28th Sunday Reflection
The saga of Genesis relates the journey of our ancestors into moral awareness and embarrassment at their nakedness. Their endeavours to clothe themselves with leaves does not suffice and it is God who provides clothing for these ancestors. This is embedded in our universal psyche recurring in dreams as we relive this embarrassment by appearing naked, or only partially clothed in public… yet…
Our beloved seraphic St Francis stripped himself naked, renounced his hereditary rights, and gave his fine clothes back to his astonished earthly father. Thereafter Francis dressed himself in a simple flaxen tunic tied at the waist with a cord. Francis solemnised his “wedding” with his beloved spouse, the Lady Poverty, under whose name he surrendered all worldly goods, honours, and privileges.
At his death, St Francis would again solemnise the final sanctification of that union, stripped naked and laid upon Mother Earth in total trust of Jesus’ promise to draw his followers into perfect union with himself. Saint Francis saw Sister Death as a natural part of life through which we transition to continue our life with God. Are As he lay dying, Francis told his followers, “I have done what was mine to do, may Christ now teach you what you are to do.”
Marriage and death become our most pertinent teachers here. Each of these are instances of ‘dying to the other’, luminal moments of letting go, doorways of transition and transformation into humility.
Today we give thanks for the invitation to become a part of God’s kingdom as members of the beloved community. As in each Eucharistic celebration, we begin by acknowledging that it is not by our own merit or good deeds that we enter, but only through God’s grace and being clothed by the righteousness of Jesus.
Humility as a virtue sounds so abstract, but the reality is as concrete as it gets: when we become more humble, we become more like Jesus, who described Himself this way: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”.
We are the people of the beloved community invited as Christians to assemble and to celebrate in a spirit of joyful and thankful encounters. As on a wedding day, our clothes are chosen carefully to reflect the importance of the day in your lives.
St Paul gives us some guidance as to the clothes that we should wear.
- We are called to clothe ourselves in Humility. This one is essential. Pride ruins a community. Pride makes us selfish. It keeps you from owning up to your own mistakes. It makes me say, “I’m better than you”.
- Be clothed in Christ. This begins and ends with our identity as people whose primary allegiance is to Christ.
- Then we are to put on Compassion. Literally, a heart of pity. Compassion is an inner attitude we have to each other; a fullness of tender caring for and about the other’s vulnerabilities and strengths which will overflow into how you treat each other, in public and in private.
- Put on Kindness, seeking always the good of the other as we deal with each other’s weaknesses and sore spots.
- Encounter with the other also requires respect. When we are disrespectful, disdainful of the opinions of others, of others’ time, gifts or space, we subvert God’s gifts to the other. When I gossip, steal or abuse the other’s property; not only am I disrespectful but I become that wicked servant who is envious of God’s gift to others.
- The clothing of obedience, of submission; to place our work and our mission below that of the Father’s calling. We are to work in ways that support and build up the Body of the Church here in our beloved community with devotion and steadfast, loyal commitment. Caring for each other, building each other up, and sending each other out, stronger, more equipped by our love.
- When we put on the clothes of gentleness, the other can take off the self-defensive armour. And when that happens, trust can thrive, and intimacy can reside.
- Patience; You cannot expect perfection from each other. Each one of us is flawed, each one of us has weaknesses; each one of us can mess up, and be stubborn, and drive each other crazy.
- And, over all these virtues, above all else, put on love. Love keeps our communion; our beloved community being real rather than a pretence.
The greater picture of love is found in the cross. Christ showed his love, by dying for the church; and he calls out through the pages of scripture, through the scripture that should dwell in your hearts richly, love one another, like this.
And… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace… peace is more than the absence of war…biblically… peace, shalom, is a sense of blessedness. It is the right ordering of the world. It is the way things should be.
Let the peace of Christ that passes all understanding, that calmness, that contentment that comes from him, rule in your lives. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace… And be thankful.
Gratitude; Be thankful in the good times, and in the bad. Be thankful that whatever you face, you have each other, and God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God through him.
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