Saturday, 11 February 2012

7th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Isaiah 43:18-19.21-22.24-25; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12

It is greatly troubling to a wife when her husband won’t acknowledge his illness. ‘Go to the doctor, please go to the doctor’ she begs; or, ‘I’ve made an appointment with the doctor for Tuesday, please keep it. He wants to see you.’

It is greatly troubling for a father when a son will not acknowledge he is doing something wrong, something that will lead to unhappiness for him, something which may lead to tragedy.

It is greatly troubling for a child when a parent’s behaviour, perhaps drinking, gambling, violence, or just plain absence is causing ever deeper anxiety and insecurity in the family.

And it is greatly troubling to God when his People’s hearts grow cold; when they begin to see his presence in their lives as a burden – and to shake it off, like the unwanted advances of a stranger, to go their own way – the wrong way.

How humiliating for God this must be, to have his love rejected by his own creatures; the work of his own hands! The prophet Micah allows us to imagine a kind of helpless bewilderment in God’s grief: My people, what have I done to you, how have I been a burden to you? Answer me (6:3).

The word ‘god’ has its roots in the ancient Indo-European word ghuto - meaning: that which is invoked or called upon.

It is the delight of the lover to be called upon by the beloved. Indeed, it is the essence of love to be always waiting upon the beloved: ‘I am here for you, always, day and night, always.’

But Israel no longer turns to her God. It seems that this presence of the One who has led them out from their slavery in Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land, and who now longs for their love and their trust and their obedience, is just too much for them, and they turn away: Jacob, you have not invoked me, you have not troubled yourself, Israel, on my behalf.

To fail to invoke the Creator who exists to be invoked is a crime indeed – a crime of unimaginable proportions – a crime which denies God in the cruellest possible way. No wonder the Church declares it a mortal sin to deliberately fail in our obligation to attend Sunday Mass.

Moreover, those who imagine that they can turn from God to some other good are dreadfully mistaken. When we turn from God we turn from the light. When we turn from the light we embrace the darkness, and in the darkness there is no salvation.

An empty seat in the church belongs to someone; someone who has not ‘troubled’ himself. If an empty seat is an offence to God, a rebuke to God, a humiliation for God, what must we say about an empty church? And what must we say about an entire nation which has thrown off the burden of belief?

God himself is the victim of our selfish obtuseness, and yet he comes to our rescue. He knows there is no other help for us in heaven, on earth, or under the earth than himself.

I it is, I it is, who must blot out everything and not remember your sins.

When we find ourselves saying ‘Why am I the one who always has to bite his tongue, to give way, to be understanding, to smile?’ let us be grateful; we are being given a privileged opportunity to identify with the very heart of God’s mercy, whose name is Jesus.

It is at those moments we can invoke the one who waits to be invoked; acknowledging his incomprehensible goodness, and unlocking our lives to his lordship over us. In this way we gradually become what we believe. In this way Jesus is gradually formed in us and our discipleship becomes real.

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