19th Sunday of the Year

Has the door already been locked and the key thrown away?

There are all sorts of messages and hints in today’s gospel and we’re only reading the shortened version! Take a look in your missal for the full offering and you’ll see what I mean. But what we have is certainly sufficient to get our minds thinking and to ask that question which appears at the top of this piece.

It may be an unpleasant truth for us to swallow, but nevertheless it is one that has to be confronted. We talk a lot about how our country is becoming more and more secularised. And yes, we might very well live in a multi faith society, but survey after survey shows that more and more people are abandoning any notion that faith (and for most people in this country that means the Christian faith) in a loving and benevolent God is, in our modern world, no longer of value to their lives and to the way they live them. So these are the folk who have either consciously or subconsciously closed the door to the idea that faith is relevant. They have metaphorically tossed aside the key.

Much research has been applied into finding out the answer to this falling away of people and many reasons have been given. For many people however, the reasons were to be found in the rather uncompromising attitude that the Church herself displayed in dealing with the issues which people struggled with. The great social upheaval that exploded on society, particularly in the area of sexual morals and attitudes towards relationships, seemed to create a sense that the Church was out of touch, and its moral teaching in these areas began to be openly challenged. In responding to this challenge the Church itself felt threatened. In all honesty, the Church lost any sense of what we now call a compassionate pastoral response to the care of her people. We forgot that we were dealing with individuals, people who had been hurt, and who found that their requests for help were met with a stern and judgmental face, rather than a loving and merciful one. That this happened, has for many, meant that any faith people once had in Jesus Christ, was been damaged beyond repair. So to meet the needs of these people we need to offer them something new. We need to offer them an image of faith that paints an understanding of who we are as seen through the eyes of Jesus. A vision that shows them a new context for their lives, however damaged. One that gathers them in and shares with them that which is good and beautiful. An image of faith that takes them on a journey through life and fills them with hope and love, one that helps them find the key to the door which was locked so long ago, so it can now be unlocked and opened once more, to discover a new and meaningful truth.

How is it to be done? I think that we have to engage people more with the Jesus in the gospels. We have to invite people to look at Jesus as someone who is, like themselves, experiencing the same concerns and issues that we all encounter. We have to offer them an image which shows how these concerns are dealt with through his eyes and his words and his actions. We have to show that the gospels are not anecdotes or reminiscences but are insightful truths towards a working out of our problems and difficulties by applying the lessons learnt form Jesus, to the way we live. Listen to today’s gospel and consider what is being offered. Jesus is coming back to gather us once more, but all in good time. His knock at the door is not to be feared, as it is an invitation and not an eviction. He comes to serve and not to be served, to wait on us and to offer his love and care. The imagery is clear: we are the servants who are called to place before people the love of Christ as the key which unlocks the door to him who is knocking and calling.

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