Commentary on the Gospel of
St Paul invites the Colossians (and us) to seek and focus on “what is above, not of what is on earth.” He elaborates by inviting us to let go of “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry” and to embrace our “new self” which is “in the image of the creator.”
As I reflected on this first reading and let these words focus on my own life and actions, several questions came up for me that perhaps might be helpful for you, too:
Where do I get caught up in the earthly things, and when do I find myself focusing on the wrong things?
Maybe I am getting caught up in the day-to-day minutia of my responsibilities and that is leading to resentment or an all-consuming focus.
Maybe my judgement of others or my long-held resistance to forgiveness is getting in the way of seeing what Christ might be inviting me to see
Maybe I am focused on ‘how things should be’ or ‘how things used to be’
Does my attention bring me to focus on how others are breaking rules or how situations are ‘unfair’ to me?
St. Paul reminds us that this habit of getting caught up with these earthly things is detrimental because it brings our focus away from the big picture…the vision and hope of God for us. St. Paul also invites us to rise above these differences in tradition and belief, remembering that “Christ is all and in all” (How to treat slaves and circumcision were divisive issues back then…perhaps the divisive issues of how to treat refugees and immigrants, how to tackle climate change, how to work against ‘-isms’ in our reality, and finding ways to make health care accessible ….these topics are more relevant to us today.)
Jesus continues the instructive and prophetic directives, challenging the status quo of that time (and our times!), in the Gospel today. The Beatitudes in Luke invite us to remember that the goals of our lives are not to live for wealth, satisfaction, contentment, happiness and having a good reputation. Yet, isn’t that what many of us are conditioned to work towards in our lives? Those goals are society’s values; a Western corporate culture that so starkly contradicts Jesus’ message and invitation.
It seems to me that Jesus is inviting us to reconsider who might be the people who are most loved or in tune with their reliance on God….not the successful, the satisfied, the happy, the popular, the protected. Those who are grieving, weeping, excluded and victimized are the ones who are close to God’s care. Are they the ones that I could be spending more of my time and effort with? How might I learn from them?
These readings are not just inviting us to question where are hearts are, where are focus should be. These words of Jesus also give hope that there is a more wonderful place and time coming, and that the destruction, greed, division and tragedy of this world will not have the final say.
Perhaps, today, there is an invitation in these readings to know more closely and intimately what God’s desire is for us. Let us take a little extra time today in asking Jesus to help show us God’s desire for us…through our daily actions, experiences, conversations and all that is around us. And, on this solemn day of memorial in the United States, remembering the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001 and the many that perished that day, may we all pray and work for unity, understanding, love and peace.