Joy comes when part of the solution: depression & sadness remain if we expect others to do ‘something’
“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do” (by Anne Lamott).
We were saddened after watching the mini-dramas recently playing out in the USA. There were moments of Statesmanship by a few Politicians but, perhaps, not enough.
However, this example can help us reflect on our own daily lives. One of the key challenges for every person is – I think – how to constructively dialogue with people we don’t agree with?
How do we imitate Jesus in today’s Gospel, who was recognised by people: “‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it:’”.
Jesus knows the “frustration” of dealing with difficult people (just like us in daily life). People in business have to confront difficult employees and customers on a daily basis.
The opening quotation above is a starting point for us to understand the readings of today, and develop a way forward so that we can all act with authority, rather than like children arguing.
I was inspired by the article What is love asking of us now? about the recent political storms in the USA (Fr Ron Rolheiser OMI, 11-Jan-2021). Fr Ron also quotes a Jesuit priest, Daniel Berrigan (RIP), who was frequently protesting about Government Policies in America: “a prophet makes a vow of love, not of alienation.”
Despite all the criticism, and frustrating people who challenged Jesus, He always responded with love. Not romantic love, but honest loving responses that helps keep the TRUTH alive.
As Fr Ron emphasises, LIES must be exposed to protect the TRUTH and create opportunities for authentic dialogue. Secondly, whatever protest/ objection we make, must be done with civility. We agree to disagree, and express our alternative viewpoints.
Civility means not destroying life or property, and/or to use respectful dialogue. Love can be tough love, but always done in a civil manner, rather than shouting or beating others.
The other key reason why Jesus was recognised to have “authority” was the integrity of his life. No doubt, the Authority of the Church has been reduced, because of a lack of integrity by too many priests and religious. Those of us in religious life really need to be challenged frequently, by the Laity, to act with integrity by our: Actions/Words and Compassion/Sacrifice.
When we look at the First Reading, we need to imagine ourselves being “a fly on the wall”. If we imagine the frustration of Moses trying to be a mediator between God and the people, then we can also appreciate the positive and loving responses of Moses to the Israelites.
Moses had to tolerate all the complaints about God, then complaints about himself. However, he responded with love. Perhaps in his tent, at night, he was cursing the Israelites; but his actions in the daylight reveal his love. How many times in the Exodus story do we hear Moses arguing with God to “spare the people”, or “give them another chance”?
We also see the humanity of Moses when he became angry with the people: he broke the stone tablets; he destroyed the “golden calf”. BUT, Moses also “stood in the breach” and blocked God’s “anger”. In the full story of Exodus, we also hear Moses wanting to leave these “headstrong people”. Moses can be a great encouragement to us when we meet difficult people:
Privately we can express “anger”, sadness, tiredness, etc. Hence, we need a Spiritual Director. But, publicly, we are called to express love: not necessarily agreement, but disagree in love.
The letter to St Paul is very interesting, even as it challenges the current values in society about sexuality. The idea of celibacy does not say sex is bad, but identifies the need for sacrifice dedication. In married or single celibate life, to be successful, we give ourselves totally.
“Moses said to the people: ‘Your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among yourselves, from your own brothers; to him you must listen…” In every situation, God is calling one of us to be the presence of Jesus as mediator.
Are we generous enough to respond? Our generosity will ensure a brighter future for us all. However, if we choose to ignore the invitation to make a difference and, instead, complain about everything, asking why the Government has not done something, then our lack of generosity will sadly diminish the joy of our lives, and the Community around us.
Just as Moses placed the options before the Israelites, the choice is also put before us: Choose: Be part of the solution and feel God’s Salvation come alive in us, OR, remain part of the problem and experience sadness, depression and pain.
May God bless our efforts this week to “cast out devils” instead of condemning those we meet.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI