THURSDAY: Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
His Love and His Grace
When Jesus employed the metaphor of sheep and goats to describe the Old and New Israel of God, he intended to depict the irrational, inflexible and animalistic nature in humankind. The comparison of the ox and the ass with Israel is a perfect example of how reckless, inconsiderate and oblivious the children of God can be in their demands (Is.1:3). Thus, when Christ defined himself as a shepherd to this flock (Ps.100), he gave us a graphic description of the level of somberness, compassion, love, mercy and solidarity it takes to carry a resisting flock back into its fold. It is a labour of altruistic love.
Leadership in the Church sometimes can be daunting. The reactions of Moses and Aaron in Numbers 20:1-13 are prototypes of Christ Jesus’ Passion and Crucifixion. This is reminiscent of the early days of my priestly ministry. Silently, behind closed doors, I wept for the incredulity and obstinacy of those who found fault with every word I uttered. It was always convenient for them to see their faults in me – it was never theirs – only that their needs always took priority over the values of the gospel. There I discovered it is not easy to lead those whose minds, hearts, souls and spirits are lodged in their stomachs to freedom and to salvation if they are unwilling to embrace the slightest austerity measure for their own good. The Seminary had not prepared me for this. Faith and grace taught me how to be empathetic and faithful like God, Moses, Arron and Christ Jesus when the occasions arose.
Leadership in the Church, although daunting sometime, have it aha moments. It is a tall, but it is a noble and nurturing responsibility; it grows gradually into the fabric of the being of those whose vocation it is to be shepherds like God and Christ in the world. It transforms those who embrace it and love it into copies of the incarnate word. It creates in them an avid desire to know God and Christ Jesus intimately, embodies their virtues, values and valour and become true suffering servants like them (Mk.10:45; Is.52:13—53:12).
Thus, when Christ asked his disciples, “Who do the people say the son of man is?” Also, “who do you say I am?” He was not fishing for compliments. Instead, he wanted clarity: did the people and the disciples recognise the qualities and nature of the suffering servant of God in him? If they did not, then they would be unprepared for the scandal of the cross. In other words, the question was synonymous with the notion of the suffering servant of God and the preparedness of the disciples to imitate Jesus as a suffering servant of God. Remember the words of Jesus: no one is entitled to become his disciple unless he is willing to take up his cross and follow him (Matt.10:38). Thus, Christ designated all his disciples as suffering servants of God like himself. This is exactly what the Father meant when he said, “Listen to him.”
Time is continuous; so too is the history of humankind. Humankind has not changed. We are still victims of ancient sins. The Church in the world today is inundated with demands to change the values of the gospel and the virtues of Christ so that humankind can quench their licentiousness without accountability to God. Shall the Church remain faithful to the language of the Cross – the virtues of the Gospel or shall it strike at the doors of our rocky hearts that all our hunger and thirst be satisfied and quenched by the grace of God?
My friends, if we know who God is and understand our membership in the Body of Christ – all craving of the flesh, no matter how demanding they may be, God’s love and grace will be sufficient for us. Therefore, the keys placed in the hands of Peter are not mere symbols – rather they are the responsibilities placed upon his shoulder and his successors to be suffering servants of God in the world to bring the children of God triumphantly, through their sufferings to full redemption in Christ Jesus to the Father.
Lord, your love and your grace that is enough for me.