19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection
Every true encounter with an-other changes and in some way expands us. Any mystical experience of God, is an experience of the transcendent, something that is eternal and beyond any limitations. Such an encounter of God both empties us and then expands us to love as God loves and to see as God sees.
This is the emptying of the false images I have of myself, of others, and of the world that is necessary before I can expand into this unlimited union with the ground of all Being. Our love needs initiation and grows by stages; beyond our mothers, our fathers, our siblings, our families, our clan, our culture, our country, our species, and our world.
Many may not experience this encounter until the moment of death because of a clinging to false images that enslave and harden the heart, blocking our growth and expansion into those truly human and divine images we are called to be.
There is a battle going on in our world that says freedom is to be found elsewhere. We are witnesses of war that seeks to dominate our minds.
Those who ponder the gospel reading of this day are given two alternatives. The Master who becomes the Lamb of God; The Master who takes on the duties of a slave, obedient to the will of God; The Master who calls on us to do the same. Love is a choice.
Many were indignant when Jesus proclaimed that freedom of the children of the Kingdom of God and just as many today are indignant. As the Jews said in response to Jesus, “we are not slaves”, we also declare our freedom, our independence, and our rights. The idea that we are sheep following along with the flock is even more repugnant.
On the war-front opposing the teachings of Jesus, stands the worldly philosophy of Nietzsche who describes this war as a clash of cultures: Here the master is seen as the noble type of person who experiences themselves as determining values; they do not need approval; they are of the judges, ‘what is harmful to me is harmful in itself; it knows itself to be that which first accords honour to things; it is value-creating.’
In this master morality, individuals define what is good based on whether it benefits that person and their pursuit of self-defined personal excellence. Insofar as something is helpful to the strong-willed person, it is like what they values in themselves; therefore, the strong-willed person values such things as good because they aid him in a life-long process of self-actualisation through the will to power. History has taught us the terrible results of such a journey. The slaves are those who are considered as poor, weak, resentful, and weak, those who seek to lower the noble masters to their own level. These are those that are rejected and despised.
This doctrine has been sold to us as the route to freedom, to self-actualization, self-fulfillment, and self-realization; it really is all about me. There is a flourishing industry grown around this self-help ideal that sells the idea of this freedom from duty and responsibility being linked to fulfilment, peace, and happiness; you can be anything you want to be! It is only your desire and your will that matters!
In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples that happiness and fulfilment do not, in fact, lie in this pseudo-freedom. Lasting peace and joy comes from following the way of the Master who came to serve.
There are many who have followed Jesus way and found the Truth of his words. We have the many saints who have discovered the path of non-violent, self-emptying passage towards peace and joy through the selfless serving of others: Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Jean Vanier founder of L’Arche community and Mahatma Gandhi.
We all know people who bring to us a sense of light, joy, and serenity when they come into the room. This is to be found especially in those who have spent their lives extending service beyond family and friends into the needs of our society and community.
Grace has flowed into their lives through the patient waiting at the bedside of a sick child or friend; the patient waiting at the bedside of a dying person. Graced moments that move us experience the truth of our connectedness to each other and also to something that is much bigger than we are.
This realisation often brings us to a stop, a moment of awe; yes Jesus, your Words are Truth and they are life. The kenosis that I may have dreaded has become the foundation of my joy!
It would be nice if when death comes all our work was done, all our tasks were completed and neatly bound together like a sheaf of wheat. But we can’t be sure if this will be the case because the moment of death is hidden from us. However, we remember that it’s not how or when we die that matters, but how we live. We should strive to live fully and intensely, and not wait for illness or disaster to bring home the fleeting nature of human life.
There are many today who do not know the truth and beauty of the gospel. But perhaps there is a far greater number call themselves followers of Christ’s Way, yet follow the route of another philosophy.
There are those who have walked away from the family community of the church established by Jesus because of the pain of scandal and abuse, the betrayal of so many who call themselves ‘Father’, the ravenous wolves and the worldly princes who have sought only to deceive.
Our choice today will form our identity; are we to be children of the kingdom of God, or do we choose to be children of the world. The apostles and the Saints have been given to us as the foundation of our hope, so that we also can only say, “Where shall we go O’ Lord, for you have the words of eternal life?” These are the words that bring us to freedom to become that for which we were made; by love, out of love, to love, and at the final point, to become love; to become one with Love.