A Message we should not ignore
Each week as we dip our toes as it were, into the waters of the gospels, some may find the experience very cold and choppy, whereas others will find the waters warm and welcoming. However we find the gospels depends hugely upon our own state of mind or our own personal circumstances at the time, and it is upon the basis of such feelings that our own response is tempered. For most of us our lives are happy and content and we seek to live out our vocation with the vision and spirit of Jesus as the model of our humanity. On the other hand in times of change, of difficulty and uncertainty, it is natural that we will read the gospel with that change and difficulty and uncertainty uppermost in our thoughts, and again this is entirely proper and appropriate.
It seems quite evident that in these times our society, and the communities which make up our society are undergoing quite rapid and radical change, and the question we then ask is how are we to direct our thoughts to the practice of the gospel values, when what we have become so used to and to a degree so dependent upon, is for so many people no longer delivering the answers they are looking for. What should the response of the Church be at such times? Does today’s gospel provide us with any clues? As the Church comes towards the Synod on the family, what should she be doing and saying to a world which with one eye is no longer looking for, and with one ear no longer listening to the message of Jesus Christ.
One of the great formative moments for any culture is when it asks itself what is its purpose and what is it for. It is both an individual as well as a communal question and in reflecting and responding to it we examine many of the boundaries both moral and ethical which bind us together. From the outset, the human mind has looked to formulate explanations for why we express altruism rather than selfishness. Why care for the weak, the lost, and the fragile? Why bother looking after the sick or the unwell if they drain our resources and stunt our march towards power and authority? Maybe the answer lies hidden deep in our genetic make up, formed hundreds of thousands of years ago, but three thousand years ago a deep insight (call it revelation if you like) was recorded in a book which has been essential to the way in which our civilisation has grown. Life was always going to be a struggle from the moment our innocence was lost: Accursed be the soil because of you. Painfully you will get your food from it as long as you live. Yet we were not abandoned: the Lord God made tunics of skins for the man and his wife and clothed them. Here is the act of altruism, the act of love done unto us in our moment of defiance, and thus it shapes us, embedded as it is into all of us. It is the foundation of who and what we are and we must strive to hold on to it.
And so to today’s gospel and its clue: if anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all. This is the message which the Church must proclaim from the Synod so that it is heard loudly and clearly. Gone is the desire for power and authority, gone is the wish for control and command to be replaced with a call to love and compassion and service. So if when we come to read the gospels we frame each passage with this message, then whatever state of mind we find ourselves in when we listen, at least the framework of our thoughts will be guided towards the image of Jesus as the one who came not to be served but to serve.