Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Monday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
In The Belly of the Monster

Readings: Micah 6:1-4, 6-8; Psalm 50:5-6, 8-9, 16bc-17, 21 and 23; Matthew 12:38-42

“Listen… for the Lord is accusing his people.”

How do I hear this accusation today? How does it apply to me? Surely there are areas of shadow and darkness in my personal life: the insecurities and petty jealousies, the stubborn grudges against my neighbour, the failure sincerely to seek God’s face, and fully to trust in God alone…

But, today, the accusation I hear is more social and structural. We have just spent several days at a school for the children of migrant workers – have visited some of the students’ homes – have seen something of their living conditions. And this evening we had dinner at a fancy restaurant. What a contrast? I’m probably exaggerating, but still, how can fasting and feasting, destitution and decadence, be allowed to coexist so closely together?

Could we, could I, somehow be implicated in the sufferings of the migrants – I who live in such comfortable conditions?

“My people, what have I done to you? Answer me... What is good has been explained to you… to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God”

But even if I do become vaguely conscious of the suffering of the poor, even if I curb my consumeristic appetites and try to engage in charitable works, what difference can I make? Isn’t it highly unlikely that my puny efforts can overcome the inertia of global social, political and economic structures that keep increasing the distance between the haves and the have-nots? Can I really help the poor? On the contrary, the temptation is great simply to allow myself to succumb to apathy rather than to suffer the discomfort of hoping for something that seems to be beyond all hope: a more equitable distribution of this world’s goods.

Thankfully, the gospel provides consolation in the “sign of Jonah.” The discomfort I fear is not unlike that suffered by Jonah in the “belly of the sea-monster.” Here all is damp, dark and foreboding. It’s not a place anyone wishes to be. And yet, ironically, it is a place of salvation.

I remember Jonah’s story. He who tries so desperately to escape God’s call finally abandons himself to the surging waters of God’s wrath and is swallowed by a sea-monster. But what Jonah endures in its belly is merely the deep darkness that precedes the dawn. After three days and three nights, Jonah emerges to carry out his God-given mission with great efficacy.

More importantly, it is not just Jonah who accompanies us in the darkness. There is, above all, the comforting and sustaining presence of the crucified and risen One, the Eternal Sun who has risen and will never set, the same One in whom God shows “God’s salvation to the upright.” Perhaps this is what it means to “walk humbly with my God:” to persevere in acts of justice and tender love while keeping one’s eyes upon Him. Not so much on the results of our efforts, but upon Him…

This is the invitation: to enter the belly of the monster. How shall I respond?

No comments:

Post a Comment