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 believers with Jesus Christ.

Last week we reflected on the need to develop the HABIT of applying specific Gospel norms to the questions, challenges, disappointments and struggles involved in the faithful fulfilment of our discipleship. This week we hear a lesson regarding a few matters which are obstacles to the habit of applying Gospel norms and standards to the ordinary challenges of discipleship.

So we start with

TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE [EXODUS 32: 7 – 11. 13 – 14]. The reading states that the people “have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it.” We become impatient with God-in-Christ and slowly but surely wrest the power from his hands: “they have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded.” Is it a matter of staying power?! The Lord’s way does not seem to be working as well as I would like so the habit of ‘waiting on him’ is replaced by the habit of ‘taking over’we give his way a tweak here and a tuck there. We evolve into varying degrees of being “a stiff-necked people.”

There are a few words in the Rite of Ordination which have long arrested my attention –

“may God who has begun the good work in you bring it to completion.” What we too easily and quickly forget is that, like the people of the Exodus, we are still on the road to completion, perfection and fulfilment. We have to give our God a chance to bring HIS good work to a satisfactory conclusion. This is done by cooperating with him and his norms – not by taking over. We all must develop the habit, and learn the difficult lesson, of WAITING ON GOD! Too often have I pulled the rug from under the Lord’s feet. It is as if I want to remind him that I am still waiting and becoming somewhat irritated by his perceived tardiness.

So we see the lesson continuing in

TODAY’S GOSPEL [ LUKE 15: 1 – 32]. Have a careful look at the younger son. Certainly he is not much into ‘waiting on God’! “Father, give me the share of the property that falls to me.” He got his portion “and took his journey into a far country.” It was HIS journey – which, in fact, took him right back into the slavery of the land of Egypt. Unlike the man who lost one of his sheep, or the woman who loses one coin, there is no interest or enthusiasm in conserving, repairing or bolstering the basic inheritance and waiting to see how it grows and develops. The younger son takes over and pulls the rug from under God’s feet.

On the other hand we have the elder son who plods along with a remarkable lack of real enthusiasm or commitment. In fact the outward show of his ‘waiting’ is dissipated by an ever-growing resentment with what he perceives as the father’s disinterest and lack of generosity. This lack of enthusiasm should also be recognised in his inability to appreciate and develop the relationship of intimacy which is actually already in existence. In other words, unlike the owner of the hundred sheep or the ten coins, there is no enthusiasm for keeping intact what he already has and should be enjoying.

Our

NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [1 TIMOTHY 1: 12 – 17] adds its voice to another aspect of our Gospel …. Christ does not abandon us and no obstacle (even if self-imposed) can prevent the Lord’s plan of being fulfilled. We need to stop tweaking and tucking. In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis states that “challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness and our hope-filled commitment.” {§ 109} The younger son, like Saint Paul, became a bold realist, the elder son lost his joy of living with the Father and was reluctant to overcome the challenge.

Losing our joy, our excitement and enthusiasm is the biggest threat to our discipleship

. We must develop the habit of constantly renewing a steadfast spirit within us. {see TODAY’S PSALM 51 or 50}

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