Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Tuesday in the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time
Readings: 1 Corinthians 2:10b-16; Psalms 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13ab, 13cd-14; Luke 4:31-37
Picture: CC Hern Y
Since moving to this new place, I find it important frequently to remind myself to do something that doesn’t always come naturally, at least not to me. Ordinarily, I find myself too easily engrossed in my own concerns, rather oblivious to what is happening in the world around me. I believe the technical term for this condition is… blur. But, especially because I find myself in new surroundings and around unfamiliar people, I’ve been trying to pay more attention not just to what people say, but also to how they say it, not just to their speech, but also to their actions. How else to know what’s on their minds and in their hearts, except by learning to read what is expressed in word and deed?
Which is something useful to call to mind today, as our Mass readings present us with a contrast between realities beyond the material. In the first reading, Paul distinguishes between the spirit of the world and the spirit of Christ. And the gospel presents for our consideration the contrasting effects of the spirit of an unclean devil and the authority and power of Jesus. The lesson is quite clear: what should characterize us as Christians is the latter spirit, the latter authority and power, as opposed to the former. As Paul tells us, we are those who have the mind of Christ. But how are we to know if this is indeed the spirit that moves us in any given situation? How are others to tell what is in our minds and hearts? What is within us can only be determined externally by our words and our deeds.
Consider the effects of the spirit of the unclean devil on the possessed person in the gospel. Enslaved and oppressed by what is within him, the man in the synagogue speaks and acts as someone imprisoned by fear and anxiety, even when faced with the One who is just in all his ways. Have you come to destroy us? The overwhelming preoccupation of this person is with self-preservation and self-advancement.
In contrast, the spirit of God moves Jesus to do the very thing that we heard him preach about in yesterday’s gospel passage: proclaim liberty to captives… set the downtrodden free… Jesus’ preaching effectively casts out the unclean spirit from the possessed person. And the one who was oppressed is released. The one who was imprisoned is set free. Jesus’ preoccupation is with self-donation for the betterment of others.
Presented with this stark contrast between opposing spirits, do we not find ourselves drawn to pay careful attention to what we encounter daily in the world around us, to learn to distinguish the effects of the spirit of the world from the spirit of Christ? Do we not also find ourselves invited to discern carefully the spirits that are moving not just around, but also within us?
And is it not important for us also to consider what people see when they look carefully at us who bear the name of Christ, at what we say, surely, but also at what we do? Living as we are in a world teeming with the poor and the oppressed, the blind and the captive, to what extent are we preoccupied with self-donation rather that self-advancement?
If others were to read our minds by studying our deeds, what spirit would they discover?
Posted by Fr Chris at 12:53 am