Life is your choice: selfish and dead…or life-giving and joyful
The first two readings today are very short – always a danger to say: “That’s nice” And then move on. But short readings should alert us to stop and look deeper.
Let’s start with St Paul’s letter: for those who are not happy with God or on the outer suburbs of Church life, the word SPIRITUAL often brings negative thoughts to mind: we link it to the Church leaders and teachings! “Do this and don’t do that!” or “Give more money!” which is more about Religion. Don’t get me wrong, religion is an important framework which we need to guide our spirituality and correct it when it goes haywire.
Spirituality, in my view is this: channelling our energies into life-giving actions that automatically connect us to our Creator God. When we are doing life-giving actions,
we are participating in the ongoing plan of creation that belongs to God.
So, when St Paul says that “unspiritual people are not pleasing to God” he means those who are not doing life-giving actions: to be unspiritual is focus on selfish ambition/ pleasure and not care about anyone else. They are not pleasing to God because they are hurting themselves. Just like parents are not pleased when their children are taking drugs or doing stupid things. They don’t stop loving them, they just get frustrated, angry and make moves to intervene.
Spiritual people are those who are fully engaged in ordinary life with a spirit of discipleship that leads them to treat their neighbour as they treat themselves: life-giving actions.
Now, let’s go back to the First Reading where Ezekiel brings us a message that God is going to open our graves. And you’re thinking: I’m not dead yet! Reminds me of the Monty Python movie (Search for the Holy Grail) where they are bringing out the dead and one man says: “But I’m not dead yet!” I won’t tell you what happened next, but many of us are the walking dead.
Important Notice: The management regret it has come to their attention that Employees dying on the job are failing to fall down. This practice must stop as it becomes impossible to distinguish between Death and natural movement of the staff. Any Employee found dead in an upright position will be dropped from the payroll. By Order of the Management.
Are we just going through life in a routine – everything is OK but boring? Always waiting for the weekend party as the hope to make life “good” again? (And instead we get a hangover?)
Take a moment to stop and think: How often do I get angry at people? How often do I try to avoid people? (although sometimes it’s a good idea!) How often do I gossip about other people I don’t like? How many times a day do I complain about this and that, the Government, the boss, the priest, the husband/wife, the children or mum/dad?
I believe God is using the word DEAD to indicate the absence of peace in our lives.
And, like every loving parent, God wants us to be at peace and happy with the world around us.
So, sometimes God has to take direct action. Opening our graves means to interrupt our normal pattern of life. God never forces us out, but always gives us an invitation to live more like a community rather than an individual. And community is what brings us to religion.
Religion helps form us into a happy collection of people who are able to socialise and trust each other because we have a common understanding of the dignity of every person.
Religion creates the framework within which a TRUE spiritual life can be lived: free, safe and appreciated. TRUE spirituality means a SHARED understanding of the dignity of life.
The great challenge today is that many people see themselves as SPIRITUAL but not RELIGIOUS. This means that they will decide what being spiritual means, rather than being “corrected” by the community through religion. The great danger is that they make God into whom they want God to be, instead of allowing ourselves to be corrected by God.
The great Lutheran theologian (Germany, 1930’s), Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession.” And, here, we can add: taking from community life without contributing something.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead as a sign of a life-giving action which restores community for Lazarus, his sisters and the local village. If you get time to watch the Monty Python clip you will see how the world likes to get rid of difficult situations. Very different to the spirituality of Jesus Christ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jdf5EXo6I68 – Monty Python – bring out your dead.
Let’s pray that this unexpected coronavirus lock-down we are experiencing becomes a time to be more truly SPIRITUAL in our relationships: becoming more life-giving in our actions.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI