19th Sunday in Ordinary Time -
For some reason these particular words of Jesus recorded by Luke leapt out at me as I read through the Gospel. 'Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more'. (Lk 12:48b) This may be because I felt the weight of being the Director of Summer Schools, a mixed blessing, which does carry with it some extraordinary demands on time and patience from staff and students alike. Much is demanded from those of us in charge, including some gentle 'parenting' skills useful for adult children!
However the context we need to think about is that of faith, and our commitment to Jesus. We are certainly assured that there is no easy option in discipleship, but isn't that life anyway. I don't know many people whose stories are one long fairy tale (or at least a happy fairy tale), all of us have to put up with problems and yes, sufferings of one kind or another. This is often made easier by the help of others who come to our aid, yet that deeper and inner painfulness of spiritual aridity and suffering is far more difficult to deal with.
The story of Abrahams and others faithfulness recounted in Chapter 11 of the Letter to the Hebrews, is one about faith in action, but it has a nice twist that we can find comfort from and with. Their story is not necessarily understood as faith revealed in the fulfilment of promises, but as is so poetically described, as faith that glimpses the hope from afar; "all these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own" (Heb 12:13,14)
Hidden in that remarkable set of sentences is what those who believe in the promises of God revealed in Christ have often called, 'the long search'. This is the heart of our faith, not a certainty revealed in proof texts and solid facts, but a yearning deep within, that reminds us this life is only part of something greater, and there is so much more we will never fully know in this life. It's the vision glimpsed, the hint half guessed, the sense of a journey to somewhere we can rest in peace forever.
Isn't that part of our dilemma, the sense that life is changed not ended in death, that though we live our lives as fully as we can here and now, more is asked of us because of the prize we must all search for, the pearl of great price! I have a sense even in the darkest moments that the Lord never leaves me but asks me to look again, reflect on the challenge that is given, then discover that voice of hope and share it with my sisters and brothers. Here perhaps is the phrase we can comfort each other with this week: "Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them". (Heb 12:16)
Brother Roger of Taize
Extract from Last letter on Hope Aug 16th 2006
God did not send Christ to earth to condemn anyone, but for every human being to know that he or she is loved and to be able to find a road to communion with God.
But why are some people gripped by the wonder of a love and know that they are loved, or even cherished? Why do others have the impression that they are neglected?
If only everyone could realize that God remains alongside us even in the fathomless depths of our loneliness. God says to each person, "You are precious in my sight, I treasure you and I love you." Yes, all God can do is give his love; that sums up the whole of the Gospel.
What God asks of us and offers us is simply to receive his infinite mercy.
That God loves us is a reality sometimes hard to comprehend. But when we discover that his love is forgiveness above all else, our hearts find peace and are even transformed.
And then, in God, we become able to forget what assails our hearts: this is a wellspring from which we can draw freshness and new vitality.
Prayer of St Clement
We ask you, Master, be our helper and defender. Rescue those of our number in distress; raise up the fallen; assist the needy; heal the sick; turn back those of your people who stray; feed the hungry; release our captives; revive the weak; encourage those who lose heart. Let all the nations realize that you are the only God, that Jesus Christ is your Child, and that we are your people and the sheep of your pasture.
(1 Clement c. 96)
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