Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wednesday in the 19th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Groaning Unto Life

Readings: Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-22; Psalms 13:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Matthew 18:15-20
Picture: CC rogiro

There are two apparently contradictory aspects to the stereotypical Singaporean, aren’t there? On the one hand, we are known for our skill at complaining. From rising prices to rowdy neighbors, from inclement weather to inconsiderate bosses, we tend to grumble at every little thing that inconveniences or irritates us. And yet, on the other hand, isn’t it interesting how this skill of ours coexists so happily with apathy – a certain ability to remain blind to the many troublesome aspects of the world around us – poverty and oppression, for example, or loneliness and loss of direction in life? Isn’t it amazing how adept we are at grumbling at inconvenience while remaining oblivious to injustice?

How different we are from the people who survive the great purge described in the first reading today. Here we find a fearsome scene of massive destruction. Old men, youths and maidens, women and children – wipe them out! Only one group of people is spared – those who bear God’s mark on their foreheads. And who are these people? What sets them apart from all the others? They are those who are unable to find ultimate comfort in the earthly city. They moan and groan over all the abominations that are practiced around them. They prefer to swim against the tide of prevailing prejudices. They wholeheartedly yearn for, and work towards, that day when the idolatry and injustice that they see around them will be brought to an end. And perhaps they have even known persecution for being the odd ones out. On the day of slaughter, it is they who find safety and vindication.

But what difference is there, we may wonder, between their groaning and our grumbling? We find some indication of a possible answer in the gospel. While our self-centered complaints often tend to fracture relationships and alienate people, their concern is the sort that builds true community. While our grumbling is often simply in the interest of letting off steam or to attract attention, their groaning is born of the kind of fellowship that begins and ends in the presence and action of God. If two of you agree on earth about anything… For where two or three are gathered together in my name…

Considering their example, do we not find ourselves challenged to seek the grace that would make us more like them? Is this not a crucial first gift for which we need to ask, even as we may continue to gather in Christ’s name – that the Lord may turn our apathy into awareness, that he may transform our empty grumbling into the groaning that leads to life?

How might we continue to do this today?


  1. There are fine differences between grumbling and groaning indeed:

    Grumbling is basically about that villainous "they".
    Filled with bitterness with "what is",
    And swimming with the tide of prevailing malcontents,
    It seeks to show that "they" are worse in every imaginable way.

    Groaning is basically about the unfortunate "we".
    Filled with angst with "what could be",
    And swimming against the tide of prevailing prejudices,
    It seeks to show that "we" could be better in every imaginable way.

  2. Thanks anonymous for delineating the fine differences between the two. Them and us.
    A thought just struck me. It's like dropping a pebble into a pond. Events or the ripples continue whlst the small stone just lie at the bottom, unseen once the purpose has been accomplished.
    Most of us behave like the ripple as it continues its journey until it disappears. We can add value to life or increase its discontent. We are left with these two choices, so aptly demonstrated.
    From the movie "The things we lost in the fire" I also learned to 'accept the good.' Goodness abound if we remember who we are deigned to become.
    I can faintly imagine.


    For some time, I've been looking forward to Beijing becoming host for Olympics. I'm proud that the opening ceremony had been really grand and an eye-opener. But I'm sad that the organizers are so overly concerned with appearances that they would rather have a pretty child mime a song before the world than have the original singer (not ugly anyway) on stage. This is against the Olympic creed (which interestingly sounds quite Christian):

    "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

    IOC President Jacques Rogge put it very well in his gracious speech at the opening ceremony:

    "Remember that they are about much more than performance alone. They are about the peaceful gathering of 204 National Olympic Committees—regardless of ethnic origin, gender, religions or political system.

    "Please compete in the spirit of Olympic values: excellence, friendship and respect... remember that you are role models for the Youth of the World. Reject doping and cheating. Make us proud of your achievements and your conduct."

  4. It's so ominous when I submitted my comments about 'Accept the good' from the movie "The things we lost in the fire".
    In the wee hours of this morning, about 3 houses away across the road, two old dwellings caught fire
    and brought home what it meant to be dispossessed. In one swop all one's belongings up in flames.
    My first thought was to those familiies caught up in the unfortunate event - no time to grumble or groan. Just time to pick up the pieces of our lives and carry on.
    I could not resist the impulse to share this.
    There but for the grace of God, goes I. .....


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