In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

Whether I’m watching TV, or listening to the radio, reading news online, or especially on any social media outlet like Facebook – it seems to me that the predominate way that many people interact with one another is aggressive and adversarial and hateful. People are not discussing issues in a calm, rational, or certainly not loving way, rather people attack and yell and are filled with pride and self-righteousness. We are determined to be right, and no matter how we go about it, we are often determined that others accept our vision as the correct one. This mentality seems to affect people across every spectrum, including those of us in the Church. It’s certainly true that we proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, and that we believe this Gospel to be true and necessary for everyone. But the way we go about sharing this Gospel will have a significant impact on how people receive it. And the same goes for any other point of view as well.

Today’s Epistle reading tells us how we’re to act in our relationships with other people, and the list of words St. Paul leaves us with is the polar opposite of how we often behave. Mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and above all else, loving one another. Instead of just having a nice list of words that remind us of the traits of the Christian, I’d like us to at least have a small definition for each of these words…to help us think about the implications of what St. Paul is calling us to…maybe a bit more food for thought as we prepare ourselves receive the Holy Eucharist for the healing of our soul and body. The more aware we are of what needs to be healed, the more we’re able to receive the grace of God and allow it to work in our lives. So, to St. Paul’s list of Christian traits:

Merciful – mercy is essentially extending to someone a benevolence that they don’t deserve. We ask God to be merciful to us constantly, to show us mercy even though we don’t deserve it. We are to treat others not as they deserve to be treated, we treat them as the image of God. This would preclude our being harsh or judgmental towards anyone.
Kind – this is the exact opposite of being mean to people. We treat people with kindness, pleasantly, with a genuine concern for them. If we’re concerned for others, then kindness flows very naturally from that. There’s another trait of kindness, which is we do for others not expecting anything in return.
Humble – we’re not supposed to be puffed up and proud, as St. Paul says in other places. But neither are we to be falsely humble. Humility is really seeing things as they are, and behaving accordingly.
Meek – meekness is often seen in today’s culture as weak. The meek person doesn’t press for his own way, but neither is he simply without backbone. The meek man is the God-fearing man, according to the Saints. Our Lord was meek, but He also rebuked the Pharisees and ran the money changers out of the Temple with a whip.
Longsuffering – this means that we patiently endure the wrongs that people do against us, and we also endure the difficulties that come upon us in the course of our earthly life. Some people will use this virtue to say that Christians are gluttons for punishment – we don’t go looking for hardship, but we do take the hardship that comes and we patiently endure and offer our sufferings to Christ. He says that anyone who follows Him will endure trials, and we’re called to be longsuffering and to go through those things with grace and trust in Him.
Bearing with one another – we all fall, we all fail each other. The Scriptures constantly call on us to bear with one another, and not just to grudgingly do it, but to even to help our brother bear his burden. We can’t just get upset and snap or walk away, but out of our concern for each other we bear each other’s burdens and help each other along the path to salvation.
Forgiving one another – this is huge, because so many of the other things we’ve already mentioned require that we forgive people. We get a lot of opportunity to practice this, and we give each other a lot of chances to practice it as well. To forgive does not mean to forget, but rather that we let go of all of our ill will and hurt and anger. We may still remember that someone sinned against us, but we no longer hold that failure against them. Growing in Christ requires that we forgive each other, and not only our brothers, but even our enemies.
Love – everything comes down to love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). And we are called to nurture love, to strive to love the other as purely and unselfishly as God loves us.

St. Paul ends out reading by telling us to love, and to live with the peace of God in our hearts. We aren’t perfect, we’re fallen human beings struggling to do our best. So in that spirit, I’d like to end with a quote from St. Isaac the Syrian: “If you cannot be merciful, at least speak as though you are a sinner. If you are not a peacemaker, at least do not be a troublemaker. If you cannot be assiduous, at least in your thought be unlike a sluggard. If you are not victorious, do not exalt yourself over the vanquished. If you cannot close the mouth of a man who disparages his companion, at least refrain from joining him in this.”

We can’t always live up to the call of the Gospel, but as St. Isaac reminds us, there’s always something we can do to be more like Christ.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

Author Matthew Jackson