Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday in the 14th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Resisting the Short Cuts


Readings: Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30; Psalms 37:3-4, 18-19, 27-28, 39-40; Matthew 10:16-23

Today I’m reminded of an experience of mine whilst in school. During a road run, a classmate and I were caught trying to take a short cut. The teacher who caught us was none too pleased. After receiving a stern reprimand we were made to do some push-ups by the side of the road and then sent on our way – the long way. Isn’t it really tempting, sometimes, as we proceed on life’s journey, to try to take a short cut, or even to give up and refuse to move another inch? The road just gets too long, or the terrain too difficult, or our traveling companions too trying… Why not cut corners or settle down somewhere for good?

This is the kind of temptation that our readings help us to resist today. In both readings we find groups of people being prepared to set out. And in both situations the journey is not an easy one. In the first reading, we are nearing the end of the story of Abraham and his offspring. It’s been a story filled with much movement, with uprooting and re-settling. And even now, when Jacob is already well on in years, God invites him to set out on one final journey. In his old age, with all his family and possessions, he is to depart from Canaan in order to settle in Egypt. At a time when most would be contemplating a life of tranquil retirement, spent relaxing and enjoying one’s grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, Jacob is asked to emigrate. And, in keeping with the story as it has unfolded thus far, the only assurance he receives is God’s promise to be with him: Do not be afraid… I myself will go down with you… I myself will bring you back again… Placing his trust in God, Jacob moves. And the story arrives at its happy ending. Jacob is reunited with his favourite son Joseph: Now I can die, now that I have seen you…

In the gospel, too, even as Jesus sends out the Twelve, he prepares them as Jacob was prepared. He doesn’t try to fool them. He invites them first to remember that the way will be difficult and even treacherous: Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves… Beware… Yet they are not to worry, because God will be with them: the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. And, as with Jacob, their endurance will lead them to a happy ending: the man who stands firm to the end will be saved…

To expect difficulties on the way, to trust in God’s ongoing presence and guidance, to look forward in hope to a happy ending – are these not the means by which the Lord helps us resist the temptation to quit? Are these not the exercises, the push-ups, through which the Lord strengthens us to travel on till journey’s end? And there is also one more crucial consideration. As contented as Jacob might have been in Canaan, there was one thing that he lacked: he longed to set eyes again on his long-lost son Joseph. Isn’t this an image of the kind of holy restlessness that motivates the Christian to repeatedly set out on the way? As with the Twelve in the gospel, we are impelled to persevere, to refrain from quitting or taking short cuts, to keep moving, because we all look forward to the second coming of the Son of Man. We all yearn for that day when every tear will be wiped away and God’s kingdom will be established in its fullness. Until then, we remain on the move…

How are we being invited to persevere today?

3 comments:

  1. The surmon reminds me of my dear mom who used to always tell me that there are no short cuts in life - "You need to work hard and keep going otherwise you will get no where".

    Bless her heart but I often times feel that I am working very hard - as hard as I can - and just the same making no progress and getting no where.

    Many take comfort in their daily routines - I know I do. The daily newspapers, lunch hours, work cycles and then home, tv, bed etc. Rinse, wash, repeat.

    When confronted with the path of the unknown vs the well-trodden, how many of us, with the heavy obligations each bears, will risk the unfamiliar? Consequently, we actually choose to go up and down the same path with all the vigour, purpose and efficiency that we have been taught to apply, and yet we are frustrated about getting nowhere.

    Perhaps today's call is for us to take a chance with God and try something different. To put a part of our lives in his hands and see where it takes us. If not a leap of faith, why not at least a jump?

    I keep asking myself this and remembering that to even to jump, I need to first let go of the familiar...

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  2. Fr. Chris
    We all know it is easier said than done particular "to persevere". Recently, the demands at work is becoming like a daily struggle and sometimes you just want to quit. I question if God really knows the good and the evil. We have our limitations so how long can we endure such struggles ? is the sky my limit ? Perhaps, like Jacob who is always struggling with God, I must learn to surrender totally and place my complete trust in Him. Maybe then, I will have the strength to remain on the move....just like Jacob.

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  3. Especially when speaking of spiritual realities one cannot but resort to the language of metaphor, even though there is a perhaps greater likelihood of misunderstanding. The perseverance of which we speak is that of continually being willing to set out in faith, in response to God's call. Whether this means continuing in one's daily routine or striking out into something radically new will depend on the particular circumstances of each one. The contrast is not so much between the familiar versus the novel, as much as it is between the fear-driven and the faith-inspired. For isn't it true that it can take a tremendous leap of faith simply to remain faithful to a commitment that has begun to feel all too mundane or ordinary? Blessings...

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