Sunday Reflection with Fr Robin Gibbons - 30 August 2020



Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Do not conform yourselves to this age
but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,
that you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and pleasing and perfect. (Rm 12:2)

Several key words jump out at me, I also hope for you, in this passage from Romans 12, don't' conform, be transformed, discern! It's a mantra easy enough to make into some form of repetitive prayer:

'Help me Christ, not to conform to the evils about me,

may Your spirit transform my present life,

that I may discern the will of God . "

Somehow these words hit home at the confusion we find in being both Christians and people in a rapidly changing world. Out there in the great exchanges we discover on Social Media, the temptation is to succumb to the subtleties of advertising, to fall into the trap of becoming part of the great seduction. We see it in politics, one party pitted against the other, one personality dominating and truth always the victim! Christian faith is not immune from this persuasive culture, that is why Pope Francis and other wise spiritual leaders continually warn us against identifying with single-issue politics, or making one cause the focus of a candidates worth. If we do that we will find ourselves in a mess, our moral authority compromised because of the other issues we ignore.

Jeremiah sums up the foolishness of our antics, particularly taking the high moral road of judgement against others. 'You duped me,' he shouts at God, but this is not because he has the wrong message, far from it, he speaks the words of the Oracles of God, but because of truth he finds and then proclaims, he is rejected, persecuted, derided for doing so, usually by those who have conformed to the standards of the age, or who perhaps espouse single issue religious ideas or whose spiritual blindness makes them unable to discern God's will.

Jeremiah knows that being at one with the Most High is not an easy road, even after derision, hate, opposition of many kinds suggest that he desist, Jeremiah has to go with God, that is his route, that is his calling, for he is a friend of God who discerns what has to be done and said!

"I say I will not mention him,

I will no longer speak in his name.

But then it is as if fire is burning in my heart,

imprisoned in my bones;

I grow weary holding back,

I cannot!" (Jer 20 : 9)

That image of the fire in his bonce, the inner deep force that you and I also know makes the difference because that shows we are transformed, but it is tough and makes us vulnerable for God.

It is difficult to follow Christ, very much so, in Matthew 13 we have Jesus tackling Peter's avoidance of the consequences of following the Good News. Not for the first time Jesus rebukes Peter for his lack of discernment, his moral cowardice in wanting to avoid the confrontation against evil which must come. In verse 23 Jesus uses very clear words to indicate just how far Peter is from becoming somebody who is transformed in his relationship with Christ: 'He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do."'

Sometimes we need that kind of rebuke, I know I do, not because I am satanic, but because I am not opening myself up to the work of the Spirit, not allowing change to work its way into my mind and heart! To take up the Cross will be denial of things inimical to God's love, mercy, care, forgiveness and acceptance, to follow Christ means becoming a marginal person, to identify with all those Christ dearly loves. But, take heart, this route isn't always heavy, it has at its heart a deep joy, a sense of great fun, for in discerning we begin to see just how foolish we are, and we can laugh, not in derision, but in amusement at how easy it is to work out just what we try to hide, and then a deeper joy at finding a transformed life: "For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father's glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct."(Mt 16:27)


From Augustine's Confessions

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours."

Thomas a Kempis

The Imitation of Christ

Chapter 37

"At times, God will withdraw from you; at times you will be troubled by your neighbour, and, what is more, you will often be a burden to yourself. Neither can any remedy or comfort bring you relief, but you must bear it as long as God wills. For God desires that you learn to bear trials without comfort, that you may yield yourself wholly to Him, and grow more humble through tribulation. No man feels so deeply in his heart the Passion of Christ as he who has to suffer in like manner. The Cross always stands ready, and everywhere awaits you. You cannot escape it, wherever you flee; for wherever you go, you bear yourself, and always find yourself. Look up or down, without you or within, and everywhere you will find the Cross. And everywhere you must have patience, if you wish to attain inner peace, and win an eternal crown".

Prayer RPPG

'Help me Christ, not to conform to the evils about me,

may Your spirit transform my present life,

that I may discern the will of God . "

Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. You can follow him on Twitter: @RobinGibbons2

Tags: Sunday Reflection, Fr Robin Gibbons, Jeremiah

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