimming. We have discovered our true identity - a child of God, a disciple of Christ, operating at full capacity, as we were always meant to be.