Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday in the 5th Week of Lent
Keeping in Touch

Readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalm 18:2-7; John 10:31-42

Even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work I do…

When saying goodbye to friends we often use the phrase keep in touch. And it is this same phrase that comes to mind today as we ponder once again the difference between Jesus and Jeremiah, on the one hand, and their adversaries on the other. What is it that enables Jesus and Jeremiah to remain so steadfast in their mission? What is it, for example, that enables Jesus to make neither change nor compromise in his message and ministry, even when people are stoning him. And what is it, on the other hand, that makes their persecutors so stubborn in opposing them and all that they stand for?

Jesus’ words in the gospel give us a good indication. When people refuse to believe that he is who he claims to be, namely the Son of God, Jesus quickly invites them to look at all that he does. That Jesus can do this indicates that whatever Jesus says and does flows quite naturally from his sense of who he is. In all that he does, Jesus always remains in touch with who he is. We may say that for Jesus, as well as for Jeremiah, doing is always closely connected with being. In contrast, Jesus’ opponents are unable to see the connection between what Jesus says and does and who he is because their own lives are out of touch. The things that they say and do, their religious beliefs and practices, are somehow out of touch with who they are.

And we know how easy it is to fall out of touch. When we first start working, for example, we may have the idea of making a good living to support our family. But as time goes on, the work can gradually take on a life of its own. And we lose touch with the original reason for working. Gradually, the family might even become sacrificed to the work. The same can probably be said for our worship. Isn’t it possible for our relationship with God to become sacrificed to our religious practices instead of the other way around?

Isn’t this another reason for our Lenten discipline? More than simply adding more things for us to do, it’s really a time for us to get back in touch with our identity as baptized daughters and sons of the Father, and to let everything we say and do flow from this renewed sense of who we are. Lent is a time for reconnecting our doing with our being.

One is reminded of a story you probably know well, a story told by Anthony de Mello, SJ:

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the Southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe. ‘Why aren’t you out fishing?’ said the industrialist. ‘Because I have caught enough fish for the day,’ said the fisherman. ‘Why don’t you catch more than you need?’ said the industrialist. ‘What would I do with it?’ asked the fisherman. ‘You could earn more money,’ was the reply. ‘With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat. Then you could go into deeper waters and catch more fish. Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats… maybe even a fleet of boats. Then you would be a rich man like me.’ ‘What would I do then?’ asked the fisherman. ‘Then you could sit down and enjoy life,’ said the industrialist. ‘What do you think I am doing right now?’ said the contented fisherman.

How do you remain in touch with who you are? Why do you do what you do?

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