Friday, 8 July 2016

Week 14 Friday (Year 2)

Readings: Hosea 14:2-10; Ps 50/51; Matthew 10:16-23

There is a puzzle set up by the fact that we hear these two readings together. Hosea tells us to prepare words to say and return to the Lord. In the gospel reading Jesus tells us not to worry about how or what we should say. Obviously the contexts are different. We can fruitfully reflect on this puzzle, I think, taking that well known saying about Saint Dominic, that he spend his time speaking either to God or of God.

These are two ways of serving the Word of God, in prayer and in preaching. The fundamental one is prayer and the other comes after. Often we are tempted to do the opposite. Even this morning, I gave more energy to worrying about what I was to say in this homily than I did to trying to find words with which to pray to God. Presumably if I had spend more time in prayer the homily would have a different character, a depth or flavour that comes from something informed by prayer. We know it when we taste it. We know that our preaching becomes superficial, a bit ritualistic, where it is not originating in the freshness of prayer. And  prayer is then instrumentalised: I do it when I'm stuck, when I'm at a loss for words, rather than for its own sake.

So we must give time and energy in the first place to trying to find words with which to pray. And in the second place, and on the basis of our prayer, we need not worry about what we are to say or how we are to say it when it comes to speaking to people. In prayer we are with the Word, reflecting on Him, spending time with Him, meditating on the scriptures, seeking to be in the intimacy of that encounter with the Word of God. Having become familiar with Him we can move more easily in the affairs of the world, taking Him with us in our hearts.

But in prayer we also learn about another puzzle that emerges from today's readings. Why is it that the mission of the apostles that we heard about yesterday, a mission to carry the word of peace and grace, a message of compassion and healing, meets such fierce opposition? Why the hatred, the envy, the persecution provoked by the preaching of this good news which Jesus speaks about in today's gospel?

Spending time with the Word of God in prayer gives us an insight into this too. In prayer we realise, in relation to our own lives first of all, that the Word is indeed like a two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). One edge is compassion and mercy and tenderness. The other edge is justice and coherence and truth. We cannot swallow one but not the other.

Only when we become familiar with the Word, and with both sides of its blade, will be be serene in the task of bringing the Word to the world, knowing that one side of God's Word will be very welcome and the other will be rejected, sometimes violently. Our task is to work hard to find words for prayer and to trust in God when it comes to witness and preaching. We learn everything in prayer, Saint Catherine of Siena teaches, the comfort of God's love and grace as well as the fierce clarity of God's holiness and truth.

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