This week’s scripture readings provide a superb example of how the Sunday lectionary actually develops themes which are intended to TEACH us basic lessons regarding our ongoing relationship as Christian...
An essential element of Jesus’ ministry was to establish an acceptance in us of the fact that we are bound together through, in and with him. We believe therefore, as Saint Paul tells us in
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [GALATIANS 3: 26 – 29], that “in Christ Jesus you are all (children) of God, through faith … you have put on Christ.” There are both a oneness and sameness about all men and women especially among us who “were baptised in Christ.”
This is not some sort of optional extra. Paul speaks of it being
“through faith.” This is the faith that we confess each time we pray the Creed. “I believe in the communion of saints.” This belief is never ever to be confined or limited to the basic tenets of ‘spiritual’ faith (e g the divinity of Christ or the number of sacraments in which we believe). Rather, it must include a real and sensitive awareness of our sharing in the spiritual force of a common humanity. This is not destroyed even by death. Yes, each person is different but it is these very differences which unify us in the reality of the fact that we are living persons – unique in God’s creation and his plan for the world. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” and we are all “heirs according to the promise.”
An essential part of our oneness is the fact that
we are all weak, sinful, prone to both good and evil – and we all fail to live-up to the grandness and potential of being fully human, truly alive. Truly it may be said that the Christian is only a true and faithful disciple when he / she strives to be wholly human and fully alive to the great possibilities provided, with and in Christ, of achieving that which is much more than a minimalist keeping of body and soul together.
No real authority has ever said that this is easy. Jesus himself tells us in
TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 9: 18 – 24] that “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.”This is far removed from the approach of the minimalist. First of all we need a daily recognition of who it is that, as Christians, we really follow. Jesus asks the same question of me as he did of the that first group of disciples – “But who do you say I am?”
The personal answer I must give is not given once and for all. Rather it needs to be repeated at frequent intervals – I need to remember and remind myself. I cannot truly follow with trust and confidence a vague figure from the past – it must be a real personand I must know precisely who it is. How else, as
TODAY’S PSALM [63 or 62] says, is it possible for me “to cling fast to you”, and remind myself that his“right hand upholds me.”
None of this makes any real sense unless I remember and remind myself of who he is.
In addition the psalmist tells us that very often my discipleship is a real challenge – “my flesh is pining, like a dry, weary land without water.” This, if we are brutally honest with ourselves, is true as we always remain frail, limited and sinful –
“my guilt I did not hide.” We are confident that he is ‘who he is’ because he “will pour out … a spirit of compassion and supplication … there shall be a fountain opened …. (so that we are able) to cleanse (ourselves) from sin and uncleanness.” The psalm also reminds us of this when it proclaims “for you my soul is thirsting, Lord, my God.”
We are all in it together – warts and all
. All of us experience dry periods and sometimes the drought may be extended – in me as well as others. However, in the good times does my harvest always include something which I will willing GIVE away to help others experience a few showers of rain? They are in need of assistance to pull themselves right. I will never be able to do this if I judge them harshly or fail to see all of us as equally, children of God bound together as heirs to the same promise.
I may well need their assistance in the future.