Brooding on Today’s Gospel (Matt 19: 3 -12)

 

Today’s content is topical – lines that give substance to our Christian observance of the sanctity in marriage, and our “official” attitudes to divorce and celibacy. Texts, taken literally and often used to strengthen arguments, providing the moral high ground. The lines, “Have you not read that the one who made them (man and wife) at the beginning ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”, are I think, are too often quoted in isolation from the rest of the discourse on matrimony.

With the benefit of history, we find that “cherry picking” sacred texts is a failing in all faiths when making a point. In the wrong hands it becomes a dangerous tool for introducing conflicts among faith groups, and also dissensions within a society. When Jesus makes the case of divorce it is significant. He introduces an exception to the rule. It makes me think, when read along with the reference to Moses’ command on divorce, that Jesus did not intend His exhortation on marriage to be taken as absolute. (a) Like Moses, Jesus seems to be addressing the “novo stiff necks”, who do not accept the changes he proposes (b) A broad interpretation could be “If you follow the letter of the law, the law will not protect you when you lockup your spouse and physically and mentally abuse her”. (c) It seems a paradox that when he offers adultery as a grounds for divorce; he can also show massive compassion to the woman caught in adultery. He shows the same compassion towards the Samaritan woman at the well.

The paradoxes resolve themselves when read in the light of the demanding task Jesus poses; that of being as perfect as the Father. To enter the kingdom of God one need to be god-like. The message resonates through Jesus’ evangelical mission. The challenge is not in the observance of the law, but in the acceptance of our humanity and our reliance on the mercy of God. We need to acknowledge our own sinfulness, and turn to God for compassion and forgiveness. He assures us that though we may repeat offences a myriad times (70X7), He will forgive us. Though our souls be crimson as sin, he will transfigure us, making us bright like the sun. He will do this because He loves us.  For this he assumed human form, suffered and died. He deliberately posts the goal very high, so that in the very reaching we return that perfect love. Each discourse is more a challenge of intent rather than an enslaving prescription – Jesus came to set us free not to enslave us.

Prayer:

Lord, I come before you, sinful and sorrowful. Let me not get ahead of myself. If I am bold, I am emboldened by your words, “If I do wrong show me. If not, why do you strike me?” Let your words be ever in my heart to guide and to teach me the way I must go. Let me see you in nature, in the holy scriptures and the faces I encounter on the way. Amen

Reflections on healing of the Lost Sheep

 

Matthew 18:15-20 ©

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone …   if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

  ‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

 Today’s passage comes after the parable of the Lost Sheep, which is a lesson on God’s mercy and compassion. Notably, that passage opens with the caution to treat little children with proper care. Today’s text is an instruction on how disciples should treat differences with and faults of their brothers (and sisters). Basically, the call is to treat the offenders with compassion. If reasonable attempts to bring the brother to reconciliation fail, i.e. if he shows no signs of the wanting to alter his ways, treat him as a gentile or tax collector (outsiders).

The sacrament of Penance (reconciliation) hinges on this edict by Christ – the extension of God’s mercy and compassion to His beloved creations. He will give them every chance to repent and recover a state of grace (friendship) with Him. The Church believes that no sin is too big that it cannot be forgiven by God. Though people may offend and reoffend, 70X7 (infinitely), absolution is guaranteed, if the contrition is from the heart. How then can a priest (representing Christ), break his professional oath of confidentiality. It is essential, both for the process of healing, and is a reassurance that the contrition is between the sinner and his savior. What is bound here is bound also in heaven. The Church cannot surrender this sacred duty. Not only priests, but many believers will be prepared to be martyrs in the service of God. A nation built on Christian values and traditions would do wrong to dismantle what is a practice of religious freedom.

 

The Way To Dusty Death

 

I asked the mountain to move

and a rock landed on me,

transfixing me to the desert sands;

a mill-stone of my own making.

