18th Sunday in 0rdinary Time
With all the talk of tribalism going the rounds, particularly in political discourse, religious people should be setting some example of inclusivity, but we are not. The mentality of the so-called 'culture wars' across the globe, but mainly the US and Europe, has infected and infested our communities of faith. Too often people in the Church portray themselves in contra distinction to others, it's artificial because faith is not about what we wear to church or how clergy look in vestments, habits, cassocks or whatever, nor does it matter what language we pray in, God after all is not a Classicist or a Shakespearean academic, nor bound by any tongue. These are all artificial constructions of the human, not the divine person!
There's a deeper problem here, and one which we all need to take seriously, for the origins of the Church lie in Jesus but are interpreted according to the historical circumstances of a given time. How then do we know what is true, what is the source of liturgy or doctrine for instance?
The answer lies in good biblical and historical teaching based on good scholarship and accurate knowledge, by informed discussion and a solid understanding of the living tradition of a Church much wider than that we think we know. There is an inner and spiritual poverty when we are wilfully ignorant about our faith. We cannot be like the rich man in Luke 12, who had only one focus in life, but lacked knowledge of the things of God, as Jesus said of him, "one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God."(Lk 12:21). How then can we avoid this narrowness of vision? Maybe we have a small answer in something Paul writes.
So let's ask each other a question based upon this quotation from Colossians 3, 'Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian,* slave, free; but Christ is all and in all'.(Col 3:11). It's simple, when was the last time you openly spoke about or heard others say, that in Christ there is no distinction between peoples? I wonder because I detect all kinds of prejudice operating at all kinds of levels, some of it masquerading as religious faith: 'God created this, God does not like that!". When we are tempted to put ourselves on a religious or societal pedestal, or worse still when we decry others for not thinking or doing as we would like or as we think-then we need to face ourselves in the mirror of our conscience and hear this rather unequivocal voice of God: 'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?'. This in its own way pushes back on the right path, we can answer,' they belong to us all', for we are all parts of the one body of Christ!
From the Journals of Etty Hillesum
"God take me by Your hand, I shall follow You faithfully, and not resist too much, I shall evade none of the tempests life has in store for me, I shall try to face it all as best I can…. I shall try to spread some of my warmth, of my genuine love for others, wherever I go…. I sometimes imagine that I long for the seclusion of a nunnery. But I know that I must seek You amongst people, out in the world. And that is what I shall do…. I vow to live my life out there to the full."
Etty Hillesum's Biographer on her vocation
"Mystics are people who begin their quest for wisdom or for God not in the world of externals but in the microcosm of their own soul. There they allow themselves to be fully present to the experiences of a deep-felt joy or sorrow, of beauty or suffering, of gain or loss, so that these opposing poles might in time reconcile and grow and ripen into a harmonious whole. Once this inner harmony has grown from within and wells up as a peace that defies all rational explanation, mystics can carry this inner harmony into the world, thus becoming catalysts in the transformation of the world."
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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