21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection
Is my life headed in the right direction? Have I chosen the right path? A Jew comes up to the Jewish teacher we call Jesus and asks him a loaded question, “Lord, is it the case that those being saved are few?” In Hebrew, the name ‘Yeshua’ was well understood by the Jewish people to mean ‘God saves’: God saves us from our sins.
This Jew is, of course, one of God’s chosen people, separated and set aside, who have been given the Commandments, the Law, and the Prophets; everything they need to achieve to live righteous lives and to gain redemption. The Torah teaches them their way of acting in every detail of their daily life; a law and a prayer for everything.
Like so many of us, this Jew has already made up his mind that he knows the answer, and all this person really wants is a confirmation. I think that there is something within us, a certain hardness of heart, whether we call it original woundedness, pride, the narcissistic grievance of love trauma, or the mark of death of our brother Cain, that does want to consign our enemies and opponents to damnation.
Jesus, however, warns the man that although many do strive to enter the narrow door of righteousness and redemption, few have the strength that is needed. It is the nature of sin to give power and authority to our passions and those dramas that enslave and weaken us. That is why we feel so spiritually, emotionally and physically drained by the enactment of these dramas. This lack of insight weakens our senses, robs us of wisdom and prudence so that we love in the wrong way, love in the wrong order.
It is often described as the darkness of ignorance, that desire that craves and clings to those earthly things that bolster the ego and blind us to our transcendent calling and connectedness to each other and to all of creation. Without this unitive consciousness, we are unable to move between our heart intuition and binary perception necessary for non dual consciousness.
Without this non dual consciousness we fall into the entwined snares of ignorance and judgment which must always divide, always segregate. Jesus teaching reminds us that each of us will be called to judgement only in as far as we have judged others, especially those we have judged unworthy, losers, outsiders and contaminated.
What Path Have I Chosen?
Let us take the time to reflect on the words of Jesus; how do I associate myself with those who are on top, those who are first, those who are the winners, those considered worthy to eat the table of the Lord, the powerful and influential?
What path have I chosen? Have I aligned myself to the earthly kingdom or to God’s Kingdom? If you want to get ahead in life you have to work hard, be inventive, know the right people, grab what you can when you can, or marry rich. If you want to pass your exams you must study, or at least get a peek at the exam paper beforehand. If you want a comfortable retirement you need to put money aside regularly or skim a little off the top.
If you want a good relationship with your wife and children, you have to spend quality time with them, or at least buy them nice things (note to self… expensive things).
If you want to win that all-important game you must appoint a good coach, have the right financial backing, have the right mindset and of course, clobber the opponents.
From the very genesis of our history, Adam and Eve sought to take for themselves the knowledge of good and evil; the right to judge. The builders of the Tower of Babel had unity of language and purpose to reach heaven itself, but through their pride, wanting to make a name for themselves, trying to breach the gap between heaven and earth without God, all was lost and disunity resulted.
This appears to be the whole story of our human journey; we want happiness; desire the good life: redemption; we try to achieve this; we reach out to take the object of our desire and the result is always the same, it all just slips through our fingers like sand.
Yes, we know this, we experience this loss of control over and over again in our lives even unto death; yet we continue the race to be on top; race to win and to leave the losers behind. Jesus, the Christ gives us an antidote to struggle. We are told to repent and believe in the Gospel. Repent Jesus says. Look again at the evidence and come to your senses; let go of your paranoia, your illusions.
Adam and eve want the fruits of the knowledge of good and evil. This is the knowledge that is good and necessary for an ethic of living. But no Adam, no Eve, you cannot take it for yourself, it is God’s gift; a divine gift to know how to live lives that are free, moral, fruitful and fulfilled. This is the result of God’s grace working in our lives. This is not God’s reward for our actions. How often we get cause and effect the wrong way round!
We are only righteous in Jesus
God gave the Old Testament law as a moral guide, but He also gave it to prove nobody could ever keep all of it. “The law speaks so that every mouth may be silenced; if you claim to be good the law says, you are either a fool or a liar. Therefore NO ONE will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of sin.”
How many people will be declared righteous by obeying the law? Only in the nature of Jesus as both human and divine is righteousness a reality. Because of this God accepts us also as righteous in Jesus. What about sin? Where is the Good news to be found?
In Jesus, the Christ the forgiveness of sins is a reality. Not only is forgiveness offered, but Jesus breaks the bonds of sin, tearing up all those statements of account that require repayment. Nothing is owing once we have accepted this gift of God, not only for ourselves, but also for our opponents and our enemies, and all of creation.
“Life in God should be a daring adventure of love — a continuous journey of putting aside our securities to enter more profoundly into the uncharted depths of God. Too often, however, we settle for mediocrity. We follow the rules and practices of prayer but we are unwilling or, for various reasons, unable to give ourselves totally to God. To settle on the plain of mediocrity is really to settle for something less than God that leaves the heart restless and unfulfilled. A story from the desert fathers reminds us that giving oneself wholly to God can make a difference: Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.” ― Ilia Delio, Franciscan Prayer