Archbishop François Fénelon (1651-1725) became concerned that too many in his congregation thought only of themselves. Yes, they had gone through hard times, but so had others. He knew that not everyone had an abundance from which to give, but everybody no doubt had something they could share. So, instead of scolding them, he wanted to provide them with a message of encouragement. Here are some of his words:

The first commandment of the Law alone is enough to banish all excuses to keep from responding to His command.[1] He invited them to observe how our Lord heaped together expressions that would anticipate everybody’s avoidance and reservations concerning God’s jealous love, requiring not merely the heart’s strength and power but that of the mind and thought. Who can be so self-deceived as to think one loves God if one does not willingly consider God’s law or try diligently to fulfill God’s holy will?

Be sure that all those reluctant to embrace what God’s love requires are still a long way off from obeying it. There is only one proper way of loving God: to do nothing except with and for Him, and follow his call with a free spirit. Those who try to compromise while holding on to the world with one hand cannot believe this, so they risk being among those “lukewarm’’ persons whom God will reject.

Surely, those careless souls who say, “l will go this far. But no farther” must be most displeasing to God. Is it fitting for the clay to dictate to the potter?[2] What would society think of household staff or company employees with such an attitude, not fulfilling their duties for fear of exposing their loyalty? And if that is the case, what will the King of kings say if we pursue such cowardly conduct?

The time is at hand; He will soon come; let us prepare His way. Let us adore that eternal beauty that never grows old and imparts perpetual youth to those who love no one above Him. Let us turn away from this miserable world, which is already beginning to crumble. How many great people we have seen pass away beneath the cold hand of death! We, too, will soon be called to leave this world we love so clearly, and which is nothing but vanity, weakness, and a mere shadow passing by.[3]

When the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, the people told the scribe, Ezra, “Get up, for it is your duty to tell us how to proceed in setting things straight. We are behind you, so be strong and take action.[4] But the Apostle Paul spelled it out differently for young Timothy to share with his congregation. He wanted to remind them they are God’s family. Here’s what the Apostle dictated: Don’t be harsh or impatient with the elders. Talk to them as you would your father and young boys to their older brothers. Reverently honor older ladies as you would your mother and girls to their older sisters. Take care of childless widows with no family or close friends. Tell these things to the people so that they will do the right thing in their extended family. Anyone who neglects to care for church members in need repudiates the faith. That’s worse than being an unbeliever.[5]

[1] Cf. Luke 10:27

[2] Isaiah 45:9; cf. Romans 9:21

[3] Fénelon, François: Paraclete Giants, The Complete Fénelon, Translated and Edited by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Press, Brewster, Massachusetts, 2008, pp. 28-29; Vocabulary redacted by Dr. Robert R Seyda

[4] Ezra 10:4

[5] 1 Timothy 5:1-8

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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