Monday, September 11, 2006

23rd Monday in Ordinary Time (II)
Individualism, Moral Policing & Communal Compassion

Readings: 1 Corinthians 5:1-8; Psalm 5; Luke 6:6-11

There’s a way of living the Christian faith that emphasizes individual devotion. My sole concern is my personal relationship with God, or Jesus, or the BVM. I may expand my circle of concern to my immediate family and friends, but that’s about it. Let others take care of themselves. To those who tend towards this approach our readings remind us of the inevitably corporate nature of our Christian faith. Whether we like it or not, whether we are conscious of it or not, the well-being of any one member has its effect on the others. As Paul reminds the Corinthians concerning immorality: even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough. And not to help another who is in need even when we are able to is as good as doing harm to that one. Notice how Jesus gives only two options in his reply to the scribes and Pharisees: to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it. An authentic Christian life is marked by concern for the other.

There is another extreme – an approach that seems to be very concerned with others and what they do. When I tend towards this approach I make it my business to identify and point out the moral failings of others. I relish the role of self-appointed moral police, much as the scribes and Pharisees do in the gospel today, who watched Jesus to see if he would cure a man on the Sabbath. However, my concern is not so much the well-being of others, as it is to impose my own ideas and opinions upon them. To those who would tend towards this approach, Jesus introduces another way. Notice how he insists on making the man with the withered hand stand in the middle of the synagogue. Why? Is it not so that the scribes’ and Pharisees’ attention might be shifted from the demands of the Law to the suffering person? Is it not so that their reactions might change from righteous indignation to compassion?

How might we grow in communal compassion today?

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