On first reading all today’s Scriptures seem a little obtuse, vague and even contradictory. They can be difficult to understand. Why on earth would Jesus instruct the "seventy others .......
‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. These words have become a standard English proverb. They originate in the poem Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope way back in the early 1700’s. I quote them here as a background for TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [WISDOM 7: 7 – 11].
Understanding comes to us through a cautious search for, and discernment of, a truly holistic appreciation for particular situations. The wise person takes time to think and reflect before ‘rushing into print’. This brings to mind those who give the impression of being pathologically addicted to the abuse of social media via ‘Twitter’. I am told that comments made therein are limited to a certain number of words. This, unfortunately, precludes the possibility of joining all the dots. The result (which includes the possibility of a good deal of hurt, cynicism and character assassination) becomes the personification of another proverb which speaks about bulls rushing around in a china shop!
Now (slowly and prayerfully) read in its entirety our first scripture for this Sunday. Then, against this background we begin by noting that understanding any challenge, problem, important question or doubt cannot be based on either a knee-jerk reaction or automatic, inbred, prejudice. In any case, as our Wisdom reading tells us – “understanding was given to me.” It is something which is GIVEN, not automatic! When this is realised, we reach the basic threshold of wisdom. “I prayed, and understanding was given to me. I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.” In its essence we arrive at real understanding (wisdom) when we begin the process of discernment WITH our Christian God, continue the journey in his company, and end it by acknowledging that “all good things come to me along with” him.
This approach is given a poetic ‘thumbs-up’ by words from TODAY’S PSALM [90 or 89] – ” Let your deed be seen by your servants … give success to the work of our hands.” In addition, THIS SUNDAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [HEBREWS 4: 12 – 13] provides us with the means to be used – “the word of God is living and active … discerning (sifting) … thoughts and intentions.” If I am to arrive at a true and holistic understanding of any problem, question or challenge, I must be able to honestly profess that the living and active word of God sifted my thoughts and intentions. I have not rushed in where angels fear to tread and acted like a bull in a china shop.
In the second paragraph of this week’s reflection mention was made of real understanding requiring all of caution, searching, appreciation of the real situation, and joining of all the dots. It was said that all of this TAKES TIME. TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 10: 17 – 30] covers all these important elements and considerations.
First of all, caution does not indicate or call for inaction. Caution involves careful and timely progress – a definite, open and honest movement forward. Caution merely outlaws rushing in and destroying the china. Then, as progress is made, we arrive at an appreciation of ALL THE DOTS, as well as a growing awareness a productive way of joining them together. If we are to really understand the meaning of the word appreciation, let us add a third proverb – do not criticise another until you have walked one mile in his / her moccasins. Finally, all this helps to ensure that the questions we may ask are not only informed but are ones that really NEED to be asked – otherwise we end up inventing the answers to our own questions. We lose the plot.
Today’s Gospel extract tells us that both the rich young man and Peter had lost the basic plot and were failing to join all the dots. They both asked the wrong questions. They shared the identical obstacle – an inordinate concern of material benefits and security. Peter, no doubt, would have been as uncomfortable as the young man with the answer each received. Neither of them truly understood what they were actually asking – both expected a neat formula which would contain an easy, convenient and comfortable solution.
So we go back to the living word of God that sifts our purposes – and weave it into a few words of Jesus from our Gospel verses: “impossible (if) not with God … all things possible with God.”