Home » Gospel Reflection – 14th Sunday of the Year

Gospel Reflection – 14th Sunday of the Year

Dear sisters and brothers,

Whilst I was driving with my father recently we were listening to his old favourite songs from the 1950s.  One, called “Wake Up Little Susie” really struck me.  In it, the courting couple have been to a drive through movie in America, and they’ve fallen asleep while they were there.  Everybody else has left and it’s now gone 10pm, the time Susie was meant to be home, and according to the song they’re “in trouble deep” and their “reputation is shot”!!!  This song struck me because it highlighted how just 10 years or so after this song was released the moral boundaries of Europe and the USA were transformed, and how we are living with the fallout from that today.  Many modern songs, TV programmes and films now promote – and presume – that everyone is having sex all the time with anyone they like and having multiple partners.  To quote a recent song: “I’m into having sex, not making love”.  The moral boundaries haven’t just been moved, they’ve been removed.

Why do I mention this?  Well, today’s readings throw out both a harsh challenge and a pastoral concern that brought these things to mind.  St Paul, in the letter to the Romans, tells us that we as Christians should be living spiritual lives, not unspiritual lives, because “the Spirit of God has made his home in you…the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you”.  His challenge to us is that, if we really believed this, we would be choosing to live our lives as Jesus directs us to, rather than the way in which the world encourages us to: choosing God over humanity, choosing good over bad, choosing “a blessing, not a curse”.  And it’s a choice that each of us can only make for ourselves.  The scary thing is that our faith cannot be compromised: either we believe in Jesus’ teaching and his plan to reveal that through the Church or we don’t.  If we think we can define it on our own terms it’s not the faith of Christ handed onto the Church, but our own brand, which is inevitably rooted in our selfishness, rather than God’s selflessness.  I always think that it’s fundamentally important to remember that Jesus, as my best friend, wants only the best for me, and so, if he teaches me something – either through the Scriptures or through the Church – that I don’t like, he must be right and I must be wrong.  He is God after all, and I am merely a disciple, a follower.  If I put myself at odds with God’s teaching, then I’m saying that I am the god of my life and not him.  Sadly, I do that all too often.  St Paul, in encouraging us to put on the ‘spiritual’ is asking us to choose God’s ways, God’s discipline, God’s boundaries, because they are what are best for us to live a truly healthy, fulfilled life.

The Gospel and first reading, however, acknowledge that life isn’t always that straightforward, that sometimes choosing to follow the Lord can be challenging and burdensome as we face our own human frailty.  This is very obvious in the world we live in.  We are bombarded with the idea that true freedom is doing what we want when we want, not trusting in God.  The media encourages us to have constant sexual activity, either in person or using pornography, outside the boundaries of what Christ teaches, selling it as what makes you feel good.  We are tempted to take small steps into gambling or drug taking in different forms, with the buzz of the risk factor.  In the workplace we are expected to achieve success, whatever the cost, because it’s money and power that make the world go round.  We are encouraged to spend, spend, spend because owning whatever we want makes us feel better about ourselves.  However, the negative consequences of these things are rarely mentioned: the breakdown of marriage and family life, addiction, the broken mental health of those who are victimised or bullied, enormous credit card debt and much, much more. They are all myths and lies – and there are many more that are marketed – which the Lord understands can be hard to resist, particularly in our internet age.  He knows we will stumble and fall, but he asks that we turn to him as we recognise our weakness, trusting that he is “kind and full of compassion”, seeking to give us peace and ‘rest’ when we are ‘overburdened’ by so many temptations.  The prophet Zechariah describes Jesus as the ‘victor’ today, because he has had the victory over the power of sin in our lives.  We may give in to such temptations, but he picks us up and enables us to start over again whenever we ask.

And this is why we must never sit in judgement on each other.  We all have our areas of weakness, and we must acknowledge that we are no better or worse than our sister or brother, and that they are no worse than us.  We must also accept that we don’t know the journey that they are on with the Lord, the battles that they are fighting, just as they don’t know ours.  We must bring ourselves honestly before him, and pray that others may do the same, that each of us may become the disciples – the people who follow the discipline of Jesus – the saints that we were made to be.  When we do so, Jesus yokes himself to us and guides us along the right, the best, the healthiest path for life.  Let us entrust our lives to him, and not to the ways of the world.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

With every blessing,

Simon