National church leaders gathering in Johannesburg from 21-22 October 2015 at Southern Sun Hotel OR Tambo International Airport, for the Annual National Church Leaders’ Consultation (NCLC), issued the following special...
TODAY’S ENTRANCE ANTIPHON
is a splendid, even if accidental, continuation of last week’s reflection of his Cross and our crosses in life and living. “I am the salvation of the people, says the Lord. Should the cry to me in any distress, I will hear them, and I will be their Lord forever.”
In any distress
– no matter what is happening God-in-Christ is alive, well and active in my life. He is there to enable and empower me to rise and meet the situation, get on top of it – and deal with it. Deal with it – and remember (as always) no magic wands! Remember also from last week that we need to unravel the parable of our own lives and redeem our own darkness.
The unravelling and the redeeming is possible if we do not overlook the challenges given clear expression in both
TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 55: 6 – 9] and PSALM [145 or 144].
Isaiah starts off by telling us to “seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” Our difficulty, too often, lies in our perception that in our sufferings we erroneously perceive the Lord to be absent, and having deserted us. My own personal experience, when coming to me senses, is that this is not true. Jesus as Saviour saves me from myself when I seek and call him in my suffering.
THEN HE IS VERY NEAR and I recognize that “his ways are higher than (my) ways and (his) thoughts (higher) than (my) thoughts.”
Then, I am able to remember that, as the Psalm tells me, “the Lord is kind and full of compassion …. good to all
… just in all his ways … “ (but do not overlook the rider which is added ) ….“close to all who call him.” It is so easy and not especially challenging to ‘see’ the presence of God when our lives are going well, successfully and happily. Why is it that so often we see suffering and trials as the Lord deserting us? This is the time when we need to call on him (without expecting an instant, tangible solution, which requires no specific, brave, response from us …. that wretched magic wand syndrome, again!) and recognize (unravel the personal parable) what he is suggesting and how we must go about it. He is kind and full of compassion, good to all and just in his ways. GOD-IN-CHRIST IS QUITE CAPABLE OF BEING GOOD TO US EVEN IN AND THROUGH OUR SUFFERINGS. Recall our RESPONSE to the Psalm: “should they cry to me in any distress, I will hear them, and I will be their Lord forever.”
In an unconnected way, perhaps,
OUR NEWS TESTAMENT READING [PHILIPPIANS 1: 20c- 24. 27a] illustrates our own tension and paradox in living through our trials and sufferings. Saint Paul seems to have had enough and clearly suggests that his immediate choice would be to ‘stop the world because he wants to get off’?! “My desire is to depart and be with Christ.” Yet, I suspect that this is a passing thought because he makes it clear that – even when they are severely incapacitated – Christ is honoured in our bodies whether by life or death . He ends by proclaiming a truth we all need to learn (even in difficulties) – the lesson of “only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel.”
TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 20: 1 – 16]
now challenges us to recognise a basic truth – which is that the householder does nothing wrong. He is perfectly just in his handling of thewage issue. Christian justice calls us to a minimum – what is fair, proper and correct. Hear what he says to one of them: ” friend , I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you, and go.” A denarius was a fair and just wage. It was the jealousy, envy and unrealistic expectation to expect more in the face of the householders free CHOICE to be generous to another. “I choose to give this last as I give to you.” It would have been quite fair and just to give the late-comers less, according to the tariff acceptable in that time. “Do you begrudge my generosity?” THIS IS THE QUESTION WE HAVE TO ANSWER? Notice that to the late-comers the original contract is stated clearly: “whatever is right I will give you.”
Very often, because we have been good and faithful servants we feel badly done by when having to face challenges and disappointments – especially when ‘late-comes into the fold’
SEEM to be having a much better deal from the cards of life. “They thought they would receive more.” Poor, little, me?!
So we end this reflection by once again quoting
DANIEL J O’LEARY from the same work as last week: “there are no hot-lines, ring roads or short-cuts to present our future redemption and fulfilment. If there were there would be no need for the Word to become flesh … (we must unravel our parable) the darkness and lightness of being, the long pressures and new releases of growing, the many little deaths and the many new beginnings that make up the health and wholeness of what we call the abundant life in the here and now.”