|23rd Sunday in Ordinary time
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9
In order to receive more responsively the grace of God’s Word and the Eucharist; we might imagine Jesus sitting down surrounded by his disciples.
They have been talking among themselves about such things as who should be considered the “greatest”. We could picture Jesus smiling a bit and saying to himself, ”Here we go again.” He has told them about the necessity of their becoming like little children and the importance of protecting the “little ones” from harm.
He knows that they all have noticed the faults of each other and they're wondering what they should do about their human failings. Again, Jesus with a compassionate smile speaks today’s Gospel reading.
There are many phone-in talk shows on the radio and several advice columns in our newspapers which generally center on the problems surrounding the problems of dealing with others who have problems. We can be tempted to go to prayer and ask God for a similar bit of advice about our problem with the problems either others have or actually are.
These days we might more profitably pray with our own awareness of just how deeply we desire peace, order and harmony, but usually on our terms and according to our definitions. The freedom for which we can also pray is to know the difference between a person who has failings which are hurting them, and the person whom we think has a failing which is bothering us, because we have a problem. This sensitivity is not easy to pray for and maintain.
We can also pray for the love and courage to intervene, correct and or, somehow assist another to discontinue life-stifling life-styles.
In Today’s First Reading, we will hear a short section from a longer piece in which God is telling Ezekiel that being a Prophet to the nation Israel is like being a “Certified Public Admonitor” for an individual. God tells Ezekiel that if he, the prophet, does not proclaim the call for Israel to come to life in faithfulness, then the nation will die as will the prophet who fails to speak the Word.
Likewise, if the Prophet risks announcing the call to repentance and the nation’s people respond then there will be life for both. God is laying out a contract in which God will depend on human cooperation for the life or death of others. The contract, as always, allows for the freedom of the human to respond or not.
The Gospel concerns relationships, community and responsibility we have for the well being of the group and the individual. Did you ever notice how different people are?
Forty-two years ago this Tuesday, I left home with its wild-ways which were natural to an Irish-Catholic six-kid family. I assumed that by entering the Jesuits there would be men such as myself, faultless, well on their way to beatification and conformed to what I knew to be orderly and peaceful. Forty-two years from this Wednesday I was in shock. I felt like I had a lot of work to accomplish in the process of prophetically announcing God’s corrective word to more than a few of those whom I was told were now my “brothers”.
In the early years, we had a little practice of having a fifteen-minute conference with one of our brothers for the purpose of admonishing each other. This was meant to help us grow and avoid conflicts. It was here that I first sensed that by my telling “him” his faults I was even more revealing my personal agendas. What bothered me about “him” just might be more about me and my impatience or high sense of efficiency.
Four years after entering the Jesuits, one afternoon while sitting outside on a bench with one other fellow of my class, He, (out of the blue) announced that he was going to tell me my twelve major faults. “Twelve!” “Major!” “Faults!” He did too, a full dozen of what he considered my “major” faults. I suspected he had a few “minor” ones for another time. I was leveled to say the least. I went to my room in tears, not knowing if he was right and so I was embarrassed, or he was wrong and I was angry. Perhaps he had read today’s Gospel and thought he’d try to live the Word. I wish I could remember today those twelve items, because they are probably still hanging around. It wasn’t so much the context, the twelve faults I found hurtful, but the delivery system he used. I would say now that he was not so interested in my coming more to life and this is the grace of correction and today’s readings.
Now unlike the Talk Shows and Advice Columns, I leave you with not the “how-to”, but the “why-to” of admonishing, correcting or confronting. Jesus intervened, challenged and corrected, but always that there might be life and life more abundantly. Correction is not a bomb, but a balm. We grace another by calling them to what is right for them and not to make us right. There is more likely grace in what we say when we come from a graceful encounter with ourselves. With grace, we face humbly whether we want more life for the other person or a more eased life for ourselves. Are we gracing or dis-gracing?
FYI, I, forty-two years later, am still working on bringing these Jesuits into my concepts of order, harmony and ……
“TO LIVE UP ABOVE
To live here below
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