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Let us start by reminding ourselves of two observations from last week. First of all the emphasis placed on the fact that the Church, which must always be
OPEN to welcome and receive, was given the authority of a mission not only to bind but also toloosen. These are the keys Christ handed over. Never forget that the Lord did not say anything about giving only one key …. he said KEYS, plural! Secondly, all this leads us to wonder whether the real description of the Church should not be a troopship?
Now let us introduce a fact of basic importance. This is that the Church’s
AUTHORITY should never be divorced from its MISSION.
So, this week we could well start with a thrust from
TODAY’S PSALM [63 or 62]. There we read “for you my soul is thirsting … like a dry weary land without water.” Let us return to the thoughts expressed in our reflection for the EighteenthSunday – about the disciples wanting to send the crowds away, and Jesus’ reprimand (and it was a reprimand) – give them something yourselves!
There are crowds – very often closer to us than we think – who are thirsting like a dry weary land without water. We must not send them away while pretending we do not have the keys to open up. Keys are not only there for locking up! Our contemporary society as a whole is one that is truly thirsting for God – yearning for a glimpse of real spiritual understanding and values.
What exactly are
WE offering as we continue to claim that the Church has something of real value to offer and share. It is no-good offering unless there is a willingness and openness to become involved in sharing. Here, in passing, let us be challenged by the closing words of TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [ROMANS 12: 1 – 2]. There we read: “do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Now again recall the words of Jesus in the Gospel proclaimed on the Eighteenth Sunday – “there is no need to send them away – give them something yourselves.” Then to this add what Jesus says to Peter in TODAY’S GOSPEL [MATTHEW 16: 21 – 27] – “get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” As has been remarked by a reputable biblical scholar we should never be guilty of an attitude of closure, if not hostility.
The Church – parish, diocesan, national, international, official and bureaucratic – is a reflection, in general, of what we ourselves are as members. It cannot be otherwise. If we favour the key for locking so will the ‘offices’ of the Church. If we opt more frequently for the key which opens then, slowly but surely, the same ‘offices’ begin to adapt their approach as well as adopting new methods. If we consult today’s Gospel we must, as members, honestly ask ourselves what are we prepared to lose in order to find contemporary methods of giving those who are searching something ourselves?
The respected biblical scholar referred to above proposes that much of what we have said requires the need to
recognise the favourable occasion God is offering the Church today. We, as Church, should not be kept within old horizons – and in this way equate habit with fidelity.
So we come to our
OLD TESTAMENT READING [JEREMIAH 20: 7 – 9]. The prophet proclaims “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah is referring to God’s word which he has been commissioned to proclaim and pass on to the Lord’s people. This communication has caused him to “become a laughing stock all the day; everyone mocks me. … the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision.” As a consequence he is tempted to throw in the towel but, as we see, he finds this impossible. The word has to be proclaimed, unlocked and made available even if opposed and unwelcomed. Recall what has been referred to a few times in the last months – ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of God. We may not like hearing this but it is true.
Locking up is a habit – but fidelity to opening and welcoming is much more challenging. However, as Jeremiah points out today, God’s message is strong and, in time, always prevails – especially when we recognise the favourable occasions the Lord offers.
Habit is not fidelity
– if we want to save we must be prepared and willing to lose some things.