Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Wednesday in the 27th Week of Ordinary Time
Creatures of Habit


Readings: Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14; Psalm 117:1bc, 2; Luke 11:1-4
Picture: CC FaceMePLS

It is said that the human being is a creature of habit. I don’t know exactly how or whether this is true of everyone. But I do often find its truth in my own behavior. I am aware, for example, of how I seem always to gravitate towards a certain pew whenever I go to church. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If something works, why change it. And, after all, some say that the cultivation of good habits is actually a means to becoming a person of character, a moral person, a good person. Even so, there are dangers to clinging too rigidly to the routine and the habitual, aren’t there? Clinging to what works may well may prevent me from experimenting with and discovering something that works better. And while my habit of choosing a particular spot in church may seem quite harmless, alarm bells should ring if I find myself becoming irritated when someone else occupies my seat ahead of me.

In contrast to such rigidity, what we find in our readings today is perhaps something quite different. Notice how, in the first reading, Paul seems to manifest two rather contrasting ways of proceeding. On the one hand, he is concerned with being accountable and submissive to the apostles in Jerusalem, so that I might not be running… in vain. On the other hand, however, Paul is also not averse to opposing Cephas to his face because he clearly was wrong. Also, as Paul tells us, the church in his time confines its ministry neither to the circumcised nor to the uncircumcised, but reaches out to both. And, in the gospel, while we find Jesus engaging as usual in his habit of prayer, this does not preclude him from sharing his experience with others. While he enjoys moments of solitude, these do not exclude moments spent with his disciples as well.

There is a further reflection we might make, one that perhaps explains why and how these different behaviors and habits are held in tension in the experiences of Jesus, Paul and the early church. A clue to an answer is provided by Paul’s statement that he went up to Jerusalem… in accord with a revelation… What keeps our habits from falling into the rut of dull routine is the cultivation of yet another, more fundamental practice. It is the habit of ever trying to discover and be open to the voice of Revelation, the face of the Lord, in whatever new circumstance – however unsettling – might come our way. Yes, even the person who might have taken my seat in church…

For to do this is also to receive the daily bread with which our heavenly Father delights in feeding us.

What habits are we being invited to cultivate today?

1 comment:

  1. What a coincidence! I've been thinking about changing my habits recently. When I feel like complaining, I shall try to see the bigger picture, give thanks for blessings which I already receive and then bring my concern to God first before doing the first thing that comes to my mind. And now I see that while God has promised to give us strength and graces, He still expects us to be ready to suffer or at least work hard. So the other habit I need to cultivate is simply to be more disciplined and to work harder.

    Actually, Fr Chris, the first word that came to mind when I read your reflection was, 'balance'. What I need to do in my situation may be totally different from what someone else needs to do in her situation. This probably explains why Jesus sometimes seems to contradict himself. For example, in Luke 9, he said, 'whoever is not against you is for you' and yet in Luke 11, he said, 'whoever is not with me is against me'.

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