Thursday, July 31, 2008
Thursday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola
Readings: Jeremiah 18:1-6; Psalms 146:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6ab; Matthew 13:47-53
Picture: CC cambodia4kidsorg
Just recently, I happened to read an article written by an American, who tells of how he once addressed a letter of complaint to a department store for selling goods that were made in the People’s Republic of China. His objection was that, in doing so, the store was actually condoning and even supporting the many human rights abuses perpetrated by the government of that country. I mention this neither to make a judgment on the American in question nor on the PRC. What I find interesting is how the former should have been so conscientious in checking the manufacturing labels on the products that he was buying. He had formed a certain opinion about what he did and did not want, and he was careful to accept only those products that met his requirements, rejecting the rest.
I wonder if this is something like what we find happening in Jesus’ description of the kingdom of heaven in today’s gospel. At the end of time the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just… The question that comes to mind is: in making that final separation, what will angels be looking for? Obviously they will consider the fruits of each one’s actions. They will accept the just and reject the wicked. But how will they distinguish the one from the other? Is there perhaps a manufacturer’s label, a stamp of quality that they will be looking out for?
The first reading offers us some insight into this by using a similar manufacturing analogy. As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so you are in mine… In our relationship with God, God intends to be the potter, and for us to be the clay that submits obediently to God’s molding hand. The process may be long and arduous, but when the pot of our lives is finally complete, it can proudly bear the stamp of its divine manufacturer: made in the furnace of the Kingdom by the hands of the Eternal King.
But there will, on the other hand, also be those among us who might wish to go it on our own, or who prefer to be molded by other hands. These pots will end up being fashioned according to a different style. They will come to bear a different stamp. Made in… Yet, however beautiful and stylish may be the finished product, and however smooth and painless may have been the manufacturing process, the crucial question for us to consider is the extent to which this label will find acceptance by the angels when they go shopping on the last day?
If this image of the end of time is even somewhat accurate, then we may well need to examine closely our priorities and our ways of proceeding. We will wish to avoid hankering after things like earthly success and worldly pleasure, and instead be concerned with learning to submit to the hands of the divine potter. In the well-known phrase of St. Ignatius of Loyola, we will be concerned with finding God in all things. How else to find acceptance in the Lord’s kingdom? How else to be welcomed into the Father’s household?
Whose stamp, whose label, are we letting ourselves be marked with today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 7:42 am