Thursday, June 14, 2007

Thursday in the 10th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Piercing the Veil

Readings: 2 Corinthians 3:15—4:1, 3-6; Psalm 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14; Matthew 5:20-26

Continuing from where we left off yesterday, our attention remains focused today on the contrast between living according to the Law and living in the Spirit. I’m reminded of a question that someone asked me a couple of weeks ago when I was speaking at the parish confirmation camp on the topic of prayer. I was telling the young people about the importance of cultivating a habit of prayer, which prompted a fifteen-year-old girl to ask a question that I think gets to the heart of our reflection today. She asked whether if we were to pray purely out of habit wouldn’t our prayer become routine and mechanical, wouldn’t it lose its meaning? Of course, we know that the answer is not necessarily. But that implies that it can happen. As we all know, it is possible to keep performing the same religious practices purely on the level of routine, or even of duty and obligation, without actually letting it touch our hearts and our lives.

Isn’t Saint Paul telling us something similar in the first reading when he speaks of the veil that blinds us from seeing the light shed by the Good News of the glory of Christ? This veil of which Paul speaks refers firstly to the veil that Moses used to cover his face, when it became too radiant for the people to look at when he descended from his encounter with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:33). But Paul is also using the term to refer to the things that keep people from seeing the implications of the gospel for human living. We can come to Mass everyday, listen to the scriptures being read from the ambo, participate in the eucharistic sacrifice at the altar, and still not see the connections between our worship and our lives. Paul speaks of the god of this world who blinds the minds of unbelievers. And we may think immediately of the materialism and selfishness that can blind us to the sufferings of others. Witness what's going on with the recent en-bloc craze, for example. But the veil may also take the form of very natural human reactions that arise within us in the course of our dealings with one another. These are the emotions that Jesus speaks about in the gospel, emotions that may lead us to bear grudges against others, or to speak ill of them, or simply to harbour ill-feelings against them, or they against us. These too can become veils that prevent our religious practices from achieving their desired effect on our lives, in our hearts and in our world. What to do?

Probably all of us who have tried to remove the veil on our own will be able to testify to how difficult it is. Let us be honest. How many of us -- and how often -- can truly claim to be able to come before God in prayer with unveiled faces? How many of us can claim to be free of all difficulties in our relationships. Yet, even in our weakness, we are reminded of yet another veil, the veil of the Temple that enclosed the holies of holies. We are reminded of how, at the moment of Christ's death on the cross, this veil was torn in two from top to bottom (see Matthew 27:50-51). If then there is one lesson we can learn from our readings today, it’s the need for us to bring our veils to the Lord in prayer, openly acknowledging our weaknesses before him, and humbly praying for the grace to overcome them.

How are we being invited to allow Christ to pierce our veils for us today?

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