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One of my very favourite scripture texts appears in TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [HEBREWS 12: 5 – 7. 11 – 13] and is the closing sentence of our extract. I often suggest this reading to brother priests who are discouraged and come to me for spiritual direction. The powerful verse tells us:
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
My ‘fancy’ for these words rests on the challenge it presents – that when everything seems to be going wrong (sometimes as a result of my own sin, failing and ineptitude) I myself must become involved in the recovery and healing process. I do not expect the Lord to wave a magic wand (in reality he does not own one!). Our Father-Parent-God is not a person who invites us to ‘come here, let me kiss it better’.
The come to me all who labour and are heavy burdened (cf Matthew 11:28) involves going to him and taking his yoke! Very often the taking of the yoke involves a willingness to accept the discipline referred to in our extract from HEBREWS.
No sense sitting in a dark corner, bemoaning our fate – we are called to ACTION! I must stop feeling sorry for myself – lift the hands, strengthen the knees – and start putting right what needs to be corrected – and accept that somehow or other I might well have brought the problem on myself! “Make the paths straight!” Do you recall the crooked woman with the crooked stick? Perhaps I have not faced the possibility that in this particular situation I have got hold of the wrong end of the stick, and / or am blind to the fact that this sticks out a mile?!
I might well be lame for the moment but healing is available if I do not persist with what has proved to be lame, and which will only result in being permanently out of joint
In all of this we must always be acutely conscious of the fact that “his merciful love has prevailed over us; and the Lord’s faithfulness endures forever.“ [see TODAY’S PSALM – 117 or 116]
We need to be survivors! Survivors are always tested. Survivors have an important story (witness) to proclaim. Survivors understand. In TODAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 60: 18 – 21] we are told that the Lord “will send survivors to the nations.” In addition, the prophet informs us that the survivors will be given a special calling: “some of them also I will take for priests and Levites.” Our living and loving God can use those who have made straight their paths, and have stopped limping along, not turning the temporary lameness into a permanent (disjointed) disability! Very often such survivors are the most unlikely of people.
Believe it or not, there are too many disjointed Christians around. We cannot go on our way unless we stand-up STRAIGHT!
“Lord, will those who are saved be few?”
This is the question posed to Jesus in THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 13: 22 – 30]. It is vital for us to notice that, as always, Jesus does not play ‘the number’s game’. However, he does confirm the teaching of our Old Testament reading by saying “and people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.”
The Lord was never interested in quantity
. His message was always focussed on QUALITY! This characteristic is developed by each one of us through a series of ‘standing ups’ …. which are the results of perseverance. In the face of all those occasions, failures, disappointments, and disillusionments we have constantly to know that God-in-Christ is with us, and urging us to steady our trembling knees – otherwise we end up disjointed. Jesus Christ always knows survivors, and always opens the door to them.
The Lord never excludes anyone. However, it is possible that we could exclude ourselves
. The mere fact that we have eaten with him, and heard him preach guarantees nothing. Rather, it is a matter of HOW we continually eat with, and listen to, him in the face of our limping. We have the constant challenge of rehabilitating ourselves in the face of the various chaotic episodes which enter our lives and living.
CHAOS IS ALWAYS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR CREATIVITY!
We have to be comfortable with our pasts – not necessarily proud of everything, but comfortable. If not, then it means we have not grown from our mistakes – and blown our successes above their merit.