13th Sunday of Ordinary Time -
…the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself."*But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. (Gal 5:14,15)
Why is it so hard for human people to learn the lessons that Christ has taught us? What is it about us as religious people in particular, that we often are led into avenues and cul de sacs of self-righteous importance? I am as bad as the next, it is easy for me as a priest, and yes one who is both an academic and working in an Eastern Catholic tradition, to hide behind my calling-giving myself a platform to pontificate a little, my own ministry in a Catholic Church unfamiliar yet exotic to many Christians in the UK adds to that small bit of mystique. I do try not to fall into the ever present trap of showing off a little, being just that little bit supercilious, something I'm afraid faith people do have a slight tendency towards that kind of social sin, you know what I mean? When for instance we sometimes knowingly or unknowingly cut out from our conversations those who do not understand our language or symbols.
It's not easy, but like many, I do regularly make an act of contrition for my part in alienating anybody from the great love the Lord asks of us as his disciples, and we have helps particularly in the Scriptures, but we need to discern them carefully, pray through them and let the Spirit not ourselves speak! Here's an example, I'm reminded of the inalienable fact that Jesus does not call us to go backwards or remain in any past historical situation, we are people of today walking towards tomorrow! For some reason (is it insecurity?) there is a present day tendency amongst some of our co-religionists, to wallow in a past that is simply a pastiche, a cobbling together of their own perceptions, not all of them quite accurate.
That quote from L P Hartley's 'The Go Between' is so true: "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." None of us can return to a past that has been, it is not for us, not should we cause division by imposing our own preferences on others insisting that there has been or ever will be a golden age, the sinfulness of our communities should humble us about that viewpoint, particularly when we look at the Lord's own life and situation. No, for us the call as today's Gospel tells us, is onwards on 'the path to life and the fullness of joy in God's presence' (Ps 16:11) Jesus counsels us to 'follow him' but in words we would all do well to keep somewhere easily seen, insists, in the form of a well administered but kind rebuke, that we do move forward in active mission; Jesus said, "No one who sets a hand to the plough and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God." (Lk 9:62)
Is that hard, maybe, but it is an antidote to melancholia and that rather subtle sin of murmuring, comparing what was to what is in very nuanced and unfavourable terms, just look at those who compare Pope Francis to the previous one-no charity there! It's a warning from Jesus, a rebuke that should make us sit up and get on with the real work of ministry and mission, yes ""Let the dead bury their dead.* But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."(Lk 15:60) A last thought, all of this requires from us the sacrifice of ecumenism, not just towards other Christians or faiths, but firstly within our own faith family too, Christ prays that we all be ONE and that is unity not uniformity!
Brother Roger of Taize, last letter,
The final sentence was dictated just before he died, August 6 2005, but remained unfinished, perhaps so that you and I can finish it…and so 'widen'….?
To the extent that the Church is able to bring healing to our hearts by communicating forgiveness and compassion, it makes a fullness of communion with Christ more accessible.
When the Church is intent on loving and understanding the mystery of every human being, when tirelessly it listens, comforts and heals, it becomes what it is at its most luminous: the crystal-clear reflection of a communion.
Seeking reconciliation and peace involves a struggle within oneself. It does not mean taking the line of least resistance. Nothing lasting is created when things are too easy. The spirit of communion is not gullible. It causes the heart to become more encompassing; it is profound kindness; it does not listen to suspicions.
To be bearers of communion, will each of us walk forward in our lives on the road of trust and of a constantly renewed kind-heartedness?
On this road there will be failures at times. Then we need to remember that the source of peace and communion is in God. Instead of becoming discouraged, we shall call down his Holy Spirit upon our weaknesses.
And, our whole life long, the Holy Spirit will enable us to set out again and again, going from one beginning to another towards a future of peace.
To the extent that our community creates possibilities in the human family to widen…
A Psalm of Life
HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,- act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
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