33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
I looked high and low to find a positive, uplifting verse in this week’s readings that would leave us all feeling warm and fuzzy.
No luck with Malachi: “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble.”
Things didn’t get any better when I turned to Jesus: “You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives and friends. You will be hated by all because of my name.”
Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
Finally, I looked to St. Paul, whose words smelled less of fire and brimstone but were hardly what you would call cuddly: “I told you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”
OK, no way around it. I just have to face up to the hard truth these readings affirm: Discipleship ain’t always warm and fuzzy. Trials and tribulations inevitably come – some to purify, others the inevitable consequence of preaching Love to a world too fractured by hate to fully accept that message.
On the purification side, two things come to mind. Could the exposure of the sex abuse crisis in the Church be an example of the purifying fire the prophet Malachi writes about? So many things have been going wrong for so long. Even now, after all of the abuse and cover-ups that have come out, I’m not entirely convinced that the bishops and, in particular the Vatican , really get how vast the disconnect is between so many of the faithful and the hierarchy. It seems to me lately I’m reading more about the changes in the wording of the Mass that are coming next year than I am about structural changes being made to deal with the crisis.
On a personal level – when Jesus calls us to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” He speaks of a way of living , the way he lives, the way God lives, in which the happiness of the other is as precious as my own. When I think about that truth for awhile, expressed fully and eternally in the communion of saints, and I look at the level of other-centered ness I’ve attained to this point…..Well, if the Kingdom of God could be measured in distance from New York City to San Francisco then I am in the process of crossing the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey!
I can’t imagine further movement from self-centeredness to other centerdness will be easy. The small progress I’ve made so far by the grace of God certainly hasn’t been. In fact, I’ve sometimes thought about writing my autobiography. And the title will be: “Kicking and Screaming All the Way: My Journey into Discipleship.”
Well, I have to get back to work now. I want to eat, you know.
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(To read the book length versions of my Biblical reflections, go to http://www.twentythirdpublications.com)