15/16 July 2017
My dear friends in Christ,
The 1st Reading and the Gospel this weekend deal, in part, with the issue of judgement, God’s judgement.
The image of God as ‘judge’ certainly comes into its own in the Old Testament. It was partly borne out of an historical context where the people of Israel, especially the kings, were not good at being faithful to God and his commandments. The kind of idea that ‘God, as judge, is watching you’, aimed at deterring people from an unholy and irreligious life. This idea has certainly featured throughout the history of the church.
I tend to shy away from this image of a judgemental God; perhaps it’s because I know that I may be in trouble if I have to ‘square up’ to my short comings! I always tend to hold onto a more ‘comfortable’ image of a God who loves us unconditionally; no matter how we mess up he will always welcome us back, i.e. the parable of the prodigal son. And indeed, I believe this is true. But does this mean that we can go on not applying and living Christian values or of not striving to be better? I suspect not.
To me, both the 1st Reading and Gospel raises the issue of accountability. In a job, we’re accountable to our boss; if we’re children we’re accountable to our parents; in civil society, we’re accountable to the law of the land. If you’re a priest, you’re accountable to the bishop (very loosely speaking!). If there are any infringements of the boundaries then we must answer for it before the relevant authority.
It doesn’t quite work like that in the spiritual life; there is no one – in a physical sense - watching over us. We have ‘guidelines’ built into our ‘faith system’, but there is no real external supervision of how we are living up to what we profess; it is essentially left to ourselves and our conscience. The church says that we should inform our conscience, in order to help us make the right choices. Indeed, this is true. But also prayer and some form of contemplation opens an avenue to which God can speak directly to the heart, and there is nothing more convincing than that.
This whole issue is an important one in the light of our calling. With its emphasis on the growth of the kingdom of God, the gospel reminds us of how we are channels of God’s grace; it is through our faith commitment that God’s presence impacts and changes the world.
Wishing you well for the week.