Friday, 24 October 2008

30th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

Exodus 22:20-26; 1Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40

In the Gospel today Jesus asks of us the very thing Original Sin makes it impossible for us to do - to love totally.

Deep within us we are complicated, fractured, wounded - to such an extent that there is no longer anything we can do totally - either good or bad. We have no totally pure motives and no totally evil motives; our generosity always contains a bit of self-seeking and our selfishness always has a bit of good mixed in - in fact, we are all mixed up.

Our souls are like a class of Grade One children - noisy, distracted, and self-absorbed.

I remember a man once telling me how sorry he was that he could not make himself regret his sins as much as he felt he should. He told me: I didn't really mean to commit them, I don't feel as sorry as I should, I can't even remember if I confessed them all.

Well, that's how it is with us - we gaze at the stars with our feet in the mud.

We look to Jesus for what we need in order to become more and more healed of our brokenness. We long to be whole, we long to be one with ourselves - but not entirely. There is in each one of us this attraction to the perfect, to the complete. We long to love totally - completely - with our entire selves - but not all the time.

It is a hunger in us - a thirst - which responds to the invitation of Jesus to love with all our hearts, and soul, and mind - with a profound 'YES, that's what I want too .. but not right now.'

The philosophers can't seem to make up their mind whether our deepest need is to be loved totally or to give ourselves totally to another in love.

I think it is the latter.

If this is true then our every criticism of others is really a criticism of our inability to love well.
'He is so annoying' is really an admission - 'I am so unable to love' or, 'I don't get anything out of Mass' is really an admission - 'I can't seem to give myself wholly at Mass.'

We long for total love - but we also dread it. Isn't that strange?

And why is it so?

I think it's because we all know that love consumes. Like a fire it warms but get too close and it burns us - and so we keep our distance. And so most of us are stuck somewhere between the cold and the fire.

Fr de Caussade used to speak of prayer as a kind of throwing of ourselves into the fire of love. He said that it is at first terribly painful as we begin to die to ourselves. We can behave like green twigs, spluttering and twisting and hissing out sap, until we begin to glow with the heat of the fire itself.

Then, finally, we are truly at peace, and yet, we are being consumed.

If this is so - our longing to give ourselves totally is at the same time a kind of longing for death - a death to self - a longing to be one with the beloved.

Each act of true love is an act of dying to self.

Jesus died the death of love on the Cross.

On the cross he hangs - between God and neighbour - loving each with all his heart, and soul, and mind - inviting us - to join him.

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