A Word about the Readings (Reflection #2)
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Our journey of conversion, which is the growth and deepening of our Christian faith, gradually makes its way towards the goal of heaven; and that spiritual journey is the earthly meaning of our calling to be God’s people, to be here and now the citizens of His kingdom. We ‘draw near to Him’, St. James tells us, ‘and He draws near to us’, and as we make this mutual approach toward each other—we through the gift of faith, and God through His infinite mercy—our life together becomes more and more clear, more fully expressed and more deeply known. We receive and embrace with greater trust, with less fear, and with fewer conditions, the gift of our Redemption. Little by little we allow God to take us into His life, through the gift of the Son.
That process is no easy matter—we do not appropriate heavenly glories without earthly trials and struggles, without being changed into the image of our Saviour and His perfect humility in suffering. We each have our cross, and the journey which that cross entails. Israel was made to wander forty years in the wilderness, with all the struggle that the wilderness entailed, before they could cross into the promised land. They had to learn the meaning of a new, and spiritual, kingdom.
And their story is our example, St. Paul tells us, “to the intent we should not lust after evil things”— that we should learn, in other words, what is good for us to desire, and how we should attain it. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” The goal of our faith is ever present—‘I am with you always,’ Jesus promised the disciples—but that Presence is not always easy to perceive.
The parable in today’s Gospel is meant to illustrate the point: “And his master praised the unrighteous steward, because he had acted with prudence: for the children of this age are in their generation more prudent than the children of light.” The one apparent advantage of the way of darkness, the way of this fallen world, is that its goal is always obvious, and the road to its accomplishment is straightforward: “wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction.” And that way is our constant temptation. The demons play on our natural aversion toward struggle and suffering, tempting us with the endless easy avenues of self-gratifying pursuits. Even—indeed often—our own religion may be used as an idol, if we abandon its spiritual life-blood, which is the real communion and fellowship of our hearts and souls with God. No good work, no moral act or devout practice can take the place of the divine friendship which is the story of God with us in Christ— “I have called you friends,” He told them at the Last Supper. Friendship is higher and better than any earthly prize. When this earth passes away, our friendships will remain, and above all, our friendship with God. On the love of God and neighbour “hangs all the law, and the prophets.” Therefore, “make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; and when it fails you, they will receive you into everlasting habitations.” Know the immortal prize, and follow after it faithfully, for this is what it means, to have faith: that our spiritual mercies in Christ become the fullness of our desire, here and now, in this earthly pilgrimage. And so we pray, for “the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful; that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without Thee, may by Thee be enabled to live according to Thy will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”