15th Sun A
Life Is More Than Meets the Eye
Jesus was a storyteller. Whether we are listening to them or telling them, stories put us in touch with ourselves and give us a sense of who we are. I find an engaging biography, novel or film has a way of alerting me to life. The great Christian drama of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is meant to enliven believers. “We will only become excited by belief in the one who rose from the dead if we have some sense of what it means to be alive in the first place” – Timothy Radcliffe, ALIVE IN GOD, p.18.
Jesus said that he came so that we would have fullness of life – cf. John 10,10. The early Christians used to say that the ‘glory of God is a person who is fully alive’. They followed Jesus because he was massively alive and told life-giving stories that tended to make them feel alive too. Like him, they wanted to be a source of hope and life for others. “Treat others as you would like them to treat you,” Jesus instructed. He told them he wanted more than just “Lord, Lord,” from them. If you’re alive, get up and go the extra mile, feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, comfort the sick and visit those in prison…were his marching orders.
Jesus used images from the countryside to help them realise that there is more to life than meets the eye. He spoke to them of treasures mysteriously hidden in the ground, plants, seeds, vines, figs, mustard seeds and even the birds of the air. He wanted them to know that the Kingdom of God is hidden in plain sight among them, often in the complexity of human experience. “While we go on distractedly living the life we see in front of us, something mysterious is happening at the heart of existence.” – Jose Pagola, JESUS, p.128.
As Jesus and his followers walked the dusty roads long ago, seeds were being transformed into rich harvest. Farmers scattered seed by the handful without much attention as to where they fell – whether by the edge of a path, on patches of rock, on thorns or on rich soil. They hoped for a four- or five-fold return on sowing to get them through the year. A thirty, sixty, or one hundred-fold return would have boggled the mind. Life, survival was their aim.
What does ‘life to the full’ mean? Different things to different people. When we’ve raised our children successfully, published a best-seller, won an Oscar or an All-Ireland, found peace after a long struggle with grief, a long service of others…. The Carmelite mystic and theologian St. John of the Cross says we reach this point in our lives when we have grown to what he calls “our deepest center.” Fr. Ron Rolheiser calls this “the deepest maturity we can grow to before we begin to die.”
When did Jesus reach his own ‘deepest maturity’? “When he had lost everything: his power to speak and to heal, his sense of success and influence, his disciples and friends – even his God. When he was nailed against a tree, robbed of all human dignity, he knew that he had matured enough, and said: It is fulfilled” – Henri Nouwen.
The seed in the Gospel is like God’s word coming to our ears. When it comes we need some time in silence to allow it sink into our minds and hearts. Most of us find silence to be a bit strange; apart from a session of fidgeting we don’t know how to handle it. While pondering quietly, we need to keep the questioning and analysing mind quiet. Let the imagination play with the word just as it is. The word will quietly, and eventually, formulate itself into a message, maybe vague at first, but revealing to us something about ourselves and about God.
Fr. QQ – 7/9/2020