Saturday, September 06, 2008
Friday in the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time
Calming the Anger Within
Readings: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Psalm 37:3-4, 5-6, 27-28, 39-40; Luke 5:33-39
Picture: CC EddieB55
I’m told that victims of abuse or trauma often bear scars that cut much deeper than the physical. It’s sort of like the dog that has often been beaten. Every time it sees someone with a stick in hand, it may react either by putting it’s tail between its legs and running away, or by baring its teeth and going on the attack. Never mind if the stick is actually only an umbrella, or a blind person’s cane. It’s always perceived as a threat. It always evokes a similar reaction each time. And things are not much different with humans too. A child that has often been beaten will instinctively wince and dodge when a hand is raised. Even if the intention is to stroke instead of slap, to hug instead of hit.
Although such reactions are understandable, they will often adversely affect one’s relationships. Consciously or not, one’s initial – and perhaps habitual – reaction to others will always be characterized by caution, since everyone is always perceived as a threat. Needless to say, misunderstandings are bound to occur. And piecemeal attempts at patching ruptured relationships will only go so far. What’s needed is a radical change in how one perceives reality as a whole – to realize that, as dangerous as this world is, not everyone is out to get us, not every would-be friend is a fiend in disguise; to learn to relax when appropriate, to let down one’s guard enough to allow healthy relationships to develop.
Perhaps something like is what Jesus is talking about in today’s gospel. New wine must be poured into fresh wineskins… For some reason, whether or not it is through abuse or trauma, some people have a warped image of God. Jesus understands that his presence and action must be a scandal – a stumbling block – to those whose view of God is that of a judgmental police officer – ever ready to spot and to punish the slightest deviation from the norm. The disciples of John the Baptist fast often… but yours eat and drink… He knows that no piecemeal explanation of his actions will be sufficient to convince them. No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. What is needed is nothing less than a revolution in their perspective on God – that God is more like a loving Father than a finger-pointing judge. And this is a revolution that, through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus aims to bring about. Rather than merely patching tears and refilling tired wineskins, Jesus offers them, and us, a whole new garment and fresh skins overflowing with the Spirit.
For, as Paul tells the Corinthians in the first reading, this God of ours is the only One capable of judging rightly. It is only God who can truly search the obscure depths of the human heart. It is only God who can uncover the good that often seems so well hidden, even to ourselves. And isn’t it such a consolation that, no matter what others or we ourselves might think, when God does this, when God does finally manifest the motives of our hearts… everyone will receive praise?
But first we must be willing to allow our perceptions to change. We need to allow God to calm our fearful and all too judgmental hearts. On an ongoing basis, we need to experience the height and depth of God’s love, in the person of the crucified and risen Christ, as he comes to meet us in each passing moment of every passing day.
How might the Lord be offering us new cloaks and new wineskins today?
Posted by Fr Chris at 1:40 am