Saturday, 2 July 2016

Week 13 Saturday (Year 2)

Readings: Amos 9:11-15; Psalm 85; Matthew 9:14-17

St John of the Cross says that a bird held by the slightest of threads is still a bird held. Only when things have been thoroughly purified and a complete detachment has been arrived at are we finally free to serve the Lord, to love, in the way in which we believe God wants us to be free to love.

The readings today speak to the situation which is more familiar to us: on the one hand being held by sin and by other things that weigh us down, while on the other hand longing for a place and an environment in which we could really blossom, really be free and flowing in our love of God and of others.

So Amos paints a beautiful picture of restoration, when the cities of Judah and Israel will be restored, and the people will enter into prosperity and peace. The ploughman will overtake the reaper and the hills will flow with wine. People will enjoy the fruits of the vineyards and of the orchards without fear of ever losing that land again, free from the fear of being snatched up and removed to a place of exile.

We will be tempted to think of some historical period, or perhaps the eschatological age at the end of time, as the place, the time, the environment in which we can finally relax into prosperity and peace. To think we will find this in one historical period or one geographical place is very dangerous, of course. We cannot really be trusted with something like that because we will inevitably begin to take it out on our neighbours, to lord it over them, and the cycle begins all over again.

Jesus seems to speak in a similar way in the gospel reading. There is a time for fasting and a time for feasting. The time of feasting is the time when the Bridegroom is present. The time of fasting is the time when the Bridegroom is absent. This gives us a simpler and clearer criterion: restoration, prosperity, peace are all found in the presence of the Bridegroom. The times of difficulty, division and conflict characterise the absence of the Bridegroom.

The message is clear: get ready for radical renewal, for root and branch reform, for finally snapping the last thread that holds us in the land of lies and deception. Let us take flight – new wine, new wineskins, new cloth, new cloak, fruit aplenty and wine overflowing – into the land of truth and sincerity. It is the land where the Spirit constantly hovers over the waters of renewal and rebirth. It is never too late for such an entry into freedom.

There is a nostalgic beauty in Housman’s poem about the land of lost content where once we went but cannot come again. The readings today speak of a land that lies ahead of us, a land of great content that is yet to be tasted, where we have not yet gone but to which we are invited. That land is called ‘the presence of the Bridegroom’.

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