Presentation of the Lord Reflection
‘Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
This is my life… and I did it my way.
There is something in all of us that wants to take control, needs to assure the outcome; desires to be in charge. We become impatient and anxious with everything and with everyone as we seek to reach the end of our work without delay.
Our first ancestors saw the fruits of the knowledge of good and evil, perceived its goodness and wanted to take it for themselves. This is what it means to take control.
At the time of Noah, the People’s claim for themselves equality with God and the right to take control.
The unity of the Babylonians, steeping themselves in pride, sought to make a name for themselves and to stand on the winners’ podium; to take control and to create their own pathway to heaven.
St Peter, the rock on which the church is built also wanted to take control, “it shall not be”, and receives one of the strongest rebukes that we will read in the Gospels.
The peoples of Galatia had received the faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit, yet they to want to take control by invoking the works of the law beyond the grace of God. St Paul calls them bewitched and foolish.
This is the original woundedness that we inherit and carry in our hearts. This is also the original grievance that we carry in our souls. This is the foundation of our hardness of heart, turning control, domination, manipulation and intimidation into the ultimate virtues.
Vulnerability is seen as a weakness to be overcome and so we seek control as the antimatter of love that must always make itself vulnerable on behalf of the other. This worldview of domination and control that can only create deeper darkness, more despair and death even in the midst of life.
We may wear the mask well or we may be naïvely transparent in our desire for manipulation and control. Scratch the surface and you will find this hidden in many dark corners of our heart. It is perhaps nowhere more corrosive than when it wears the mask of political/religious justification, putting our own pious words into the mouth of God.
Thus it is that we justify subjugation, war and murder, destruction and terror in the name of good, in the name of God. Thus it is that we negate the teachings of Jesus the Christ pervert the gospel message. It sounds so right, it sounds so good, yet at its heart it is all about taking control, about being in charge; “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We really would like Jesus to be saying these words, but he does not. The teachings of Jesus in the words of the gospel are precisely opposed to such a worldview.
Jesus comes face to face with evil, understands evil and gives us also the way we are to follow. Evil can never be overcome by more evil, death by more death or darkness by more darkness. This is the way shown to us by Jesus tortured and nailed to a cross, taking into himself the greatest evil our world could muster and cheating it of all power to grow and to increase.
Evil does not have the creative force of being. That is why evil must always seek to draw the good into its own corner, to leach off the living power that generates light, life and the hope that will not fail us. Evil, you have no sting, for you have been overcome.
Each one of us is called to continually examine our intentions and the thoughts of our heart in the light of the gospel. Whenever we encounter fear and anger within our hearts, we know that the joy and light of the gospel has been supplanted and must be renewed.
As St Francis of Assisi undertook the reconstruction and rebuilding of the little church of San Damiano, he gave us a model for such renewal. We must begin with ourselves and that which is right before us. Rebuilding ourselves, the church and our society can only take place when each essential part is first repaired and then the structure is itself made whole. As little brothers and sisters we undertake this as penitents, with humility and in a spirit of prayer and joy, just as St. Francis did eight centuries ago.