8 July 2007 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 10, 1-9 Being Effective Ministers of the Word of God
Jesus sends a lot of people. He sends the Twelve Apostles. Now, He sends seventy-two others in pairs, as emissaries ahead of him, “in every town and places He intends to visit.” Perhaps to check whether the places will be open to His teachings. If all of us Christians are missioned, what is the best preparation to become effective? How do we come to a total transformation of ourselves?
We want to change. We want to replace old destructive habits of thought with new life-giving habits. We hate to find ourselves easily judgmental, angry and vengeful. We do not like something in ourselves, and we want to get rid of it. We are imprisoned by our fears and anxieties. Many of us may fulfill our church duties, sing our hearts out, pray and live obediently, but we are still unchanged. The Lord said, “the truth will set us free!” Thus, our ecstatic experiences and ‘getting high on Jesus’ will not set us free from these destructive habits of thought, these fears and anxieties. What would set us free is the knowledge of the truth.
Nowhere could we see this knowledge of the truth than in studying. Many of us are hampered and confused because we are ignorant of the truth. How many parishioners in UP decided to attend other masses when they saw dancers? They didn’t know that there is, in Church worship, what we call liturgical dances, and dances have been constitutive of the manner of worship, with no other than King David worshipping God in dance! Ignorance indeed! St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans (12, 2) that we are transformed through the renewal of the mind. The mind is renewed by applying it to those things that will transform it. He said, “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, THINK about these things” (Phil 4,8). Studying is the method that would make us think about these things. Thus, studying is an experience in which we enable our minds, with the careful attention to reality, to move at a certain direction. For example, if you are a law student, there is a “language” you have to learn and speak. They include the jargons, “Wherefore, the aforementioned, etc.” If you take a nursing exam, the ‘jargon and language is different.’ Your mind is trained to think like a lawyer, a nurse, a doctor or an engineer. Our minds can also be trained to think like a Christian. In the Old Testament, they were instructed to write the Law in their gates and doorposts, or in their wrists as frontlets between your eyes (Deut 11, 18). Thus, if we train our thoughts about God and human relationships, we train our minds towards the truth, towards Jesus. The New Testament will replace the instructions by saying that we should write the laws in our hearts so that our hearts would lead us to Jesus.
How do we study effectively. Just remember two things. First, repetition. St. Ignatius even includes this in prayer. Repetition regularly channels the mind in a specific direction. Our habits are formed by repetition; thus bad habits, when repeatedly done, changes behavior— we become bad. There is a psychological method by Dr. Maxwell Maltz called, psychocybernetics. Dr. Maltz realized that our self-image defines and limits our potential, so our belief in ourselves may prevent us from achieving our goals. All we have to do is to affirm ourselves repeatedly. So, if you continually say, “You are stupid” perhaps you can say, “I am ok!” Our inner mind is trained to modify our behavior to conform to the affirmation. On the other hand, if you see too much violent films, our minds is set towards a destructive thought pattern; if you see to much sex in films, it creates a culture. St. Ignatius teaches us, Jesuits, a prayer before studying, at the start of the class, or before prayer: “Direct we beseech Thee O Lord, all our actions, and carry them on by your gracious assistance, so that every prayer and work of ours, may begin from you, and through You, be happily ended. Amen.”
Second, is reflection. Reflection defines the significance of our studying. Why we are studying this? Why is this relevant to my life? By reflecting, we get to see reality in God’s eyes. By reflecting, we get to enjoy studying. Reflection is the best way to love. Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov counsels, “Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the Divine mystery of things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day.”
By studying well, we become great leaders in our fields. St. Ignatius charges all of us Jesuits, not to stop studying. Study till you die. You see, by studying, we become the doctor who could do a successful surgery as well as explaining cancer to a 10-year old. We become the engineer who could build great bridges, as well as, bridge destructive relationships. In the spiritual life, we become effective ministers of God, by responding to His call in whatever manner and whatever way.