26th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 29th September
In our post-modern age, we often live as though our world is empty and meaningless and where we are called to define our own meaning. Things become what we want them to be rather than what they are. There is a sense in which this retreat away from reality stands in stark contrast to even our understanding of the natural world which underpins much of our scientific research and our theological thought about the source of all life. Things, when viewed solely by their utility rather than by their essence, lead us into unchartered waters where we start to view something as having value and worth if it is useful to ourselves. This causes us to act in a way which is centred solely on what we need for this moment and this day and ignores both the physical and spiritual reality that at the heart of life we have a connection with God which shapes how we become stewards of all creation.
Hence, when we close our hearts and our minds to the reality of the world we live in and focus solely on what we need for the moment we can rob others of the vitality with which they need to live. It can cause us to look for what will make us wealthy, successful and relevant at the expense of others and future generations. We can become driven by immediate concerns rather than looking to that which can sustain life in all its beauty and diversity. When we look solely at what we own, the power that we possess and the status we have achieved we have an ability to divide people into categories: rich and poor; liberal and conservative; citizens and refugees; the haves and have nots. Such divisions are based on artificial constructs some of which are based on birth, opportunity and identity. They can cause us to see others solely through the prism of the label we put upon them rather than as people equal in dignity and worth. When we lose our sense of humanity we live on shifting sand for it would be too easy for us to lose what is essential to life, the fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Wealth, power and success can become illusory and can be stripped from us by sickness, unemployment, failure and ultimately by death. We can actually construct a philosophy devoid of hope, which lacks faith and denies charity rather than a philosophy which proclaims life in all its wonder and diversity.
In seeking to discover who we are called to become we need to listen to the heart of God which beats through all creation. This is a recognition that we are not called to just use our environment as we please but rather as a stewardship entrusted to us by God. This starts not only with how we treat each other but how we seek to care for the environment in which we live for the good of God and the good of each other. We are not called to live as aliens in a strange land who seek escape from reality either through denial or apocalyptic rhetoric. We are called to be a living witness that God created all things and sustains them in being. We are called to be co-creators who seek to live that vision which we encounter in the person of Jesus Christ. This way of life seeks us to be present in our current situation with grace. We seek the truth of life by reflecting on what challenges we face and what moves us into action. We seek to discover how our life changes through these encounters in a way which lies at the core of who we are. As people on a pilgrimage, we are called to travel with each other by acknowledging that each of our stories interweaves with the divine story. We are not called to be people removed from our current reality but people who live an incarnate faith which engages with the way we live in our world and creates a way of life which professes what we believe.
Fr. John Armstrong