Pastoral Message – July 2, 2023

Pastoral Message – July 2, 2023

Hey Y’all!

When I was in 2nd grade, my teacher entered each of her student’s classroom art project into the ceramics competition of the Missouri State Fair. It was the late 1960s – 1969 or so. I was 7 or 8. My art project was a molded ceramic hippopotamus. I painted the open-mouthed hippo a vivid blue with flowers around its neck – because it was a ‘flower child’ hippy sort of hippo. Very timely. Very H.R. Pufnstuf. (If you don’t know H.R. Pufnstuf, google it to see just how freaky those years were). I do remember painting a black dot on the hippo’s tusk because I had just been to the dentist and since I had a cavity, the hippo must share my dental plight. Even being a scrawny, small boy, I must have identified with the hippo. (They didn’t have the animal I really wanted, a honey badger).

So it was only to my surprise that such a masterpiece won only an “Honorable Mention” ribbon. I think the best rank of our class, a 2nd Place Ribbon, was awarded to Janice Baker for her psychedelic squirrel. My friend Boone’s black, blue and pink ash tray, which could have been attributed to Jackson Pollack, didn’t even get an honorable mention. Truthfully, I wasn’t crushed by the honorable mention. But it did indicate that I had almost no natural talent in the painted ceramic hippo department. I was OK with that.

I’m not reminiscing to boast – who would boast about “honorable mention”? – but I’d like to get you thinking about the nature of awards and then rewards. It’s possible that you too have an award or two in your personal history. Awards are given to acknowledge a job well done. Or in the hippo’s case, to evaluate a completed action. So, you won a race. You created a masterpiece. You got 100% on a test. You simply participated in a competition. An award is about something you’ve done and what you’ve done merits an award. But as such, it doesn’t speak about your quality of heart, wisdom or soul.

That’s the difference between an award and a reward. A reward is given because of your inner life, your virtue, your resolve. So a reward has to do with behavior derived from the state of one’s mind and heart. A reward is given for being honest. A reward is given when justice is served. A reward is the result of a state of grace.

Our Scripture readings today speak not about awards, but rewards. In the first reading, the childless woman who is evidently kind, considerate, hospitable, loving and more importantly Godly, receives a promised reward from Elisha the Prophet – a baby son. By acting generously toward the Prophet, she who aided and enhanced the Prophet’s life, was given the gift of new life. I would say we could make a connection. By acting generously, kindly and lovingly on God’s Church and His people, life and grace is given to us, who are followers of Jesus Christ.

And then in our Gospel, right after delineating the condition and cost of discipleship – that is, preferring Jesus, even to the point of sacrificing one’s own life – Jesus let’s us know the reward of being a Christian.

Whoever follows Jesus is rewarded with a life in Christ and a life in the one who sent Jesus. Our reward is a loving relationship with the God of all creation, all existence, all meaning.

So let’s not live for awards, although awards have their place. Instead let’s give ourselves over to acting on our inner lives, our virtues, our sense of love and self-sacrifice. Then those who receive us will be blessed. And we’ll be blessed with a life made wonderful in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

God bless you!!!
Fr. Reynold

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