Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday in the 2nd Week of Easter
Blinders for the Straight and Narrow

Readings: Acts 5:27-33; Psalm 34:2 and 9, 17-18, 19-20; John 3:31-36

Some years ago I happened to ask a senior priest of the Archdiocese to pray for me in my vocation. His reply was that I should be okay if only I remained focused. He used the analogy of a horse with blinders on. It’s kept on the straight and narrow because its eyes are only focused straight ahead. It’s never distracted by what’s happening to right or left. I remember reacting with mixed feelings to his words. I was grateful for the advice, but also not too sure if I fully agreed with him. What he said seemed to imply a desire to escape from the world. And yet surely even priests and religious need to know what is happening in the world around them. Wouldn’t blinders be a hindrance to effective ministry?

Several years hence, I’m beginning to see the wisdom of his words when properly understood. Perhaps what he was saying was not so much that one should ignore what is happening in the world, but that one should strive to do what we hear Jesus and the apostles doing in the readings of today. Amidst the considerable distractions around them, they remain ever steadfast in their calling. When under immense pressure to give up preaching about the resurrection, the apostles give voice to their deepest conviction: obedience to God comes before obedience to men… In this they are merely following in the footsteps of Christ their Lord and Master who, as we are told by John the Baptist today, bears witness to the things he has seen and heard, even if his testimony is not accepted. As Jesus did before them, the apostles are able to do this because they continually keep before them the primary motivation for what they say and do. Their eyes are focused on their Crucified and Risen Lord, ever ready to hear and to carry out his bidding. And they are empowered to do this by the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.

And isn’t it also true that one doesn’t need to be a priest or a religious to experience being pressured to stray from the straight and narrow? Of course, our individualistic, materialistic and consumeristic culture is an obvious source of distractions. But isn’t it also true that sometimes distractions and subtle pressures may come from the most unlikely of sources – sometimes even from those closest to us, those whose views we respect, those whose affection we treasure? Isn’t it true that such distractions might even be motivated by the best of intentions? And yet, in our moments of clarity, we may see that they are somehow competing with God for that privileged place on the throne of our hearts.

If and when we find ourselves in that position, the prayer of the psalmist offers some measure of comfort and guidance. The Lord turns his eyes to the just and his ears to their appeal… Many are the trials of the just man but from them all the Lord will rescue him.

What are our distractions? How focused are we?

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