Each of today’s readings raises serious issues for the person who wishes to follow Jesus along the way. A few phrases strike me in a particular fashion and I would like to reflect on these against the background of God’s call in Christ to all of us to live according to His way of love, justice and compassion. Ezekiel says that the Spirit of God “set him on his feet.” This reminds me that without the Holy Spirit, without grace, without the energy that is God’s gracious gift, faith-life is not possible, inner transformation is not possible, change is not possible, the movement into the wholeness that Yahweh-Shalom offers is not possible.
In saying this I remind myself that it is easier to do nothing than to do something, it is easier to be negative than positive, easier to be destructive than creative, and that I am an amalgam of these contradictory tendencies. That is why I have so often been stiff-necked, stubborn and rebellious, even cynical–because free-wheeling refusal to be responsible takes little effort and less understanding. To live the covenant, however, demands awareness; it calls for a commitment to be conscious of grace and of the practical implications of grace that must find expression in real, practical, reconciling, forgiving, growth oriented patterns of life and relationship.
If today’s gospel means anything, we must confront any tendency to judge others, take hurt and offence from them, reject them, and make the scapegoats of our own unrecognized, unaccepted aversions and resentments. We must become acutely aware of how we spread negativity at home, among our friends at work–or wherever–lest we become like Pharisees or Herodians, or those of Jesus’ own people who so readily rejected him. We must realize how easy it is to confuse reality with our own ingrained prejudices and preferred viewpoints. We need to see that every story has another side, every person has his or her own reasons for what they do.
With St. Paul I need to acknowledge my own “thorn,” my own complex, shadow, inferior function, potential for neurotic behavior; call it what you will, each of us has it! If I really want to be a disciple I must learn to rebuild the center of my existence on God’s terms lest I scatter myself and lose myself because I have no ground of coherent meaning on which to base my relationship with reality. This is spirituality, this is what psychology so often discovers we need. May we remember God’s grace, may we remember that it precedes us along the way, may we allow it to set us on our feet and make us courageous. May we permit it to energize us for the next few steps on the perilous, wonderful, bright, dark journey to abundant life.
Reflection Guide Questions (rjcg):
1. What where the opportunities I miss in life due to my negative perception and judgmental attitude toward others?
2. Why is it that I cannot appreciate the goodness in others and good things around me?
3. In what way does my faith in Jesus help me live for and like Jesus in this changing and challenging world?