Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday in the 15th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Kit Exchange

Readings: Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19; Psalms 102:13-14ab and 15, 16-18, 19-21; Matthew 11:28-30
Picture: CC Fedot Preslov

The system has since been modernized and made even more convenient and efficient. But until not too long ago, military personnel who needed new equipment were required to undergo something called a kit exchange. When boots became worn out or uniforms damaged beyond repair, for example, you brought the used piece of equipment to the store and exchanged it for a brand new item. As such – unless the store had run out of stock – there was no real excuse for continuing to be seen in attire that looked shamefully tired, or to use equipment that compromised peak performance. If it didn’t work properly, you simply exchanged it for something better. Even so, there were usually some soldiers who seemed to delight in parading around in attire and equipment that had seen many a better day. Perhaps it was laziness, or an inordinate attachment to the old, or plain negligence. Whatever the reason, these personnel strangely seemed to disdain the kit exchange process, preferring the old to the new, the stale to the fresh.

A similar convenience is being extended in our readings today, albeit on a dissimilar scale and a different dimension. More than just tired equipment, both Isaiah and Jesus invite us to exchange our worn out selves and our weary lives, for a whole new form of existence. In particular, Jesus invites his listeners to exchange the oppressive burden of slavish and literal obedience to the law for the yoke of love that he offers. A key characteristic of this new way of proceeding is its focus not so much on one’s own efforts as upon the gentleness and humility of Christ, who loved us to the extent of obediently taking on the heavy burden of our rebellious human nature, and bearing the cruel weight of the Cross.

To submit to this kit exchange is to trade in our self-reliant tendencies, which often oppress us to the point of unbearable fatigue, for the gift of fullness of life that Jesus has won for us by his selfless sacrifice on Calvary. As inviting as such an exchange is, however, like those negligent soldiers we spoke about earlier, we may yet experience some resistance to it. We may find ourselves curiously clinging to our old ways, reluctant to give them up. For to exchange them for something new is also, in a sense, to suffer a kind of death – a dying to the old self and its habitual way of proceeding.

Yet, as Isaiah reminds us, to engage in this exchange, to submit to this dying, is really also to rise to a new existence. Your dead will come to life… the land of ghosts will give birth. And, even though we may remain immersed in this perfectionistic and workaholic culture of ours, even as we might still labour under the oppressive weight of our prideful ways, and suffer its exhausting effects, Jesus continues so quietly to beckon us: Come to me… and I will give you rest…

How might we submit more wholeheartedly to this kit exchange today?

1 comment:

  1. I've been trying to do a kit exchange for years. But the old self is too tenacious. It simply won't die! Just when I thought it has finally passed away, it comes back at the most unexpected moment. And it's time to go for another confession. Haiz!


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