Thursday, June 05, 2008
Thursday in the 9th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr
You Raise Me Up
Readings: 2 Timothy 2:8-15; Psalms 25:4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14; Mark 12:28-34
A participant at a recent day of recollection spoke of how, even as he continued to persevere in walking the dusty roads of life, he sometimes wished that he could be raised up above ground level, lifted to a higher plane of existence, so that he could see a little further and be energized anew. Do you ever experience feelings like that? If so, it may be a good idea to get in touch again with them and to use them as the starting point for our reflection today.
But we must acknowledge that the desire to be raised up is not an obvious starting point. For today’s gospel is the all-too-familiar passage where Jesus speaks about the greatest commandment. And the image traditionally evoked by the word commandment is one of being burdened. The image is that of a yoke placed upon oxen in the plowing of a field. Indeed, Jesus himself asks us, in another place, to shoulder my yoke and learn from me (Mt 11:29). Even so, is it not just as legitimate, and important, for us to call another image to mind – the image of being raised up? For we know well that Jesus is the very embodiment of the living out of the great commandment of love. And he was raised up. By consenting to walk the perilous roads of an ordinary human life, he was raised to the pinnacle of existence, but only after first having been lifted up upon a cross, just as Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the desert. When, like that scribe in the gospel today, we come to the Lord asking to be raised above the trials and tribulations of daily living, he responds by offering us the commandment of love as the one and only effective way, a way that leads upwards but only after snaking its way down.
This is also the way that is spoken about in the first reading. Here we hear about Paul’s hardships, which he bears courageously, even to being chained like a criminal. But it’s clear that he does not see these trials of his simply as a burden to be borne in stubborn stoicism, much less in shame. As he tells Timothy: present yourself in front of God as… a man who has no cause to be ashamed of his life’s work… Rather does Paul see his sufferings as a hand by which the Father is raising him – and not just him, but also all those who are chosen – to the heights of eternal glory.
We see something of the same process in the life of Boniface, the saint we commemorate today. He was called from the quiet seclusion of the monastery to the hustle and bustle of missionary life. He was made to travel from the relative safety of his native England to the as yet untamed wilderness of Germany. And in the process of sharing his faith and of building up the church, he also laid down his life, but only to be raised up to the ranks of the saints in heaven.
Probably few of us are called to undertake the same arduous journey that Boniface was. But all of us are invited to walk the dusty roads of human living, the very particular avenues and alleyways that we each have to traverse daily. But even as we may continue to plod along at ground level, we also remain conscious of the desire burning within us, the desire to be lifted up. And it is in view of satisfying this same desire that Jesus proposes to us the great commandment of love. For it is in persevering on the ordinary road with extraordinary love that we are raised to the heights of sanctity.
It seems fitting to end with these lines from the song recorded some years ago by Josh Groban:
When I am down and oh my soul so weary,
When troubles come and my heart burdened be,
Then I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be.
Through his great commandment of love, how is the Lord raising us up today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 9:48 am