Gifts are wonderful things! Some of them move us because of the generosity involved, others can touch us deeply because of the unexpected remembrance, and there are those which puzzle...
“… and it shall be known that the hand of the Lord is with his servants.”
This simple truth is emphasised in THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [ISAIAH 66: 10 — 14c].
I often wonder what about the past is more frequently referred to as formative events in our life and living – the good or the bad, the benefits or the hardships? What I did not have to enjoy in the past becomes a reason for berating the present benefits to living? What I was made to ‘do’ by parents and schools has evolved into a reason for no longer ‘doing’ it, or insisting that those under my authority ‘do’ it also? We all know the syndrome ….. when I was at boarding school I was ‘forced’ to go to Mass every day so why should I now be ‘forced’ to go to Sunday Mass? The lack of any logical connection between the two premises does not really exist but that makes no difference. In South Africa today the evils of the past have become the ‘whipping post’ for too many people for excusing their own ineptitude in coming to grips with current demands.
There is a real problem in my own mind with good folk who insist they much prefer the ‘old’ Church and its former ways but who consistently make their Sunday worship on a Saturday evening??!! Of course, to receive the Eucharist they have been fasting (even from water!) since the midnight of Friday?! Come off the grass and give me a break!
Why is it that we do not, nearly enough, recall the
REALbenefits and formative events of the past that were happy, positive, constructive, and growth-orientated with as much enthusiasm and ardour? Why did God allow the tsunami that devastated the islands of Thailand? Have you any idea how many times I have been asked that question? Well, today, I will start counting the days till I am asked why God allowed a woman buried for 17-days under the rubble of a building in Bangladesh to be found alive and rescued?! I could start laying odds, accepting wagers, and making a fortune?!
Let us add another few words from today’s teaching from Isaiah … “I will comfort you; you shall be comforted … your heart rejoice … you bones shall flourish.” Then, make a quick list of the times in your past when you have experienced that the hand of the Lord was with you, and that you were deeply comforted. How many ‘bad’ things have happened to me? How often have I been comforted? How do the
REAL (often taken for granted!?) gifts and benefits outweigh the hardships? Then, words from TODAY’S PSALM [66 or 65] might appear to be very relevant! “Cry out with joy to God … come and hear … I will tell you what he did for me … (did not) withhold from me his merciful love.”
My own personal experience of life and discipleship include chronic health limitations, more than one major crisis (failure and challenge), major disappointments, family disputes and fall outs (to mention a few), but as I look back I know I have, much more, experienced the hand of the Lord on me, his comfort, and merciful love. The audited balance sheet presents the truth of the ongoing presence and power of God-in-Christ – alive,
active, and far outweighing the debits and liabilities.
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL READING [LUKE 19:1 – 12. 17 -20] the Lord gives instructions on the manner of our discipleship in the particular ministries in which we are involved (SENT TO UNDERTAKE). Last week our CALL, was emphasised. Now we need to see the next step – we have to be SENT. “The Lord appointed … and sent them on ahead.”
Then we encounter the all-important aspect of a peaceful approach (unthreatening and undemanding). Here it is worthwhile recalling last week’s final observation concerning the counterproductive use of the ten-pound sledgehammer! We are not competitors in seeing who can chalk up the greater number of ‘converts’! Rather, we are all
PILGRIMS SEARCHING FOR THE TRUTH. The fact that we are not listened to or well-received does not negate the truth that “the kingdom of God has come near to you.” Yet, the very first outreach must always the same: “peace be to this house.”
It is also interesting to note that on their return the disciples announce their amazement that “even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Jesus warns them against “rejoicing in this.” We are not in the business of making anyone subject to us.
NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [GALATIANS 6: 14 – 18] “Peace and mercy be upon all who walk …” is the reminder Paul provides.