|Memorial of St. Bernard
Psalms 106:34-35, 36-37, 39-40, 43, 44
"... the Lord took pity on their distressful cries of affliction ..."
"... the young man went away sad ..."
Two readings today about people who just don't get it. God's people seduced by the Canaanite deities, and the young man in the Book of Matthew who is seduced by possessing and possessions.
These stories are like mirrors. In the Old Testament reading, I see myself reflected as a man who only sometimes truly responds to God's love for me and his desire for my attentiveness. Sometimes, perhaps in distress like a man wandering without food or water in a desert, my attention might be riveted on God because of my own need. But let me be comfortable, and other things -- work, financial security, infatuations with people or places or things -- seduce me, draw my attention, and God is forgotten. Soon I am living a life out of balance, which leads to crisis. God always hears my cry of affliction. He always takes pity on me.
His patience is astounding.
My wife tells me to teach our children instead of talking at them. They will not remember to close the door or clear the table or pray to God after being told to do it once. Teaching takes patience and repetition, and patience. Oh, and I should practice what I try to teach.
What a perfectly patient teacher/parent God is to me, and what a perfect model for a parent.
Sometimes, my failure to "get it" is like that of the young man in Matthew. He approaches Jesus out of a need to possess -- he wants the formula that will allow him to own eternal life. He's not a bad man, just thick. A lot like me.
The me I see reflected in this story's mirror is the guy who thinks that his security will be ensured if he somehow masters the practice and procedure of spirituality. I keep forgetting that security is mostly a byproduct of a way of life, not a goal. As Jesus patiently explains to the young man, the goals would be things like serving God and others, and right conduct. After that, security sort of takes care of itself. But this young man sees his security in his possessions. His sadness is appropriate. My heart goes out to the young man who can't part with his possessions, perhaps because I see myself reflected in him.
Happily, that isn't all that I see reflected.
Today, when I look in my own mirror, in my own house, straight into
the eyes of the man who many times just doesn't get it, I also see a man
who has the freedom to choose God.
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