Many things are more easily said than done. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” “Everything is small stuff.” “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.” These are quick-and-easy things to say, but the doing is less so.
We move from experience to the next adventure and try to stay balanced, but keeping the “main thing” clear as the “main thing” takes wisdom and patience. What is a “small stuff” today might be a “big stuff” tonight. Living our Christian faith is definitely not a quick-and-easy way of existing.
Living the Eucharist is one of those not-easy “main things”, but gathering together with other strugglers can provide a sense of proportion or resizing. Jesus gives His Body and Blood to us so that through us His “main thing” of blessing us in our “sweating” and attempts to stay balanced will be humanly possible. As we prepare for the Eucharist, we might pray with the “Big stuff” of each day, and hour, and see if there is any grace for us to live this Christian possibility.
We hear in our First Reading of this liturgy from the Prophet Ezekiel. The chapter from which these verses are taken begins with God speaking to the prophet with a simple image. When a country is in danger of being attacked, a watchman is appointed to give warning about the approaching enemy. The image continues with the alarm being sounded and some hear it and prepare, others pay no attention to it.
What we hear plays on that image. Ezekiel is the attending watchman for the country of Israel. The enemy to be warned are within the House of Israel. The prophet is to hear and speak, but if he does not speak, the wicked will die and so too the prophet. This is a warning to the Prophet then, that he must hear what will be hard for him to say even to one person. The Prophet must be attentive to hearing what God says and reveal that. We are into the spirituality of confrontation where the guilt of not saying anything rebounds upon the person who hears what needs to be heard, but does not speak this, lest there be trouble, inconvenience, resentment, and/or unpopularity.
The Gospel is an instruction to the disciples of Jesus about, not confrontation exactly, but about the sacredness of community. The well-being of the others, the family, the community, the office, becomes the reason for prophetically attending the faults of one of the community.
Jesus lays out a strategy for the intervention. Perhaps some of us have been in on the planning of an intervention with someone who is suffering from an addiction. There are kind of rules for this process and it takes great care and practice to be helpful for the person. Jesus is more direct, just do this and if that doesn’t help, do this and then if that fails, do something more public. The practice is not as important as is the spirit and aim of such sharing-of-truth.
I may have written before about a Jesuit companion, who in my early years, rather casually announced that he was going to tell me my twelve major faults. Twelve? Major?? Faults??? I was not aware of any, even minor faults. He had not prepared his presentation nor tested my availability to such a display. I do wish I could remember even one of them now, these fifty years later, but I do remember him.
I have a dear friend and when she has something to announce to me, I have learned, through errors and errors, to just listen, ears open and mouth shut, lest I want to defend myself and prove her wrong. What a good friend who always admits her selfish part in what she is telling me. The good part is that what she tells me is about how I would be more for the larger communities of my life if I could be attentive to this or that. I usually am grateful and deeply embarrassed.
I have been a Superior within various communities for many years. My tensions in this area are about whether I am being bothered and I am my problem or is there something else going on. It is quite difficult to face that my ways are not his or their ways. I could come up easily with more than twelve items for correction within the four others with whom I live and with whom I am Superior. Thirteen of them are probably more my ego-centered perfectionistic, tidiness-centered issues. None of us is the Certified Public Accountant for everybody else. We are not to let everything go by as if they were nothing. The question for me is whether I really love the community, family, whatever, and really believe that this particular behavior is hurting the relationships around us as well as the person involved. What Jesus did not say, and I wish He had, is that the first step is praying and then facing one’s own selfishness involved in my fault-finding. What about me is being inconvenienced or upset? Jesus also did not say that we should approach the other when we feel the other is available and ready for our prophetic announcements. Readiness is all and while I might be more than ready to “share”, it is important to consider the interior space of the other. I think my response to the Big Twelve was shock and he did not seem too concerned about the fallout or was going to help me deal with the truth or untruth of them all. He may have thought he was doing something good coming right out of this Gospel passage. This process is as important as is sacred our sense of relationships and community. Jesus is aware of the human frailty among His disciples and future followers. We need help to become aware and accepting of ourselves so that we can contribute even more gracefully and generatively to our families and communities.
“Like a deer that longs for running waters, my soul longs for You, my God. Ps. 42, 2-3
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