Our problem in the world today: we wrestle with God and hope to win. Happiness comes when we lose.
I’m not sure what you think, but it seems to me that we are becoming more and more interested in criticising others, and condemning others for bad action: we love bad news where the bad people are killed or jailed or suffer in some way. At the same time, we’ve become less tolerant of any criticism directed at ourselves, a sign that we’re not humble enough.
Although I agree that Mr Putin and the Russian leadership have done a very evil thing by starting a war against Ukraine, do we ever stop to think: what have we done, in the democratic world, to reduce fear in the Russian mentality (especially older people there), that we are peaceful countries? Have we shown that we want everyone to live a good life?
For example: *how much wealth is generated in the rich countries from armaments?* How many small defenceless countries have been interfered with by rich countries to ensure control of minerals and other resources, that largely benefit the rich people in the world? Don’t only look at the US and Britain, but France is perhaps the biggest villain in Africa.
Our focus today should be on looking into ourselves and asking: am I more like the elder “good” son in the Gospel, or more like the younger “naughty” son?
A simple example: the Catholic charities in England are being criticised for giving animals to poor families in parts of Africa. They think it’s harming the environment and we should all be vegetarians (cathnews.com/cathnews/45201-charity-defends-animal-gifting-programs)
So, it’s very timely that we reflect more deeply on the First Reading, for here lies the real “sin” of the world today. To help us understand it better, listen to this:
WRESTLING WITH GOD: Based on a story found in Report to Greco, an autobiography by Nikos Kazantzakis.
When Nikos Kazantzakis was young, his mother was very religious; and went to mass daily. But his father was bitter toward religion, and Nikos was torn. When he was 19 years old he decided to spend the summer at a monastery located on one of the mountains in Greece. At this monastery he encountered *Fr Makarios,* a wise, old monk.
One day, Nikos asked him, “Father, do you still wrestle with the Devil?” Makarios said, “No. I used to wrestle with the Devil all the time. But now I have grown old and tired, and the Devil has grown old and tired with me. So I leave him alone and he leaves me alone.”
Nikos asked, “Then your life is easy now?”
Makarios responded, “Oh no. Life is much harder now. For now I wrestle with God.”
Nikos exclaimed, “You wrestle with God and hope to win?”
“No,” said Makarios, “I wrestle with God and hope to lose.”
The “sin” in our world today – in religious life as well – is a strong resistance to work together: too many of us want to be our own boss in issues that affect community life: we want to play at being God, rather than being happy we are with God.
When we have money or security, it’s more likely we’ll start thinking we don’t need other people so much: we can be less forgiving of the inconveniences caused by them. However, living in a community, where we rely on each other when difficulties come, it’s much easier to forgive each other, as we remember the help we have received, or hope to, if a crisis comes.
The return of the prodigal son is a blessing for the whole community, because the gifts of every person should make our community life stronger, easier and happier.
The “naughty son” in the Gospel reminds us that we are all “bad boys” sometimes, and have to learn from our mistakes – sorry for the male language fitting in with the Gospel (we assume girls are not naughty). The loving father symbolises not only God, but should remind us of the tears and anguish we caused parents/ teachers when we were learning to grow up.
In Australian this week a terrible car crash killed five teenagers due to probable reckless driving. I hope each one of us can “wake up” to our bad behaviours before it’s too late.
Likewise, how much suffering do we cause others because of harsh/ unforgiving words? Can we also ‘wake up’ to the blessings we already have; happy that others are welcomed?
How much do we miss out on because we condemn others – pushing them away instead of drawing them into our community and benefiting from the gifts they bring from God?
How much of our mental illness and general discontent, or anger, with the world around us is caused by our condemning of others?
Can we try this week, to really see the positives in the people around us and take time to appreciate, praise or assist them? The joy we receive back from the others will warm our hearts.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI