Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday in the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time
Memorial of St. Peter Claver, Priest
Aim High!

Readings: 1 Corinthians 6:1-11; Psalm 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b; Luke 6:12-19
Picture: CC drp

Aim high, my late grandfather used to tell me. Aim high! Then, even if you miss, at least you won’t be too far off the target. Of course, I’ve come to see that this is not always the best advice. It can, for example, be counterproductive when offered to perfectionists and workaholics. It can breed a kind of perpetual discontent, an inability to be happy with what one has and the person one is. Even so, there’s value in it when seen in an appropriate light. It can, for example, help us to understand what Paul seems to be saying to the Corinthians in our first reading today.

At one level, Paul’s message does seem to be less than helpful in this very complex world of ours. At a time when the church has been rocked by one scandal after another – when even priests have been convicted of serious sexual and financial crimes – it seems quite na├»ve, and even downright dangerous, to still think that we should try to deal with all our difficulties and disputes in-house, without recourse to the civil authorities. Even if this may have been feasible in the days of Paul, for better or for worse, that time is now past. Today, even whole dioceses run the risk of bankruptcy as a result of civil suits.

What value then do Paul’s words have for us today? Even while we – as individuals and as a Christian community – allow ourselves to have greater recourse to civil authorities, perhaps Paul’s admonishment of the Corinthians might serve to remind us not to settle simply for what the law courts have to offer. Perhaps what Paul offers us is a crucial reminder to aim higher.

For while the civil law and the authorities that uphold and enforce it may be indispensable in maintaining societal order, our identity as Christians impels us to go further. Consider Jesus’ actions in the gospel today. As is common in Luke’s account, Jesus prefaces every major decision with prayer. He bases his choice of the Twelve not so much on external legal prescriptions as on his intimate relationship with his Father. And it is also from out of this relationship that Jesus’ true authority flows, bringing much comfort and healing to the many who seek him. More than societal order, what Jesus offers is the fullness of life that comes from being reconciled with God and with one another. Beyond law and order, Jesus brings love and peace. As followers of Christ, can we afford to settle for less? Even as we are expected to give heed to the prescriptions of civil authority, does Jesus not also call us to go beyond? As he does with the Twelve in today’s gospel, does he not invite us to share in the same authority that he wielded with such awe-inspiring effect?

Quite coincidentally, the Jesuit saint we celebrate today offers us an example of someone who heeded this call to an amazing degree. In the time of Peter Claver, the buying and selling of human beings was not against the law. And yet, Peter left his comfortable European homeland to spend his life ministering to newly arrived slaves in faraway Colombia and working tirelessly for their cause. In this complex world of ours, are there not still many who continue to cry out for something like Peter’s daring dedication and ardent advocacy?

How are we being invited to aim higher today?


  1. I am reminded of 2 expressions that stick out in the recess of my mind - Aim at a Star and writings by Oswald Chambers, who advocated "My Utmost for His Highest". So I guess there is some wisdom in this.
    To strike a happy balance - reaching beyond oneself by stretching and yet learn to be reconciled with what we are capable of - is no easy task. We are empowered to be fully alive and also to apply Magis.
    Perhaps we need to take small steps daily, just a little further from our comfort zones to discover what we are deigned to be. We center ourselves on Jesus and watch what He does. Walking on water may not be a practical idea but bringing relief to the thirsty is doable.
    So we crawl, we fall, we get up again to face our own fears. There is much to learn from one another.

  2. The Straits Times yesterday carried a half-page report on a fantastic woman, Mdm Indranee Nadisen, (a.k.a. mother of Fr Richards Ambrose) who has been a foster mum to 43 children over the past 32 years! While Mdm Indranee is very admirable, could this a daunting aim for most full-time housewives?

    So, instead of "Aim high", how about just "Aim Higher" for us mere mortals and lay folks? Then at least, we won't get discouraged too easily. :-p

    I like the messages of the recent 4-part Christifideles laici series of flyers that were distributed at all parishes recently, especially the last two:

    3. Having a mission is about being sent to the "vineyard" of the world and working to transform it so that it becomes more and more a place where God's love is seen. We just need to look right where we are and ask ourselves: Is my family, my workplace and community better because I'm there?

    4. Doing God's work is not about doing more "Christian stuff" but doing the stuff that we're already doing in a more Christian way!

    And at this point in time, I just want to fulfill Jesus' command in today's gospel reading (Luke 6:27) to "... love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."


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