7th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C 2019
24 February 2019
Deacon Les Ruhrmund
Last week I visited with my children, Woodside Special Care Centre in Rondebosch East which is a haven for the profoundly disabled – physically and mentally. There are 78 residents ranging in age from 5 to 50 years old, they are all in nappies, only two of them can hold a spoon to feed themselves, very few of them are able to stand or walk because their limbs are so badly deformed and only a small number of them are able to express themselves in understandable words. My children are involved in marketing and digital media and we were there to evaluate what assistance we can give Woodside in raising desperately needed funds.
I think it would be fair to assume that the parents of the disabled residents of Woodside all wanted a perfect child.
We are told that God looked at the world he had created and it was good. A question that comes to mind when one sees these profoundly disabled adults and children is ‘What could possibly be good about this?’
I believe that through such as these, each one of them a precious child of God, perfection is found in the way that the people around them react. They bring out the Christ in us.
That’s the message in today’s Gospel.
Paraphrasing a verse from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians that we heard in the Second Reading, he says “Just as we bear the image of Adam the man of dust, we also bear the image of Jesus, the man of heaven.”
The Gospel Jesus says ‘If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Be kind, be merciful, forgive and do not condemn, for the measure you give out is the measure you will receive.’
Jesus is painting a self-portrait. He is telling us how God acts and how he expects us to act. Jesus goes beyond the ‘golden rule’ of ‘do as you would want done’ and says rather ‘do as God would do.’
The very essence of Christian conduct is not as much about refraining from bad things, as it is about whole-heartedly doing good things. And we know all too well in our own brokenness, just how difficult that can be.
It’s much easier to stop ourselves from consciously committing serious sin than it is to consciously treat others, neighbour and stranger alike, with patience, respect, kindness, generosity and love desiring only that which is good for them no matter how they have treated us.
We live in a world that encourages instant gratification summed up succinctly by my three year old granddaughter Ella who walked into the kitchen and said recently “Nana I want a biscuit.“ When Claire asked “And what’s the magic word?” Ella replied “NOW!”
With so much focus in society on ourselves, our personal needs, wants and emotional satisfaction, it’s really challenging to be a good Christian. It doesn’t come naturally.
Christianity is a discipline. Our faith demands of us every day that we should be the visible presence of Christ in the world through our words and in our actions.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta was someone who understood this completely.
Once when she was staying with her community of sisters working with the Aborigines in Australia, she visited an elderly man who lived in total isolation, ignored by everyone. His home was messy, dark and dirty.
She offered to clean his house and wash his clothes but he told her that he was just fine with everything as it was and she should leave him alone. To which she replied “Yes but you would be even better if you allowed me to do this” and he relented.
While she was cleaning the house she discovered a beautiful lamp covered with dust which obviously hadn’t been used in years.
Mother Teresa asked him if he ever used the lamp and he told her that no-one ever came to visit him and there was no reason to light the lamp.
To which she asked ‘Would you light it every night if the sisters came?”
“Of course” he replied and from that day on, the sisters visited him every evening.
A few years later, back in Calcutta, Mother Theresa received a message from the old man “Tell my friend that the light she lit in my life continues to shine still.”
That’s what it means to be a Christian: to give, to bless, to stop judging, to stop condemning, to serve and to start lighting lamps.
Christianity is an action not an emotion.
We may feel emotionally fulfilled after a wonderful liturgy of great music, song and prayer but if that does not motivate us to bring the light and love of Christ into the world through our actions, then our prayer and worship are little more than an extension of our focus on our own gratification.
Preparing an action plan for the week ahead we could start with our words.
Language is one of our greatest gifts allowing us to know each other, understand each other, express and share our thoughts, our love, our hopes and our fears but language is also an instrument of immense destruction inflicting untold pain and suffering (often on those we love most) and fermenting ideas that cause division and wars.
In the week ahead, we could take conscious action to use language to express love, hope, forgiveness, kindness and encouragement and avoid saying, posting or tweeting anything negative , critical or derogatory to anyone; refrain from saying that would cause pain, doubt, anger, anxiety or the dispersion of rumours, gossip and innuendo.
This one action of deliberately using our words to build the kingdom rather than undermine it can have profound consequences of good in our lives and in the lives of the many we touch through language.
Hatred can be defeated only by love; injury can be healed only by forgiveness; evil can be restrained only by goodness.