Although today we remember the martyrdom of the Japanese Jesuit Paul Miki and his companions, the readings are those for the week day and I will focus my comments on those readings, rather than on the martyrs of this date.
The first reading recalls for us part of the creation narrative, of whose details there is an ample spectrum of understandings among believers. Entering that debate does not seem to me to be the purpose of the Daily Reflections, so I will comment on one particular dimension of the narrative that can have a more direct spiritual impact on readers. While it is true that in the common understanding creation consists in bringing something out of nothing, the narrative highlights God’s creative action rather as bringing order out of an existing chaos and into an orderliness God saw as “very good”. This creative activity of God continues daily in our own personal lives, as well as in the life of the Church: leading the chaos of darkness/obscurity toward the order of light, leading the chaos of self-seeking toward the order of being for others. God is certainly Creator for what he did in the primeval creation process, but also for what God continues to do (or desires to do) daily in our lives. The key difference is that the cosmic chaos did not resist God’s creative action, whereas our personal chaos can and does resist it.
Seeing creation in this light gives a new twist to the idea of being “creative”. For us to be involved in God’s creative action today needs to include playing a role in bringing to some order the chaos we experience around us, not just within ourselves: the chaos of inequity, prejudice and discrimination, the chaos of violence both internationally and in our own streets and homes, the chaos of abused supremacy of various types. Not an involvement of ending chaos once for all, nor one of bringing order to the entire world (such well meant tall orders could easily seem to excuse us from attempting to do anything at all), but one of being contributors in leading the small world we touch somewhat away from chaos and somewhat toward more order. In one of my earlier reflections I quoted the words of Alfred Delp, a Jesuit hanged in Berlin’s infamous Plötzensee prison by the Nazi regime: When through one man (meant inclusively, I am sure) a little more love and goodness, a little more light and truth come into the world, then that man’s life has had meaning. In the present context one could add: “a little more order and a little less chaos”.
The Gospel reading can be seen as challenging the selective pseudo-order the Pharisees had found in the stability and comfort of external observances that belied internal chaos. Jesus’ reproach to them is reminiscent of an observation made by the late Belgian Jesuit Moritz Meschler, when he remarked rather casually that some animals need a shell, because they lack a backbone. We all need some sense of firmness (order) in our faith lives and, if we do not find it within ourselves (backbone), we will seek to surround ourselves with external shells that keep us from feeling wobbly. I am afraid that, as the Church gathered at the Vatican II council and opened wide or removed some existing shells, some of us began to feel less than firm and threatened by the challenge of having to grow our own backbone, as Jesus challenged the Pharisees to do. Instability and wobbliness are forms of chaos and we need to let God’s creative action lead us gradually toward an order resulting from our own inner firmness rather than from external shells alone. But this can only be an ongoing life-long project, because the Lord’s promise to the Apostles and to us is that the Spirit will “lead you to the complete truth” [Jn. 16:13], not settle us in it.
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