Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tuesday in the 7th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Broken By the Broken Record

Readings: Sirach 2:1-11; Psalm 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40; Mark 9:30-37

For the past few days, like a broken record, Jesus has been saying the same thing to his disciples over and over again. The Son of Man – this person on whom they have pinned all their hopes for happiness – will have to suffer and die and then rise again. But they did not understand what he said. They just don’t get it. And I don’t blame them. I find it difficult to get it too. Don’t get me wrong. Of course I know what Jesus’ words mean as applied to him. I know all about the passion, and the crucifixion, and the resurrection. I’ve learnt all about these events in catechism class. But what I don’t get is what these words mean as applied to us, as applied to me. And it’s really not surprising that I don’t get it. All the odds are stacked against me.

The odds are against me because, knowingly or not, like the disciples, I have somehow been infected with the idea that where happiness is concerned size really matters. Whether I admit it to myself or not, at some level, I believe that to be happy I have to make myself as big as possible. So I spend my life trying to expand my career, my bank account, my wardrobe, my reputation, my network of contacts… And I continue to do this even when I become more religious or more active in church. The only difference is that I learn to use more respectable sounding names to describe what I’m doing – names like ministry and mission, communion and kingdom. But, if I’m truly honest with myself, I realize that often I’m really not unlike the disciples. In some way I too am continually comparing and competing with others to see who is bigger, to see which of us is the greatest.

Meanwhile, the broken record continues to play: The Son of Man has to suffer... The Lord tries continually to show me that although size does matter, it is a matter of becoming not bigger but smaller. To be truly happy, the important thing is to be as small as possible. Because it is only when I’m small like a little child that I can put all my trust in God alone. Only when I am small can I truly commit my life to the Lord, place all my hope in him alone for everlasting happiness and mercy. And resistant though I am to hearing this message from the Lord, He does not give up. Like a purifying fire, the broken record continues to play in the various trials and tribulations of life, until it breaks through my deafness and shatters my hardened heart so that I might become small enough to be held in the palm of God’s compassionate and merciful hand.

Sisters and brothers, it’s difficult to speak these words today and not think of our dear priest and friend, Fr. Des Reid. Especially when I think of his many years of selfless service among us, I wish I could say that his final hours on this earth were peaceful and painless ones. But they were not. He suffered. Yet in his ordeal those of us who were with him saw the gold tested in the fire. We saw him getting smaller and smaller. Until at last he was enfolded in the Lord’s embrace. It was as we heard in today’s psalm: The salvation of the just comes from the Lord, their stronghold in time of distress.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, such potent words and reflections that strike deep into my innermost being... "I spend my life trying to expand my career, my bank account, my wardrobe, my reputation, my network of contacts… And I continue to do this even when I become more religious or more active in church. The only difference is that I learn to use more respectable sounding names to describe what I’m doing – names like ministry and mission, communion and kingdom". Who are really trying to kid?

    Our world today tells us that unless we 'make our presence felt', we count for nothing. Be seen by the right people in the right places at the right times. The meek will not only NOT inherit the earth, they risk being sidelined into oblivion.

    Rev Fr Desmond Reid S.J. made his presence felt alright. You can palpably see the impact he has had on the countless people that turned up at his wake, the funeral Mass and those that jam-packed the Mandai crematorium hall. I'm told the thoughts that were penned in the guest book were very heart-wrenching. I was told also that he had become so physically small that, when Cuthbert the sacristan lifted his body to dress him in the Mass vestments, he was surprised how light Fr Reid weighed. Fr Reid was far from being a 'small' man, even in death. He was a giant in more ways than one. He was great because, in the words of Our Lady in her Magnificat, Fr Reid let 'it be done unto' him as God desired and his life reflected the triune God he so worshipped and loved.

    Heavenly Father, thank you for the life and person of Fr Desmond Reid S.J., your priest and servant. In Your mercy and love, forgive whatever wrong he may have done and welcome him now into the joy and peace of Your eternal Kingdom. Amen. Fr Reid, pray for us.

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