Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A warning to religious folk

Read I Corinthians 10:1-12

Jesus was certainly compassionate and merciful with the poor, the sick and the marginalized. Yet he could be demanding and unyielding with those who were well-off, healthy and respectable. While being kind and welcoming for sinners, he could be hard and threatening for those who were considered very religious.

Why this difference of attitude and behaviour? It’s because Jesus came to invite us to change our hearts and welcome a God who turns out to be quite different from what we expect. The poor and the sinners are ready to welcome such an invitation, they are glad to receive it. On the other hand, those are were comfortable with their social situation and satisfied with their religious habits see no reason to change. An invitation to conversion for them is an invitation to let go of a position they enjoy. Their pride is hurt, their convictions questioned. Their personal security is shaken and their social status threatened. They close themselves to Jesus’ invitation. So Jesus has to be quite forceful with them.

Such a death-dealing comfort is a temptation for all of us. We all tend to shape for ourselves a life-style that gives us comfort, whether that comfort be material, psychological or spiritual.

In this Sunday’s second reading, Saint Paul echoes for the Corinthians the challenge that Jesus presents to his listeners in the Gospels. He speaks particularly to those who consider themselves “strong” in the faith. He calls them to humility and ongoing conversion. The fact of knowing Christ and being part of the Church is no guarantee: they must continually return to the Lord to implore his grace and his love.

Paul gives as an example the story of the Israelites as they journeyed towards the promised land. They had all sorts of advantages on their side: the great prophet Moses, the tables of the Law, the gifts of manna falling from heaven and of water springing from a rock, the presence of God both day and night. And yet, many of them resisted Moses. They continued worshipping idols. They ended up wandering in the desert and dying there.

In Christ, the fullness of salvation is offered to each of us. In the Church, Christ comes to us to offer his gifts: his Word and his wisdom, his sacraments, his community and ministers, his very Spirit. We are like Israel on its way to the promised land: everything is given to us, and even more. The question remains: will we know how to respond to this generosity?

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