Responding to Being Sent

Acts 8:26-40

In today's Gospel, Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me, draw him."  It’s often been said that, in the bible, none of its characters has had an experience of God without being sent in some fashion.  Everyone has been sent out on a mission by God. 


Moses sees the burning bush, he hears the voice, "Moses, I've got a job for you- go, liberate my people."  Peter says: "Lord leave me- I am a sinful man."  Jesus says, "Yeah, I know, now go I have a mission for you".  Jeremiah is called.  He says, O Lord, you don't want me, I'm too young." The Lord says, "Don't say you're too young. Now go, announce my word." And in the First Reading today, notice that the spirit says to Philip, "Go and join up with that chariot."  And Philip responded by running up to the chariot in haste and helps the eunuch understand the scriptures.  No one in the bible is ever given a sense of God without being given a mission. Action is required and in-action is not an option.


In a video produced Bishop Robert Barron, "Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues”, Bishop Barron goes through the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice or greed, gluttony and lust), and then explains the antidote for each of them, the Seven Lively Virtues.  As we reflect on the seven sins, the one that we may have spent the least amount of time contemplating when examining our consciences, is sloth.  In fact, on the rare occasion I come across it, I have to revisit its correct pronunciation.  Let’s examine…What is sloth?


The simple answer that is most commonly given would be laziness, but we need to dig deeper to find its spiritual connotation.  Thomas Aquinas defined it as having "sorrow for the spiritual good."  It’s a lethargy for spiritual things.  I might have a bundle of energy for secular things, but I can't seem to muster much energy toward spiritual things. That’s sloth.


Secularism is an expression of societal sloth - indifference to spiritual matters.  Where does it come from?  Pope Benedict said that it comes from relativism.  Intellectual relativism says that, what's good for you isn't necessarily good for me.  And intellectual relativism becomes spiritual relativism- the truth for you may not be the truth for me. We become a society with no moral boundaries. 


I liked the analogy that Bishop Barron gave that looks at rivers as they relate to slothfulness.  He says, think of a river- it’s got real definite banks, real definitive boundaries.  And because of that, its waters really move, its going someplace.  It’s directed.  And the banks in their sturdiness, are what gives it energy.  Now, what if you knocked down the banks- as if to say, they're not needed.  I don't want to limit the flow of the river.  I want the river to flow as it wishes.  Well, if we did that, the water will just empty out into this big old lazy lake.  It doesn't really go anywhere.  It just kinda sits there.  


Relativism says that there are no definite boundaries to life- there are no definite moral, intellectual, and spiritual truths.  With relativism, I (because there is no higher power) get to decide what is good and evil for myself.  This picture of a one time river that lethargically becomes this lazy pool of water - is the image of the slothful soul.


What is the antidote for sloth? Bishop Barron says that it is zeal for the mission.  In Philip's case, he didn't just do the eunuch a favor by being friendly and offering a few encouraging words.  He ran after him with zeal, sat with him, breaking down the scriptures. He was carrying out a mission, given to him by God. This scripture teaches us that we should to be totally open to what God has sent us to do.


We sometimes get stuck in our own very narrow, and limited, interpret-ation of what it means to serve God.  We say, yeah, we're kind to strangers.  We offer encouragement.  Relative to others, yeah, we're doing pretty good. But is it possible that God has sent us out to do more?  Do we have our sites set on zeal, or are we settling, sliding into sloth?


Cardinal Newman said "we've all been made for some divine purpose, to be a conduit of God's love in a particular way, and finding that divine purpose gives us the zeal to overcome sloth." It was Martin Luther King who was credited with observing that life is not worth living until you find something worth dying for. We need to keep asking God for answers, and then be ready to recognize them when they come.  He will send somebody along our path, some sign as to what our mission should be. The Lord works through everyone, including maybe even the next person with whom we have our next conversation.


So we ask God today to send his spirit in our direction as he did with Philip.  We ask for his spirit to stir our hearts, to open our eyes to see him more clearly, and tune in our ears to hear even his slightest whisperings.  We pray that our zeal for God will grow more each day and that we become even more faithful to his calling!


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