This year the Diocesan Priests Retreat, held at Mariannhill from 5-10 October, was given by Fr. Bob Jones SVD and was called an Earthen Vessel retreat.
Today I am reminded of a true story about a conversation between Blessed John Henry Newman and his niece, Jemima. The little girl once asked the cardinal if he was an angel? To this Blessed Newman replied: “dear Jemima, angels belong to heaven – cardinals to this world.” It is in this world that we Christians are put to the test – tests we sometimes fail. We are not angels but, rather,saints in the making.
It is in the making that we adopt a clear and specific way of living our lives. In essence our successes in achieving a realistic and visible Christian manner of life will frequently produce opposition, ridicule and hostility.
“Let us test him with insult and torture … condemn him … lie in wait for (him) … he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions.” [seeTODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING – WISDOM 2: 12. 17 – 20].
Very often, as we strive to be true to our Christian calling, we experience what appears to have been our draw of the short straw as others
“make trial” of us in an attempt to “find out (who we really are).” Here, TODAY’S PSALM [ 54 or 53] tells it all: “The proud have risen against me, and the ruthless seek my life. They have no regard for God.” However, the same extract tells us that “the Lord is the upholder of my life … I have God for my help.”
It is not easy to be ‘out of step’ as others march to a different tune. There is always a cost to pay. The committed Christian develops the habit of paying the cost – which is an essential element of being a saint in the making. I found it interesting that, in the last few weeks, Pope Francis told the crowds at the weekly General Audience that “in history the violence of the arrogant takes its toll but God does not leave us.” I thought this was a splendid summary and explanation of both our Psalm and today’s extract from the Book of Wisdom.
In the past your attention has been drawn to the fact that the New Testament reading is never planned to ‘fit’ with the other scriptures but introduces an ‘independent’ theme. However,
THIS WEEK’S READING [JAMES 3: 16 – 4:3] does add something relevant. The Christian’s efforts in marching to the Gospel tune is often “what causes wars.” When we are out of step the “selfish ambitions” of others are challenged ….. and if our different marching seems “open to reason,” successfully pointing to a constructive and productive outcome, there will be “jealousy.” Many people do not comfortably and graciously admit that their approach and tactics were neither the proper nor wiser routes (“the wisdom from above”). In fact, very often, their “passions remain at war.” They find it enormously difficult to march according to the ‘tune’ of the Gospel.
THIS WEEK’S GOSPEL [MARK 9: 30 – 37] becomes all important. Here we should start with the opening words of the GOSPEL ACCLAMATION – “God has called us through the Gospel.” THE GOSPEL HAS ITS VERY OWN UNIQUE TUNE. There is no other tune quite like it, and we must always be on guard against counterfeit versions. A ‘catchy’ tune is not necessarily good music.
The Gospel verses tell us that Jesus
“was teaching his disciples.” From time to time we do not understand fully and “(we) are afraid.” I frequently recognise that my own fear arises from the fact that, at different stages of my living, I am attempting to march with the Gospel tune but giving it a very different ‘beat’.
There is no doubt the disciples had failed to take-in the basic musical score of Jesus’ teaching and were marching to a different tune.
HOWEVER THEY KNEW THIS WAS THE CASE. If not why, were they silent in the face of the Lord’s enquiry as to the content of their discussion? The discussion is a poignant reflection of Saint James’ opening words that “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder.”
I must be wary of not becoming ‘too big for my boots’. Then I introduce disorder into my Christian living because I am attempting to have the Lord marching according to my tune.