How wonderful (and how timely!) a call from St. Paul in this Sunday's second reading (Romans 12:1-8):
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God-what is good and acceptable and perfect.
As Christians, as friends of Jesus, as sharers in the divine life, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This means that the gift of faith and the movement of the Holy Spirit in us enable us to see differently. If we seek it and receive it, we are granted to discern "what is good and acceptable and perfect". "What is good and acceptable and perfect?" we may ask. Everything that is true-ly loving, and thus leads to the mystery of God.
We indeed need to seek and receive divine transformation-especially in today's increasingly complex society. Let us not settle for half-measures or for easy, sound-bite-sized half-truths (bearing in mind that the truth does not fit into 140 characters ;-). Let us ask the Holy Spirit to take hold of us more and more, knowing that "in the Lord we are light" and are called to "live as children of light". (Ephesians 5:8)
Yours in the Light of the World,
In this Sunday's gospel (Matthew 15:21-28), Jesus meets a Canaanite woman, a moving yet initially troubling encounter in which Jesus seems terribly out of character. This poor woman is desperate: her daughter is tormented by a demon (any of you parents: imagine if this situation were yours, seriously). And, Jesus seems to ignore or dismiss her-or, at least, to play hard to get! The woman recognizes in him the possibility of liberation. But, to her plea, "Have mercy on me", Jesus "did not answer at all". What? Is this Jesus? And, in response to the disciples' annoyance with her, Jesus seems to distance himself further: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." What? Is this Jesus? Why then has Jesus ventured into the territory of persons who are not on His "to-do" list? Wrong turn?
I would venture to say that Jesus is deliberately "out of character". Jesus only seems to adopt the legalistic perspective of some of His Jewish brethren. He, in fact, does not, for it is contrary to His mission. The Jews are the chosen people and will always remain so. The second reading (Romans 11:13-15, 29-32) reiterates this: "The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." But, as Psalm 145:10 so beautifully states, "The LORD is loving to everyone and his compassion is over all his work." Contrary to appearance, Jesus is encountering this woman, awakening in her a greater desire. In fact, Jesus is moved by her desire: "Woman, great is your faith!"
Jesus likes to awaken in us a greater desire, for it enlarges the heart, making more room for him and his gifts. The challenges in our lives are an invitation to greater desire. And, when, in the midst of them, Jesus seems distant, he is actually attracting us more deeply to himself and to one another.
Yours in Christ,
In this Sunday's second reading-Paul's letter to the early Christians in Rome (chapter 10, verses 5 to 15)-we find an incredibly hopeful statement. In a society where "inclusion" has become a buzz-word but is a not always a "buzz-reality", we hear about true inclusion, about supreme inclusion.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'
How refreshing: in Christ, there are no distinctions. How refreshing for us, who yearn for inclusion, in a society where we maintain distinctions, in a society where we maintain the tiresome social and political practice of identity categories, with their rigid definitions. That ultimately there be no distinctions is based on the truth that "God is the king of all the earth"(Psalm 47:7), God, "the riches of whose goodness and mercy are inexhaustible" (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter to the Romans).
How refreshing, yet how demanding. This requires that we hoist ourselves to the divine life. Humanly speaking, there are certain distinctions. They need not be hard and rigid and they certainly need not separate us. In fact, they ought serve mutually to enrich us. But, it is only in Christ that we are truly one. We are joined to one another by grace, in a way that transcends all categories. But, we must choose, each day, to live there.
One with you in Christ,
From the desk of the Rector