Wednesday, October 11, 2006

27th Wednesday in Ordinary Time (II)
Vertical and Horizontal

Readings: Galatians 2:1-2,7-14; Psalms 117:1-2; Luke 11:1-4

There’s a characteristic of the spiritual life that’s probably as crucial as it’s easy to forget and difficult to negotiate. And that is the close connection between our relationships with God and with others. We know well that when Jesus was asked for the first and greatest commandment, he gave a two-in-one answer: love God and your neighbour. The vertical and horizontal aspects of the spiritual life are inseparable.

Our readings illustrate this truth very clearly today. What prompts Paul to go to Jerusalem after having preached the gospel for fourteen years? I went there as a result of a revelation, he says. God prompted him to go. And the outcome was the sealing of a partnership: we were to go to the pagans and they to the circumcised. Paul’s relationship with his Lord and Master led him not only to spread the gospel, but also to do it in collaboration with others.

There’s more. We also notice that the vertical and horizontal beams of the spiritual life are crucial in another sense. They inevitably come together in the shape of a cross. In the first reading Paul’s allegiance to the Lord leads him not only into partnership but also into conflict with Peter, whom he opposed… to his face, since he was manifestly in the wrong.

Is it any wonder that we may sometimes find it tempting to overemphasize one aspect of the spiritual life – the vertical or the horizontal – at the expense of the other?

During these times of temptation, we might revisit and make our own the prayer that Jesus shares in the gospel today. As we know so well, it contains both the vertical and the horizontal: Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come… forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us

Where and how do the vertical and horizontal come together in our lives today?

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