This week we encounter what would at first sight appear to be a repeat of Jesus’ words from the Gospel extract of the Sunday before last. However, TODAY’S GOSPEL READING [MATTHEW 18:...
This week’s readings provide a solid foundation for our efforts to move beyond any rigid positions (as mentioned last week) regarding the spiritual hardships endured by others
(recall last week’s reflection). However we need to start with a penetrating look into the OPENING PRAYER of this Sunday’s liturgy.
Lord, may your grace, at all times, go before and follow after us. Make us always determined to carry out good works.
Then, perhaps we could accept the fact and challenge presented by Ernest Hemingway:
So we can begin to reflect on the message of
TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [WISDOM 7: 7 – 11]. Wisdom may well be defined as the ability and willingness to see the holistic picture and avoid (i) self-pity, (ii) hardness of heart, and (iii) refusal to accept change by stubbornly adhering to a particular ‘space’. In his Encyclical Letter The Light of Faith, Pope Francis writes that “time is always much greater than space. Space hardens processes, whereas time propels towards the future and encourages us to go forward in hope.” Self-pity leads us to think that we are the only ones to experience any particular suffering / hardship, makes us stay in the same space, and becomes an enduring obstacle to growth in the broken places. Hardness of heart blinds us to the sufferings of others, refuses to accept change, and severely limits our ability / willingness to engage in an authentic outreach to those in need.
Let us return to the Opening Prayer and ask ourselves two questions. One – are we inclined to emphasise the corporal works of mercy
(housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked etc) and forget the spiritual ones (such as showing patience to sinners and forgiving others)? This particular question begs two others – do we really believe that the Lord’s grace goes before and follows after us? ARE WE BEING WISE IN OUR RESPONSE TO THE PRESSING PASTORAL PROBLEMS CHALLENGING THE CHURCH?
TODAY’S PSALM [90 or 89]
asks the Lord to “fill us with your merciful love … that we may gain wisdom of heart … give success to the work of our hands.”Does this plea find a home in us and in our time? Here I am reminded of words (indelibly imprinted in my mind and heart) read many years ago in the novel The Shoes of the Fisherman. The story speaks of a newly elected Pope who ‘escapes’ from the Vatican one night and walks in the poorer areas of Rome. He meets a Jewish family whose father is dying. The pope prays with the family and asks whether there is anything he can do for them. The answer is simple, direct and challenging – “dying is not the problem, living is!” Again, our Psalm has something to contribute – “let your deed be seen by yourservants.” Then we may profitably add some words from TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [HEBREWS 4: 12 – 13] – “and before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” We have to ‘do’ HIM in time, not in some past space.
TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 10: 17 – 30] I suggest we personalise the verses and apply them by analogy. The ‘things’ (positions, customs, established ways of process and judgement) we have always seen as belonging to us can often become a barrier to a wisdom buried in space but not rooted in time. We can grieve with Peter in the face of having to ‘give-up’ what is considered important or simply settle for the minimum like the man who asked what he must DO?
The Jesus who loves us asks for more!