24th Sunday Reflection: New Penitents of Repentance
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B 2021 – (Mark 8:27-35) –
Sometimes we need a high impact, multi-car pileup before we are ready to slow down, re-calibrate our views, sensors, and equipment, changing our direction. The battleship bearing down upon the rocks, with the fatigued, entitled, and proud commander, mistaking the lighthouse for another ship, is a pertinent demonstration of such need for a paradigm shift. This is the call to repentance, the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A virus has stopped our headlong rush, changing our understanding of relationships, our view of work, rights and responsibilities, and even our connection to Mother Earth.
The issue of a ‘code red warning for humanity’ issued by our scientific community warns us that same-old, same-old will not keep the ship afloat. All these crises with their many griefs and anxieties now afflict the human family and the rest of creation.
Pope Francis reminds us that, ‘The basic rule of a crisis is that you don’t come out of it the same. If you get through it, you come out better or worse, but never the same’ … we cannot simply be the same as we have been before the crises the world now faces.
Recognising ourselves as a global community, we are being called to acknowledge our complicity in the culture of death that is destroying our species and the planet. We are called to acknowledge our guilt in the acquisitiveness and greed that manipulates, diverts, and drains resources meant for the common good of all.
As new penitents, we are called to find radical new ways forward. Without this purification, our love is selfish and distorted through broken links in the chain of ancestors. This type of broken love will all too often focus on what St Francis called, ‘selfish misery’, the victim-hood model.
We are called to move beyond this moment of suffering, stopping the transmission of our suffering to others. In a perverted way, these actions become justified in a skewed understanding of God as a vengeful creator, demanding the blood of innocence as payback for the sins of humanity’s primogenitors.
We are challenged to put into action projects that promote integral ecology, which must always recognise the interconnected ‘cry of the earth and cry of the poor’ (Laudato Si’ 49).
In this moment of crisis, where the poor will suffer first and most dramatically, we are offered the opportunity of becoming leaders and communities to advocate on behalf of all the voiceless, the human and non-human alike. Let us allow the beauty of these words to touch our hearts, calling us beyond that constrictive fear that seeks to control and manipulate, calling us into that vulnerability of love that is the nature of the ongoing Incarnation in which we all participate.
The cross of Christ will always be an image before us of God who chooses to be with the scapegoat. We form our lives in accordance with the images we select as standards. Let us, therefore, seek the dominant image of the universal Christ, risen and glorified who becomes for us the universal archetype that leads us from death to transformation and new life.
This is the work of Christ who redeems; Christ who gives us back the true value not only of what it means to be fully human and to be fully alive but of every creature and all of creation.
This is the work of Christ for all creation, not just for a select few and most certainly not just for the self-righteous ‘pious ones’ who set themselves apart and have no need of any Redeemer.
This is truly good news worth celebrating with the greatest joy and gratitude.
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