My son graduated from high school this May. It was interesting to learn what his school chose to honor. There seemed to be two classes of awards. There were the awards which at one time were given for excellence. It was enlightening to see that many of these awards were not given to the most talented or hardest working in a particular area but rather they were given to the student who best met the prescribed set of selection criteria. The other (larger) class of awards was given for having avoided doing something wrong. It left me with little doubt that we are a society that is more concerned with the rules than doing what we should be doing.
It was disheartening seeing a mother who was sitting in front me start to cry as she thought her child was to receive one of the awards, only to be brought to tears for a second time when another child was recognized. I watch the news and see how parents sue over interpretations of rules defining who will be class valedictorian. We seem to be a culture of contemporary Pharisees that likes to draw up rules and then argue over their interpretation.
This is not the mission we are given in today's readings. Paul takes pride in the indignity and suffering that will be endured for a greater cause. In the Gospel we are not called to be satisfied with our due. We are asked to give more. We are called to service. Success in these readings is not measured in terms of money or fame. It is not even measured in terms of happiness. Paul gives a list of perceptions which the world may have of those who serve. If we draw our meaning from external sources, men like Paul are failures. If we draw our meaning from within, men like Paul become our icons. Five minutes of television tries to inform me that the significant things in are lives consist of wealth, physical beauty and personal pleasure.
In the readings we are not asked to be fair. We are called to go beyond the prescription from Leviticus, priestly book of laws. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not the response that Jesus asks. We are asked to transcend the laws. We are asked to see what is in our heart. We are asked to see the big picture. We are asked for a willingness to forego the external signs of worldly success. We are asked to assess ourselves in terms of the dynamic non-prescriptive imitation of Christ.
Now I compare my words with my actions. What is my actual response? I do not exude the hope found in the responsorial psalm. I find the majority of the time I become cynical. I am able to render the judgments of this materialistic world meaningless, but I do not do this because I have a flame in my heart; I am uninfluenced by how the world chooses to assess me because I have a low opinion of my fellow humans. I have lost trust in my political leaders and in the media. Fortunately, today's readings offer hope in the Lord along with the world's challenges.
My prayer today is that we do not become creatures of our man-made
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