Sunday, July 02, 2023

Beyond Myth & Mechanics

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: 2 Kings 4:8-11, 13-16; Psalm 88(89):2-3, 16-19; Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; Matthew 10:37-42

Picture: By Lydia Winters on Unsplash

My dear friends, where do babies come from? As you know, there’re different ways to answer this question. One way is through myth. So some say babies are delivered by storks, or harvested in cabbage patches, or even picked up from a rubbish dump. But the more enlightened among us will frown on such blatantly made-up stories. Preferring to rely on an apparently more realistic account. One that focuses on the mechanics of conception. Without going into too much detail, according to this view, life is simply the product of the timely coming together of certain anatomical parts and bodily fluids.

But beyond myth and mechanics, our scriptures offer yet another approach. One that we may call mystery. In the first reading, an elderly and rich but barren couple are miraculously blessed with a baby. How does this happen? We’re told that it’s their reward for renovating their home to welcome a prophet. Which is another way of saying that new life comes as a gift to those who make space to receive God’s word. For what does a prophet do if not speak God’s word? And not just any word, but an often inconvenient, uncomfortable, even disruptive word. A word that calls to conversion. A word that may at first feel like a heavy burden.

In the gospel, Jesus confirms this close connection between making space for God’s word, and receiving new life. In fact, the Lord wants his disciples to do more than just make a tiny space for him in some obscure corner of their lives. Instead, he wants us to make him our first priority. And even to be willing to bear the possibly painful consequences of standing with him in the bright light of truth. Which may include making space, at least in our hearts and prayers, for the poor, powerless and voiceless of this world. Again, especially to us, whose lives are often already overcrowded with many other concerns, all this may sound like a burden too heavy to bear.

But the second reading reminds us that the Cross is really less of a cruel burden than a merciful space that God has opened up, in order to usher us back into our heavenly home. A space into which we entered and promised to remain, when we submitted to the cleansing waters of baptism. When we strive to live up to our baptismal promises, and courageously bear the consequences of true discipleship, we begin to experience the Cross not so much as a burden, but more as a firm foundation and sure support. By making space for the God who first made space for us, we receive God’s gift of new life, in whatever surprising form it might choose to take.

Where do babies come from? A crucial question that haunts this super-affluent yet rapidly ageing and increasing suicidal society of ours. While the scriptures may not seem to give us a practical enough answer, they do point us in a helpful direction. They invite us to first examine our use of space, in our homes, in our hearts, in our lives. For amid the often burdensome course of our daily living, the Lord still chooses to keep passing by, yearning for us to invite him in.

Sisters and brothers, beyond myth and mechanics, what will we do to make more room to welcome Mystery today?

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