True happiness comes through service for others … we depend on Community / Family Leaders, let’s also be Leaders
These days, throughout our world, there is a great emphasis on personal decisions, personal happiness and “doing what I want”… quickly followed by: “don’t tell me what to do!”
It seems the art of living in Community and for Community is slowly dying. The phrase “no man is an island” means that no one is truly self-sufficient, everyone must rely on the company and comfort of others in order to thrive.
But do we only see it from our perspective: What others are supposed to do for me? How good are we at living intentionally for the good of others? Are our decisions about career and living standards just for my pleasure? Or do they assist the wider Community needs?
Let us reflect on how many Leaders we rely on to “run” our nation, our Communities and our families. As time moves on, it seems that great Leaders are fewer, and new leaders are more interested in their salary and conditions, rather than sacrifice/ service.
One of the toughest Leadership roles in our world, today, is being a Parent. It’s more difficult now, than in the past, because more negative influences are intruding into family life, causing confusion about the normal roles and behaviour of children and Parents.
The impact of Social Media and easy access to drugs – often pushed onto young people – creates a new world where family order is difficult to create and maintain.
Leadership is a balancing act between giving instructions and giving space for people to grow. When there are uncontrollable inputs giving conflicting instructions – often hidden from parents – it leads to conflict, suffering and sadness: the prophetic Parents are often ignored.
The readings this week require some context, before we miss some of their power. Jeremiah spoke this prophecy when Jerusalem was under serious attack and, shortly afterwards collapsed.
A bit like an airline captain telling people “all will be well” after losing all the engines. There’s a good chance we will survive, after crashing, but how will we start again? Jeremiah did not lose faith, and this gave courage and great hope to all the people.
We might roll our eyes and wonder how that helps us today? Well, move on to the Letter to the Hebrews where the writer reminds us that Jesus was living in the limitations of weakness, giving us certainty that God understands our struggles.
How did Jesus cope when he was led to the cross – was he thinking of Jeremiah’s words? Sometimes, like Christ, we are going to lose the normal circumstances of our lives. The important thing is to keep faith in God’s love for us: and we will rebuild our lives.
Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus is on the last leg of his journey to Jerusalem. He suspects, or knows, what lies ahead. But He still has time to hear the call of those who need Him. The blind man calls Jesus, the Son of David: fulfilment of the prophecy the Messiah.
This recalls the life of King David, the great warrior, and puts into sharp contrast the different weapons that Jesus uses to overcome the “enemy”, than David used long ago.
King David reclaimed Jerusalem with “righteous” violence, and appeared to win. Jesus Christ comes with “righteous” love and appears to lose. But we know the victory of Christ has not been lost, as Jerusalem was lost in the Exile. Like many stressed-out parents in our world today, Christ appeared to lose by dying on the Cross.
However, Parents only lose when they stop speaking the truth and stop loving their children, even when they go the wrong way. One day, one time, the child will suddenly understand what their Parents have been saying, because they never stopped loving them.
Jesus overcame the temptation to run away, or give up, through His relationship with ABBA. We thank God for the Parents who persevere through the minefield of challenges, continuing to care for, and guide, their children. May the Faith Community encourage you, and support you, in keeping on speaking the truth and loving your children. You are Jeremiah today.
Parents are also Christ, suffering, but always available for their children: as Jesus heard and listened to Bartimaeus the blind man at a time when He was heading to suffering and death. May Parents also have the courage of Christ to share some of their failures as young people, as a way of showing their children that they understand the “limitations of human weakness”.
How many people are depending on you or me? Will we have the courage to persevere through our doubts, and challenges? The only way to beat fear/ selfishness is to practice love with family and Community, so that we also receive love for who we are, not what we have.
It’s not righteous violence that wins people, but, as Pope Benedict XVI said: we can only evangelise through beauty, joy and truth. True evangelisation is not about winning people for “my” Church, but helping people experience God’s joy and peace in their own lives.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI