23rd Sunday Reflection
We look upon an ancient culture and religion with intricate laws and traditions. This is a society of child brides and slavery, a society in which women cannot bear witness. Contact with outsiders, gentiles, and tax collectors is the cause of ritual impurity. As Jesus speaks of these ancient traditions of reconciliation and ritual expulsion from the community, we suddenly glimpsed something in the corner of our awareness.
Look closely at Jesus’ Word in action; how did Jesus treat the Gentile and the tax collector? As Matthew the tax collector reflects on his own story, the bonding and binding are clear “Love them! Accept them! Invite them! Eat with them! Challenge them to be transformed into a faithful image of Jesus!” Jesus gives us the format that always begins with a humble heart that no evil can ever imitate.
Two thousand years of tears and entreaty; the prayers and the novenas of the Christian family gathered together as a community of believers. Kings and slaves, parents and children, sinners and penitents, judges and rulers, the wise and the foolish, soccer teams and armies, popes and heretics, tyrants and murderers, hermits and movie stars, the humble and the insolent, all earnestly praying their demands in righteousness or in villainy, and then dutifully appending: “in Jesus name, Amen”. Has God not promised His children, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it?”
Two thousand years of betrayal and shattered dreams, losses, and bereavement, beloved spouses in death and in broken covenants, children and grandchildren dishonouring promises and abandoning their elderly, leaders forsaking their oaths and plundering the land, glitzy evangelists caught up in lies and deceit, pastors and patrons caught up in the pride of their conceit, creating a technology of Pastoral power, disdainful, judgmental, unforgiving and merciless; unloving.
So much forgetfulness, uncompromising legalism, separation, ex-communication, sorrow, and regret, for we do not know how to pray as we ought: “If you abide in me, and my Word abides in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” And so it is that even as we gather together as the Christian family and community of believers, we become caught in this web of pastoral power and overlook the things of God, those things bound and those things unbound “in heaven” within the Trinitarian progression of Love that is the blueprint of our being.
Our seraphic father, St Francis challenges us to actively seek opportunities to give up control and to be humbled every day. So much of our lives are working to get our way; in our occupations, relationships, families, and interactions with outsiders and strangers. We find ourselves in conflict with others who view the world in different ways: Conflicts can begin from inconsequential decisions like which seat to sit on in the bus or who we are and are not allowed to pray with, to decisions about who is worthy to eat at our table.
We have as our roadmap and as our guide the words and the actions of Jesus and the practice of two thousand years of Saints. This is the practice of letting go of my will and humbly assenting to the desire of someone else, not to be nice or to keep people happy, but an active decision to imitate and align ourselves to the will of our Lord Jesus, “who humbled himself even to the point of death, death on a cross,” and to put into practice what I pray every day in the Our Father:
“Thy will be done.” It’s no coincidence that these words follow immediately after “Thy kingdom come”: the true reign of God’s kingdom is the complete submission of our wills to the will of God. The Kingdom of God is not about imposing our will, but trusting in God who desires only good, our good and the good of all creation.
Together with Francis, as one family and global community, in our suffering and our distress, we kneel before the cross of Christ keeping our focus on the sublime beauty of a good God, emptying ourselves of self-absorption and anxiety, and aligning ourselves to dissolve into the mystery of the heart of love:
“Most High glorious God,
enlighten the darkness of my heart.
Give me right faith,
sure hope and perfect charity.
Fill me with understanding and knowledge
that I may fulfill your command.”
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