Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Church is the "house of prayer for all peoples": not entitlement to miracle bailouts but the universal place of the ordinary miracle of Faith

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Pundits and experts are saying that there is a parallel between the fall of Western economies and children's reading and learning scores. The sense of entitlement that has been bred over many years in these countries, they say, is reflected in the lack of a work ethic among the young now observable in poor educational results and the rampant violence in the streets of Britain and which now may be spreading to other places.

Having been given so much and worked for so little has aroused in some an addiction that must be fed through rioting and looting. In the burning and destruction of the property of others is a rejection of the society to which they once looked so expectantly to give them everything they lack little effort on their part. The false illusion of the "miracle" of free stuff leaves the human person weakened and vulnerable before the harsh reality that work and discipline is a fact of human existence, exempting no one from its laws of give and take.

Have you ever heard someone say "I don't get anything out of it" when asked why they no longer attend Mass regularly on Sundays? Perhaps it is a sense of entitlement on the part of individuals on a spiritual level that leads to such an attitude. The thinking might be that if God is all powerful and capable of miracles and I give Him what He wants by keeping the commandments, among them the law of keeping holy the Lord's Day each Sunday, then I am entitled to expect Him to give me everything I want, including meeting my expectations of what I should get out of attending Mass.

Everyone dreams of miracle bailouts: materially by winning the lottery or spiritually by having all their dearest prayers answered. But the fact is that the God of the extraordinary and the miraculous chooses normally to work through the ordinary and the mundane. And this is the greatest miracle of all: everyone without exception is called to find what he or she needs in Christ who makes Himself radically available in the universal Church, the ordinary place of faith.

James Joyce once famously described the universal Church thus: "Here comes everybody". Increasingly it is the Church which serves as a unifying force in societies with a growing interracial and multicultural face, as was evident recently after the senseless violence in Norway when the Catholic Church offered a place of prayer and consolation for the grieving from diverse languages and backgrounds. Immigrants from diverse backgrounds recently filled the streets of London to overflowing to welcome the Holy Father during his visit there.

But though all are called, it is the through the ordinariness of their lives that God makes extraordinary possibilities take on flesh through Christ. The Church is "the place of faith" where this great work of God is done in us and through us; "the house of prayer for all peoples" (Is 56:1, 6-7) where anyone from anywhere can meet, know and love God.

All were dead because of sin but now, through the mercy of God, all are able to live in Jesus Christ whose "ordinary" death on the Cross won for us the extraordinary gift of God's own life opened for us through His merciful love.

"For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy."

It is through the ordinariness of obedience, the keeping of the Commandments, that God does what is extraordinary for mankind by the grace of faith. Christ is the "gift" that opens up the possibility of God in the lives of everyone, and each of us. The most ordinary task of keeping God's law, of doing what is right, just and good, is the great miracle of the extraordinary for every human person called to life of faith in the universal Church.

"Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed." (Rom 11:13-15, 29-32)

The Canaanite woman in the Gospel approaches Christ not with a sense of entitlement but rather with humility. And the Lord makes clear that she indeed is not entitled to demand what must remain sheer gift: "it is not right to take the food of the children and give it to the dogs". Despite odds which might discourage many she perseveres in the humble prayer of faith and thus gains access to Christ and the gift of an answered prayer.

God Himself, His own love and presence are "revealed", made real again and again, for us and others in a continuing miracle of goodness when we do what is just, right and holy for love of God who revealed His law of love most fully in Christ who obeyed the Father unto death on the Cross.

Sunday is the most miraculous of days when we, though many, are called forth from many different lives and from many different places, to be truly one in Christ. Let us never take this miracle for granted by overcoming even the greatest of inconveniences in order to be here again next and every Sunday so as to start an ordinary week once again in the most extraordinary of ways: gathered in the miracle of true oneness around the one Lord who took on the ordinariness of human flesh to change us so that we might share forever in the miracle of the extraordinary, eternal life of God.


No comments: