Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday in the 5th Week of Easter
Seeking the Eternal

Readings: Acts 14:5-18; Psalm 115:1-2, 3-4, 15-16; John 14:21-2614:1-12
Pictures: CC RomulusRueda

Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us eternal joy in this changing world…

These are the words with which we began our opening prayer at Mass today. They also present us with a useful starting point for our reflection on the readings. To begin with, they invite us to ask ourselves what is our instinctive reaction to novel situations in this changing world of ours. And how do our reactions compare with what we find in the first reading? Whatever may have been the actual situations in Iconium and Lystra, it’s quite clear that Paul and Barnabas represent change. They offer a new teaching that’s as provocative as it is powerful. And it’s very striking how diametrically opposed are the reactions they evoke in each of these cities respectively. They are almost stoned in Iconium and literally idolized in Lystra. What is it that prompts these two populations to react to change in such apparently opposite ways? One resists it to the point of violence, while the other embraces it to the point of worship. What is it that prompts these two extreme reactions, neither of which is adequate from a Christian perspective?

Is it not likely that opposite though these reactions may be, they actually spring from a very similar way of looking at things in our changing world? This is a perspective that tends to delight in fashioning false gods out of worldly things. Quite obviously, for those in Iconium, their preferred gods are threatened by the words and activities of Paul and Barbabas, just as those in Lystra have theirs confirmed. So, naturally, the former persecute while the latter worship. What is lacking in both these populations is the ability to see things not as gods in themselves, but as signs pointing to the One True God. As Paul says to the Lystrans concerning the marvels of nature: God did not leave himself without witness, for he gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons… What we find lacking, as much in Iconium as in Lystra, is the ability, and the resolve, not to cling to the merely transitory, but to seek in it what is truly eternal. But how does one do this?

The process involves a meeting of two movements. We find a reference to the first in our opening prayer, where we spoke of our desire for what (the Father promises). And the second is found, of course, in the gospel, where Jesus speaks of how he and the Father will make their dwelling with us. For us who are Christian, the process of learning to see the eternal in the changing involves an experience of how our deep desire for God finds fulfillment only in Jesus the Lord. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him… This love is expressed in keeping Jesus’ word, in clinging to him who is the Eternal Word Made Flesh, rather than to any other transitory thing. It is not always an easy thing to do as it will often require us to release our grip on things that pass away. Yet, we are not left to our own devices. For, as Jesus reminds us, our love for him is lived in the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

How is this same Spirit empowering and enlightening us to continue clinging to Christ alone, and so to seek the Eternal in our changing world today?

1 comment:

  1. Just the other day, several colleagues were debating on why the turmoil and upheaval never abates in the organization I work for. It's because, they reason, we don't have core values that are perenniel and that endure in a changing world. Our world view, while it is resilient, at the same time corrupts and is susceptible to being corrupted. It is one thing to be able to adapt to a changing world and quite another to compromise what one believes in to survive.

    I'm glad Jesus taught us His core values. Jesus' core values are durable and eternal and have withstood the test of time. And until the end of time as we know it, His core values will be in conflict with those of the false gods.

    Holy Spirit, empower us to sense the eternal in the changing, and grant us companions on our journey together.