 

Parched, I cannot move;

the weight of yesterdays sink deeply

deeply to my soul.

If motionless, I find relief.

I relax and let go.

 

A distant cloud bursts

and a gentle zephyr brings the text

“In you I am well pleased”.

Is this the way to dusty death?

To Be or Not To Be?

 

The prince is here to make his plea. Every crow in town has heard it. With the lusty mob at the sidelines I have cried, “Hang him for his bad choices.” The courts allow it, the Church allows it and every Australian allows it. So let the show begin.

Both parties are entrenched for a long drawn battle for attrition. For, neither side will flinch away from an unsatisfying outcome at this stage. They are prepared to go to the top courts. Yet. When the battle is lost and won, what then? Will our confidence in our social structures and legal process be vindicated? Will the winning of the holy grail (the golden pound of flesh) satisfy those whose hopes have been amplified? In short, will we accept the umpire’s decision (s)? Can a verdict pave the way for meaningful rehabilitation? Will sullied reputations be restored by true contrition?  Will we be big enough to absolve the villains of the piece with, “It was a good bit of copy while it lasted, mate”.

Winds of Change

Does the Church need to be reformed? Of course. It is natural. The whole of creation is constantly changing; evolving toward God’s predetermined omega point. So, why should not human structures and celebrations keep in touch with the emerging shifts in human consciousness and spirituality. Stagnation is the first sign of a diminishing relevance. This is manifest in the growing “enlightened secularism”, which grows when people, facing exciting world changes, cannot establish a successful religious co-relative. Truth is eternal: it is the movement of facts that confuses and confounds those perilously hanging on to childhood myths and Sunday School lessons.

For all the criticism, the Church is sensitive to the people’s need to establish a link with the Almighty, but, within the environment that is ruled by the new Baal. The attraction to his high alter, based on empiricism, is irresistible. The elite see themselves as being in control of their own destinies, based on scientific facts and technology. It relegates religion to irrelevance; its practice an opium of the masses. In the Sixties, through Vatican Council II, the Church sought to establish its ground for the Twentieth Century. With mixed reactions we have moved on. The Church of today feels foreign to many who developed their spirituality prior to VC II.

We argued our points of view. Some finding that the Church was going too far from its historical roots. Others felt that some were dragging their feet and not implementing change fast enough. The debate between “Traditionalists” and “Modernists” continues today.  Dissent is good for the health of the Church and its survival in the Twenty-first century. But, there are emerging social challenges to dogma, the hierarchy, morality and socially accepted values. The faithful need guidance and reassurances. We are fortunate to have a broad-minded Holy Father, who empathizes with the faithful and leads the magisterium in the way of compassion. Grace of the Holy Spirit assures that which is to come is good.

Lectio Divina, 20/07/17

In you alone lord I find rest. I labour under guilt of my many sins and offences. Fears fill my heart of time gone bye. Enemies I did not seek, oppress and torment me. By day they harass me and bring to naught my efforts at being myself and your son. I seek only to do your will, yet evil prevails and turns my acts to dust. By night I toss in the mire of my imaginations. Demons seek to destroy me. In my agony I cry, “Lord. I am overburdened.”

One thought only sustains me – “Help me Jesus or I sink”. What is my Yoke, Lord, that I should complain? You took on your shoulders the burden of our sins. For our sins you suffered dearly and died a criminal’s death to save me. Who am I to complain? From you have I received great gifts and wonders. In your presence I have seen miracles and acts that would transform sinners. I am blessed not to deny your wonders. Because I believe you give me rest and lead me to still waters to refresh my soul. Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

How easy my burden Lord when I link it to your yoke. Teach me Lord to be meek and to accept all that comes as a blessing of your loving Father. Let me drink of my cup in sacred memory of the cup you so lovingly and happily drank. May my last words only be, “It is accomplished.” Then would I have completed the job for which I am created – to live in your joy and Happiness for ever.