23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time - If Today You Hear His Voice

One of the most difficult facets of Christianity is that it continually invites us to re-imagine how the whole process of life and faith works. There can be no compromise when it comes to the message of Christ. If we buy into it only half-heartedly, we will ultimately lose it. If we pick and choose what parts of the Gospel we will subscribe to, we end up betraying the entire message. If we are faithful only when it is easy to be, we run the risk of denying Him under pressure. With Jesus, it's all or nothing - His invitation to follow Him is one that requires both courage and generosity.

fearBut there are always moments when the dream fades and hopes are dimmed. Evil, suffering and death, crisis and scandal continue to burst the dreams of believers, and many are tempted to harden their hearts and turn their backs and walk away.

Over the course of the last few months, our trust in many of society's most cherished institutions has been shaken, badly shaken, and deservedly so. We have come to see that peace and security are fragile commodities. We have now personally experienced how vulnerable we are, and we have learned to take nothing for granted. And yet today's psalm reminds us not to give up or give in:  If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Do not harden your hearts... do not give in to:

  • The Power of Fear - brought about by a sense of hopelessness in the face of adversity
  • The Power of Greed - which not only destroys the economic security of thousands, but which also condemns the most vulnerable to lives of poverty
  • The Power of Helplessness - experienced by millions worldwide in the face of pandemic.
  • The Power of Unaccountable Control - The misuse of power is the antithesis of freedom and its results can cause the destruction of God's creation on every level.

At the heart of the Gospel message, we have a reminder of how we accomplish this and how we are to love. The message we find in Scripture keeps going back to the fact that we can't do it on our own. Paul reminds us: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law."

We have to be in a disposition where we are radically open to a Spirit of love that lives inside each of us.
The Gospels tell us that there is no way we can claim to love God without being accountable to Love itself, and without living our lives in the service of others. It is our task to enter into this mystery over and over again, so that we will always see something we have never seen before. It's all about listening to a story with open ears and a fresh heart. It is about crossing over into uncharted lands. It is about constant, interior conversion.

It is, after all, all about power: a Power based on Love - not on terror, nor greed, nor control, nor domination. The voice of the Evil One is loud and strong within our world - so much so that it sometimes becomes difficult to hear the ever-present whispers of God. Evil accomplishes its work amid the noise of political speeches and the thunder of bombs - but God works in silence.

And while the goal of evil is destruction, terror and separation, God builds life where there is death, and brings holiness out of the stream of hatred. The spirit of the world makes men loud from the fear of their own emptiness; but the Spirit of God brings them peace and urges them not to be afraid. The spirit of the world fortifies men against one another with all of the tools they need to destroy one another. The spirit of evil separates… bringing to humanity a sense of aloneness and despair… a need to lash out with closed fists, rather than to reach out with open hands. But the Spirit of God brings people together, teaches them to live together, to work together, to honor each other, to forgive one another and to carry one another's burdens… despite their fears, despite their faults or weaknesses, despite the fact that they may think differently or believe differently.

There is a long way yet for us go in renewing our efforts in bringing about - in our own time and place - the New Creation that Christ promises.  It is His embrace which reminds us that it is not only possible but absolutely necessary.