Sunday, March 25, 2012

FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT

THE SEED MUST DIE

We are more troublesome to ourselves than anyone else – St. Francis del Sale

First Reading – Jeremiah 31:31-34 – The prophet Jeremiah tells a shattered people that God has not forsaken them, but will soon make a new and more intimate covenant with them.

Second reading Heb 5:7-9 – Through his obedience and suffering Christ became the source of eternal life for us

Gospel John 12:20-33 – In his death Jesus will be glorified and this will bring life to those who follow him.



THE HUMAN VULNERABILITY

We sometimes put on certain stoic faces which show that life must with courage without showing any weakness whatsoever. But life is not about hardliners, survival technicians of life. Liberators are those who fight for the common good but they never live long to see the fruits of their work.

There are usually low moments, where we reach the rock bottom, our inner life is smashed, bombarded and moving on with life becomes a nightmare and we can’t go ahead and we create short-cuts in life.

We get tired of insults and injuries in our life. In this state of exhaustion and despair, and the only way forward is throwing ourselves on our knees before God, and pray. Sometimes we tell God that we have taken stands for what we believe is right, and now we feel afraid of the consequences and what will follow.

This is when we feel the presence of God; this experience enables us to continue the struggle. This shows that we are not made of stone, we need to show that we are human, weak, and sometimes we need the other side of our life.

In all our human struggles and heroic endeavours we have to show what man or woman we are made of. Jesus experienced this in the Gethsamane amidst all the sweats of expectations and fulfilment of the father’s will.

This courage of Jesus came from prayer, for courage is fear that has said its prayers. Amidst everything else courage ought to be our mover in what we do. There is no need to pretend that we are made of granite, we must not hide our weakness and fear. Like Jesus we must turn to God in heartfelt prayer. And we must also seek human comforting as Jesus did when he asked Peter, James and John to watch and pray with him.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

THE NEED FOR CONSECRATION

We can lose our freedom for different reasons and, sometimes, for the best of reasons.

Imagine this scenario: You are on your way to a restaurant to meet a friend for dinner, a perfectly legitimate agenda, but en route you witness a car accident. Some of the people in the accident are seriously hurt and you are the first to arrive at the scene. At that moment your own agenda, dinner with a friend, is put on hold. You've lost your freedom and are, by circumstance and need, conscripted to remain there and help. You phone for an ambulance, you call for the police, and you wait with the injured until help arrives.

During that whole time your freedom is suspended. You are still radically free of course. You could leave the injured to fend for themselves and head off to meet your friend, but you would be abdicating part of your humanity by doing that. Circumstance and need have taken away your existential and moral freedom. They have consecrated you and set you apart just as surely as a bishop's blessing sets apart a building to be a church. The building didn't ask to be a church, but it's now consecrated and no longer free for other usage. So too with us, circumstance can consecrate us and take away our freedom.

In the ordinary mindset, consecration is a word that connotes things to do with church and religion. We understand certain things as consecrated, taken out of the profane world and set aside for sacred, holy service; for example: buildings (churches), persons (priests, deacons, monks, nuns), tables (altars), cups (chalices), clothing (vestments and religious habits). There is some merit in that, but the danger is that we tend to see consecration as a cultic and metaphysical separation rather than as a setting apart for service. Setting aside your freedom in order to stop and help at a traffic accident doesn't alter your humanity; it just suspends your ordinary activity. It calls you to service because you happen to be there, not because you are more special or holier than anyone else

That was the case with Moses: When God calls him to go to Pharaoh and ask him to set the Israelites free, Moses objects: Why not my brother? He has better leadership skills. I don't want to do this! Why me? And God answers those objections with the words: Because you have seen their suffering! It's that simple: God tells Moses that he may not walk away because he has seen the peoples' suffering. For that reason, he is the consecrated one, the one who is not free to walk away. Circumstance and need have consecrated him.

Our very notion of church draws on this concept. The word Ecclesia comes from two Greek words: "Ek Kaleo". "Ek" is a preposition meaning, "out of"; and "Kaleo" is verb meaning, "to be called". To be a member of the church is to be "called out of". And what we are "called out of" is what our normal agenda would be if we weren't conscripted by our baptism and by the innate demands of consequent discipleship. Baptism and church membership consecrate us. They call us out and set us apart in the same way that Moses' having seen the suffering of the Israelites took away his freedom to pursue an ordinary life and in the same way as witnessing a traffic accident on the way to meeting a friend sets aside our dinner plans for that night.

Edward Schillebeeckx once wrote a book within which he tried to explain why Jesus never married. He examined various theories and possible motives and concluded that, ultimately, Jesus never married because "it was existentially impossible" for him to marry. In essence, what Schillebeeckx is saying is that Jesus never married because the universal embrace of his love and magnitude of the world's wounds and needs simply never left him the freedom to marry, like someone on her way to have dinner with a friend but who has that agenda derailed because she witnesses a traffic accident. Like Moses, he was conscripted by a moral imperative. He didn't not marry because he judged it holier to be celibate or because he needed some kind of cultic purity for his ministry. He never married because the needs of this world simply suspended ordinary life. He was celibate not by emotional preference or by spiritual superiority, but by moral conscription.

Today the word consecration has lost much of its rich meaning. We have relegated the word to the sacristy and over-loaded it with connotations of purity and cult. That's unfortunate because both what's best in our humanity and our faith are forever trying to consecrate us. The needs and wounds of our world are constantly asking us to suspend our radical freedom, to set aside our own agendas, in order to serve.

And, like Moses, we have all seen enough suffering in this world that we should no longer be asking the question: "Why me?"

IN MEMORY OF DAVID JACOBUS BOSCH

TRANSFORMING MISSION : David Bosch- Some Personal Reflections by Willem Saaymann, Prof. Emeritus in Missiology at Unisa, Pretoria, Sout...