Friday, August 01, 2008
Friday in the 17th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori
Looking With New Eyes
Readings: Jeremiah 26:1-9; Psalms 69:5, 8-10, 14; Matthew 13:54-58
Picture: CC anthrovik
Today I’m reminded of the Chinese idiom ling yan xiang kan (另眼相看). Literally, it means to see with a different set of eyes. I’ve been told that it has a negative connotation. It’s used, for example, when someone we hold in high esteem is caught in some scandalous activity. We then find ourselves revising our opinion of that person. We look at him/ her with different eyes. But don’t we also often need to do the same in a positive sense as well?
Say we meet an old friend that we haven’t met for a long time. Maybe the last time we saw this person, s/he was short and pimply, with a mouthful of braces, and painfully timid and shy. Then, one day, years later, we meet again. And we are surprised by what we see. We’re greeted by an attractive, self-confident person, moving gracefully in a tall and well-proportioned body. The braces are gone, leaving behind a set of straight and gleaming white teeth. And gone too are the pimples. How do we react? Quite obviously, in order to continue the friendship, we will have to relate to this person in a way different from how we used to. We will need to see with new eyes. Otherwise, if we were instead to cling to our former impressions of this person, we will end up rejecting the new reality before us. And the friendship will die.
Sadly, something like the latter possibility is what we find happening in our readings today. Jesus returns to his hometown with the bearing of a prophet, as powerful as he is popular. Elsewhere he has gained a following through his ministry of preaching and healing. People have been flocking to hear and to touch him. But his old friends and neighbors, and perhaps even the members of his extended family, are not quite ready for this new Jesus. They still cling stubbornly to the Jesus they’ve known from his boyhood. They refuse to look at him with new eyes. They refuse to see beyond the carpenter’s son, the one of whom they think they know everything. And as a result of their rejection of the new reality of who Jesus is, something dies. They forfeit the opportunity of renewing their relationship with the Lord. He works no miracles in their town.
What happens to Jesus in the gospel happens also to God in the first reading. Here we find a dispute in the Temple at Jerusalem, between the prophet Jeremiah and the people. The latter take great pride not only in the Temple, but also in their fidelity to the rituals that take place within it. They think that if only they faithfully carry out these rites of worship, everything will go well for them. But a new and difficult reality is coming to meet them. The powerful Babylonian army is drawing near, threatening their very existence. And Jeremiah, speaking on behalf of God, tells them that they have to repent. Otherwise even the Temple itself will be destroyed. Do they listen? No. They prefer to cling to their old certainties. They refuse to see with new eyes. They reject God’s warning, and even go to the extent of wanting to kill God's messenger. As a result something dies. Not only will the Temple be destroyed, but their religion will be shown up for what it is, an empty husk of routine rituals, devoid of the mysterious and the miraculous.
And what about us? Doesn’t God continue to meet us in new ways each day? Sometimes, for example, God may come to us as someone who helps us in our difficulties. At other times, God may just as easily appear as someone who needs our help. Are we alert and flexible enough to welcome God?
How ready are we to see with new eyes?
Posted by Fr Chris at 10:20 am