A Conviction of Love

10-06-2019Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

In our first reading we learn from Habakkuk that he does not see life in positive and happy ways. Gloom, doom, destruction, and ruin surround him. And we are prompted to ask what is Habakkuk doing about it? He is plainly and boldly complaining! He does not have “the stuff” of New Englanders. No stiff upper lip for Habakkuk. He is letting God have it. Although it is hard to believe, he is exercising his faith. Not through silence and acceptance, but through loud and messy protest. The prophet is sharply demanding that his faithful God do something. And what we know happens: God hears the cries of Habakkuk. God promises that his will shall be done. Note, more importantly, how God also demands that faith be lived out. It appears that God is concerned that faithful people recognize that they can live even in a world beset by evil without being overcome by evil. In our intense world of today, this is essential to recognize and know.

Our Gospel passage from Luke focuses on Jesus addressing his disciples about the problems and difficulties which can arise within the community: These may become sins that can shatter the faith of the “little ones”, the members of the community who have less prominence and little power. He also speaks about the need to forgive one another the inevitable offenses that normally occur among members.

We then see that Jesus turns to his apostles, those who hold authority in the community, and he reminds them that the flock and fields belong to God. Those who work the fields and tend the flock are servants only, not owners. Jesus wants the apostles to hold clearly in their minds and memories that he expects of them faithful, honest service. Jesus does not want them to act all snobby and better than everyone else, or act as if everyone owes them. Jesus is saying that those whom he has entrusted to serve the community should expect no other privilege than to be so chosen. Absolutely nothing else is due them. He is making clear that serving the Lord and God’s own is its own reward. This is all put into the context of a meal. His message is seen in his attempt to tell the apostles that fuss over status and prestige has no place at the Lord’s Table.

As a Church today, our readings require us to examine ourselves quite closely. We may believe that our doctrine is pure, but we must never forget that no one doctrine is all encompass-ing and absolute. We are right to hold that our mission is mighty, but it is very wrong to presume it is almighty. We can treasure our many traditions, but they are never worthy of worship.

We must always remember that we have no meaning without Jesus Christ, for certainly we have no power without his Spirit. All who minister and serve in the Church do so at the service of the person who is Jesus Christ. Our function is to represent the event and the person of Jesus Christ. When our faith is strong, it will be able to move even mountains. There will be little reference or small emphasis on holy law, for there will be felt the magnetism of love.

Even when our faith is weak, our work of representing Jesus will continue. Although the Spirit can be impeded, it cannot be stopped. Our Church and especially our parish community, indeed all of us individually, must spread the Good News of Jesus Christ based on a conviction of love. We cannot become a precious relic of bygone times and traditions; we must be a Church and a parish community fully alive in Jesus Christ.