October 26, 2018
by Kyle Lierk
Creighton University's Campus Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Friday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 477

Ephesians 4:1-6
Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
Luke 12:54-59

Praying Ordinary Time

On my less graceful days, I want the measure of “success” (whatever that is) of my performance at work to match that of a meteorologist’s five day forecast or professional baseball player’s batting average.  What would it be like to know that succeeding 30-40% of the time is actually doing quite well?! I say this in jest, but Jesus certainly wasn’t mincing words in today’s Gospel when he chided those crowding in to hear him speak by saying that while they were quite proficient at predicting the weather by watching the shifting elements of the earth (a la that of a meteorologist “reading” cloud cover and wind direction), they were clueless when it came to reading the signs of the times and judging what is “right” (as in the “right” of “right relationship” we know of from the biblical definition of justice).  To do this well, we need to listen well to the call that God has put in our hearts -- ultimately, a call to love our world into wholeness.

Penning a letter to the nascent Christian communities from prison, the author of the epistle to the Ephesians emphasized the message of unity.  In today’s first reading, the community is urged “to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one Body and one spirit.” How does that land on our contemporary ears during these times?  We have so much division in our nation (as Americans), especially in light of the most recent appointment of a new supreme court justice, ongoing race relation breakdowns and our upcoming midterm elections in November.  Our news feeds, online advertising and even our streaming music have become heavily curated by some algorithm of predictability -- dare I say, “partisan” preferences. In the face of this, our faith calls us to something deeper.  We are called to seek that which unifies us, both in spite of and¬†through our differences.

Not unlike this imprisoned biblical author, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. writes in his “Letter from Birmingham City Jail:”

In a real sense all life is inter-related.  All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.  I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...This is the inter-related structure of reality.

This calls to mind the greeting I learned from my dear friend Senyo who is from Ghana, West Africa.  When I would see him on our college campus and impulsively ask, “Senyo, how are you?” he would reply, “I am well, if you are well.”  It is an almost identical echo of the South African concept of ubuntu -- “I am because you are.”  Put simply, our existence is intertwined and “caught up” together.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus implies that if we cannot settle our differences, this unresolved split will imprison us, even if not literally, but emotionally, figuratively or symbolically.  I cannot help but think, then, of the framework for true dialogue as outlined by Fr. Thomas Merton, OCSO. He says that if you share your perspective and I truly listen with open ears and heart, and if I share my perspective and you truly listen with open ears and heart, then we will end up not with one of us being “forced” to one side or the other, but that we will both be pulled, by the Holy Spirit, to a third place.  This, of course, requires that we leave space for the Spirit to enter between us and that we remain open. Perhaps that is the call, the invitation and the challenge we need at this point in our history.

The first reading today says, “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”  What is that call? Without being too prescriptive, I think it is safe to say that the life of Jesus suggests it is a call to love.  Are we living in a way that daily honors that call?

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kylelierk@creighton.edu

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