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First Things (. . . and Kings) First


“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or they drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.” ~ Ezra Taft Benson

My travels this week, as rare as they have been as we close out an exceptionally tumultuous and socially distanced 2020, have brought me to Collierville, Tennessee, a sleepy but burgeoning suburb just outside of Memphis and the Church of the Incarnation. An appropriately named church in light of the recently observed Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord as well as the Christmas Season we continue to savor, Daily Mass here at the Church of the Incarnation is celebrated in the cozier Saint Therese of Lisieux Chapel, a place of worship befitting this prodigious and wildly popular saint of our church The photos I use in support of the remainder of this week’s reflections will be taken from within the sanctuary and narthex of this Church. I think you will come to agree that the statues, artwork, and stain glass windows are rather amazing.

The Apostle John wastes no time in getting down to business in today’s 1st Reading (1 John 2:12-17). “I am writing to you, children,” he begins “because your sins have been forgiven for his name’s sake.” To consider the gravity of this message within the context of the time in which it was proclaimed is to get a better sense of how radical and profound this proclamation truly was. It was of course Jesus who died for the sins of all mankind. This would be his mission. His destiny. As discussed yesterday, his arrival on the scene would essentially change the divine order of everything The prescient holy man and temple dweller Simeon summed it up succinctly and perfectly in Luke 2:22-40 when he prophesied “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel” (2:34). Those who accepted him as their Savior would never die. Those on the other hand who rejected him and his message of repentance cans redemption would be forced to spend eternity separated from him in all his glory. In a word, hell. This would be their hopeless and horrid fate.

“Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him,” John would go on to say as this Passage unfolds. This lesson from John underscores the importance of exhibiting and practicing a disciplined restraint as it relates to the secular trappings of this world. All throughout Scripture, Jesus speaks of the impossibility of serving two masters; it simply cannot be done. To first love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Everything lies in this, for all good things flow from this.

“Where is the Love?” This is a popular expression/question particularly amongst our youth? A song has even been written which bears this title. In reality, the better question in my view is ”Where is Your Love?” For this is the question that each one of us must periodically ask ourselves by way of a thorough examination of conscience. For as the great Church of England Anglican Priest William Law once said, “If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead.”

Lord, I give to You my whole mind, heart, soul and strength. Help me to love You above all things and in all things and, from that love, help me to love those whom You have put in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.” ~ Amen

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