The SACBC Family Life Desk on behalf of the Bishops Conference every 3rd year uses the Sunday readings of weeks 21-27 of Year B as a foundation for a focus...
If, as it should be, we are in control of our own lives, that does not mean we are the masters. It is not only the master or mistress who is in control, but the servant also needs to exercise control over his own ‘department’.
In these past Lenten weeks we have reflected on matters like priorities, of establishing what exactly there is in us, and of coming to grips with the gift of the Lord’s love and generosity. AND, striving to introduce a realistic element of JOY into our faith and living-out of discipleship.
All of this indicates the need for us to take greater control of our lives and living – but never to make the mistake of seeing ourselves as the MASTER!
THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [JEREMIAH 31: 31 – 34] tell us: “they broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was the master … it is the Lord who speaks.” Then, THE GOSPEL READING [JOHN 12: 20 – 30] contains telling words from Jesus – “if a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.” In addition, the Gospel as a whole contains a number of parables about the master (lord or king) going off and leaving his servants in charge.
We are not the masters or mistresses. We are the servants – servants who must learn the secret of responsible and accountable stewardship.
Of course most of us enjoy being in control – not so much of ourselves but of others. We are partial to being the one in charge. POWER and STATUS(in its many forms) is attractive, and eventually becomes a drug to which many are addicted. There are a number of Gospel references which record Jesus warning against the danger of lording it over others …. the master not being greater than the servant, and (in answer to the question of who was the greatest in the kingdom?) the need for the disciples to become childlike(NOT childish!)
It is against this background that today’s Gospel extract becomes clearer and much more challenging.
Take a look at the words “unless a wheat grain falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.” In other words it is in yielding, giving way to being in charge and always in command and having matters done MY WAY that, very often, the best harvest is produced. It is possible to remain in control when one eases up on the master approach. None of this should be confused with weakness. It is the strong person who is able to recognise a better approach and know when to give way. It is a weak person who is stubborn and unyielding – and finds his or her security easily threatened. In certain circumstances a yacht only makes way by ‘tacking’! So, it becomes clearer what the Lord meant when proclaiming “anyone who loves his life loses it; and anyone who hates his life … will keep it …”
Here it is never a question of hating in the sense ofdisliking or holding it in abhorrence. Rather, it is a matter of holding your own life firmly within certain limits and boundaries of supposed influence. People become weary of dictators!
Was Jesus Christ a strong or weak person, an effective or ineffective leader?!
What was his secret? Well, we know (from many Gospel references) that he acknowledged the fact of the Father being the master of his destiny. Jesus was obedient to this fact yet remained, always, in control of his life and living.
Read and reflect on THIS WEEK’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [HEBREWS 5: 7 – 9]. In our context the key words and phrases are “…. to the one who had the power to save … submitted … he learnt to obey … but .. he became for all who obey him the source …”
THIS SUNDAY’S PSALM [50 or 51) adds valuable characteristics to all of this. The Psalmist asks that his offence will be blotted out … a pure heart created … the joy of the Lord’s help and a steadfast spirit given.
It is not always easy to admit tendencies to dominate (the offence!) but it must be done if a straightforward (pure!) heart is to grow. Then, we enjoy the Lord’s help in being steadfast in striving to achieve Gospel norms in the control of our lives.