THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK –
increase in us your gift of faith,
that, forsaking sin and all that hinders us,
we may run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The image of the vineyard becomes a metaphor for the people of God—human, flawed, wilful, and contrary.
Then, as now, we may find ourselves resentful of our need for God’s strong, nurturing, and judging hand.
We cry out in pain, feeling abandoned.
Yet, when we ask for help, God is there. Hebrews’ “great cloud of witnesses” directs us to look to Jesus as our example, our hope and our redeemer.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Most often the best way to challenge what is broken and destructive is to live what is good and creative. As followers of Jesus, we may be tempted to believe that we should never be involved in conflict or disagreements.
The call to be people of love and grace can feel like a call to just be nice to everyone. But, in this week’s readings, we hear a very different message.
The Scriptures celebrate our ancestors in the faith, noting that many of them stood against the injustices of their day – even to death.
Today Sunday we have read the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus declared that he would bring division among people because some would be willing to discern the true nature of the times in which they were living, and others would not.
The challenge we must accept as Christ-followers, is not whether we will face conflict or not, but rather what the reasons will be for the conflicts we face. This calls for discernment, courage, and wisdom. It is never easy to have hard conversations with friends, family, or neighbours about what brings injustice into the world.
It can be painful to confront racism, materialism, patriarchy, or power games in our lives and world. Often, when we do try to address these difficult issues, we may be scapegoated, rejected, or persecuted. But we cannot remain silent in the face of injustices small or big if we are to follow Jesus faithfully. Rather, if we are to live the Gospel, we must be willing to do the difficult work, and to embrace the pain, of discerning what’s really going on in our lives and our world, confronting the injustice in our own hearts, and then challenging it in our small corner of the world. This is the tough call of this week – to endure conflict and division for the sake of the Gospel’s saving, liberating values and purposes, while discerning the “signs of the times”.
Reflect: When we commit to creating a better world, one of the consequences is that the old world must first die. We cannot create something new without first destroying – or at least significantly altering – what is already there. That’s why Jesus says that he has come to set the world on fire. One meaning of this is that Jesus seeks to inspire in people a passion for God’s Reign. But another meaning is that as these “on fire” people begin to live differently – challenging, undermining, and ultimately destroying the status quo, while helping to build God’s new reality. Jesus longs to see the world on fire as old ways of power, possessions, and pleasure are burned up in a new passion for simplicity, service, and sacrifice.
But Jesus is not naïve. He knows that as people become passionate about the things of God, so others, who are invested in the status quo, will oppose, and persecute them.
These divisions can occur even between friends and family members. It’s not that Jesus wants this to happen. It’s that, when some can see how our current way of life is destroying us and others can’t or won’t, conflicts will inevitably occur. As painful as this may be, the new world of God’s Reign cannot come into being without these “birth pains”. How can you stand firm for the values of God’s Reign in spite of the opposition of others today?
Proclaiming the alternative lifestyle of God’s Reign does not always mean that we need to speak out or challenge others directly. Most often the best way to challenge what is broken and destructive is to live what is good and creative. Today, think of one value of God’s Reign – simplicity, service, or sacrifice – and try to live it out as a challenge to injustice in every moment.
May my life proclaim your justice, O God, and challenge whatever opposes it