Sunday Reflection 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time (10.06.18)
The Word of Invitation
This 10th Sunday our 1st Reading comes from The Book of Genesis (3:9-15). Is God interrogating Adam and Eve or is he inviting them to grow in faith? Interrogation can be a spine-chilling word for some threatening the revelation of personal details or views. People, as we know, can be reluctant to turn the spotlight on their inner secrets, let alone allow others access! A genuine invitation, by comparison, is an extension of gratuitous friendship and support.
Were you to speak aloud God's words, in this Genesis extract, what tone of voice would you choose? Would you sound interrogative or invitational? Is your preference illuminative of how you interpret God's attitude to his creation - made in his image and likeness? Why not spend a little while pondering this question?
God, our Creator, sees all that is within us, yet we sometimes behave as if he does not. As a loving and merciful Father God reaches out to us in an invitational manner. His forthrightness, as in the Genesis extract, invited a contriteness from Adam and Eve who, instead, resort to blaming each other and Satan. From our earliest years we have sought to apportion blame outside of ourselves! Had Adam and Eve confessed their disobedience and asked God's forgiveness would they have forfeited the Garden of Eden?
At the beginning of Mass, in the Act of Penance, we acknowledge God's intimate knowledge of us in the penitential prayer, the 'I confess'. Has familiarity with these words worn away our clarity of thinking about the openness of the confession we make in public: "I have greatly sinned in thought word and deed, through my fault …"
There is another who sees our inner struggles, but only because we have granted him access, namely, Satan. Satan's insight is guided by malevolence as he seeks to frustrate and destroy our attempts to engage with the Holy Spirit in an on-going conscience-promoted review of life that is critical for the fulfilment of our Baptismal promises.
Daily life on earth is each individual's setting for enacting their God-given free will. In the course of each day a person's choices will move them either towards God or towards Satan. There is no static 'middle ground', no 'no-man's land'. Freedom of choice is God's on-going gift to us and God always respects the independence of the freewill he has gifted to each of us. Equally, he will ensure that Satan respects it, too. We can neither be forced to be holy, nor can we be forced to be sinful. Our daily choices are of our own making but we are the recipient of influences and circumstances that are not always of our own making. It's helpful to remember that habit plays an influential part too. Mark Buchanan, author, says in his latest book 'Hidden in Plain Sight': "The habit of prayer will not magically arrive for you amidst the flaming debris of the apocalypse. You'll have to get it well in hand now, working it into your daily rounds as patiently as petite point stitches. Then, when the day comes that you need it most, there it is."
Each person's exercise of their freewill in personal matters also affects how they respond to events not only unfolding around them but throughout our world. Those who choose to live in a communion of prayer and sacrament with Jesus are infused with his 'lifeblood' enabling them, daily, to make truthful evaluations of all that touches their lives. For the Baptised, the habit of daily prayer and frequent sacramental communion with Jesus is the bedrock on which their daily choices are forged.
Each Word of God, that enters our consciousness, has an invitational element. It is not that our name is prefixed to God's every utterance. Nor is there an RSVP concluding each of Jesus' Gospel statements. The invitational element is implied. So, what, do you imagine, underlines God's continual invitation to us though his Word? Would he be asking us for a renewal of our Baptismal commitment to him? In earlier times the Catechism answer was: 'God made me to know, love and serve him in this world and be happy with him forever in the next'. The wording, in the more updated Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church (English Translation 1994), has changed but the emphasis remains.
Article 3 'Man's Freedom' (1730) tells: 'God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. 'God willed that man should be "left in the hand of his own counsel", so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him." (Vatican Council 2 - 'Gaudium et Spes' 17)
St. Irenaeus expresses it thus: "Man is rational and therefore like to God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts."
If our hearing is muffled by inattention or distraction or if our conscience is muffled by temptation or by unhealed sin, the impact of God's invitation is muffled. His implied invitation to us will, as they say, 'fall on deaf ears'. That deafness is likely our choice. Like Adam and Eve, we might want to blame another. Or, if we are in church, we may want to blame the unattractiveness of the reader, the inadequacy of the amplification system, our neighbours, but, the fact remains, the inattention is our choice. How often do worshippers return from church and look up the Readings of the 'Word of the Lord' that they heard proclaimed, or sort of heard? The choice is ours.
Our acceptance that there is an implied invitation in Jesus' recorded statements helps us measure our response, in matters small or great, against the template of his teaching and example. His is a gentle, loving invitation to 'pick up our cross' and follow in his footsteps. In the letter to the Hebrews (3:7-9) we read:
"So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear God's voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did."
Perhaps you have not previously thought to look for the implied invitation in The Word of God? Perhaps, previously, it has never been suggested to you as part of your being in Communion with the Lord? If that is so then why not begin, today, to reappraise how you hear what you hear or what you read of Jesus' words. It is also important that Jesus' invitation to us reaches, through us, a wider audience, that it does not lie concealed in us. It is our Baptismal duty and vocation to continuously ensure that those with whom we share the path of life are aware of how much we value our new Life in Christ.
Pope Francis said as recently as March 9th. this year: "Every person should be able to hear God's voice both in their own conscience and through listening to the Word." Every young, and not so young, person should indeed be able to hear God's invitation in their hearts through their grace-infused conscience. May we find new enthusiasm in amplifying the invitation in God's Word to all with whom we are in touch.