Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tuesday in the 25th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
Demolition for Construction

Readings: Ezra 6:7-8, 12b, 14-20; Psalm 122:1-2, 3-4ab, 4cd-5; Luke 8:19-21

What a wondrous celebration it must have been in the first reading, when the new Temple was dedicated and all the priests installed. A marvelous new beginning: new structures and new appointments, to be sure, but, most importantly, also new relationships. Isn’t this what the festivities are about? Not only is it a matter of dedicating a new building to God, but it is also a matter of signifying new relationships among the people and between them and God. The consecration of the new priests, for example, signifies new relationships of service, not just between them and God, but also between them and the rest of the people. And, more than that, we also see the whole people renewing its relationship with God. As we’re told, animal sacrifices for sin are offered for the whole of Israel. More than simply the successful completion of a construction project, what is being celebrated in the first reading is no less than the rebirth of God’s people.

In the midst of the festivities, however, we might recall that this marvelous new beginning takes place only on the ruins of what went before. The new is constructed only because the old was demolished. Not only is a new Temple built in place of the old one destroyed by foreign invaders, but a new relationship is forged in place of the former one, the one that failed because of the sins and infidelities of the past. This failed relationship is recalled and forsaken, so that a new one can grow. Israel is born anew only because it first allows the old to pass away. Construction comes only after demolition.

Isn’t Jesus speaking about a similar process in the gospel? Contrary to appearances, Jesus is not denigrating his mother and the rest of his family. Rather, he is trying to help his listeners to appreciate the kind of relationships that matter in the Kingdom of God. The ties that bind in the Kingdom are not so much a matter of blood relations as a common fidelity to the will of the Father. But in order to build the latter kinds of ties, one must first be weaned from undue attachment to the former. Construction comes only after demolition. By no means, of course, does this imply that we should disregard all blood relations. After all, it is God’s manifest will that we honor our father and mother. Even so, we may well have experienced occasions when what our blood relations ask of us is quite clearly in opposition to the will of God. In such situations, painful though it may be, we need to let go of one set of relations so as to cling to another. Construction can come only after demolition.

What new beginnings are we being called to make today?

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