Thursday, 21 July 2016

Week 16 Thursday (Year 2)

Readings: Jeremiah 2:1-3,7-8,12-13; Psalm 36; Matthew 13:10-17

Mark Twain is quoted as saying that it was not the parts of the Bible he did not understand that bothered him, it was the parts of the Bible that he did understand. There is plenty that we do understand and that we can be getting on with. What Jesus asks of his disciples is very clear: the great commandment of love, the new commandment to love one another as He has loved us, the compassion of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Father, taking up one's cross each day to follow Him, praying as He prayed, being with others as He was with others ...

Perhaps we think that the parts of the Bible we do not understand contain a more sophisticated or profound truth than the many things we do understand. Faced with a statement like the one in today's gospel, that 'anyone who has will be given more but from anyone who has not even what he has will be taken away', we might just scratch our heads and say well it is some kind of poetic thinking, some kind of paradoxical wisdom, not making logical sense, let's get on with what we do understand ...

There is something to be learned by living with the paradoxical and puzzling teachings of the Scriptures but it seems to have more to do with the kind of pedagogy we need and the kind of ignorance from which we need to be saved than it has to do with the teaching itself. Jesus did not come to teach a public doctrine for the many and a private doctrine for the few. His doctrine is clear and well published and the whole world knows what it is.

The problem for us is entering into a living understanding and observance of that doctrine, and this is where the puzzling and paradoxical come into play. We can all relatively easily learn the answers to the questions in the catechism. But there are things from which we need to be freed if we are to live what we read and the only way to that freedom is through the paradox and the puzzle. Lest we think we understand. Lest we think we see. Lest we think we hear. For reasons to do possibly with creatureliness and certainly with sin, the medium of our formation has to include these moments of loss and exile, of falling into darkness and coming again into the light, of having nothing, not even a satisfactory philosophy of that nothingness.

We abandon the fountain of living water to dig leaky cisterns for ourselves. Only thirst of a certain intensity awakens us to our situation and readies us for the water of life once again. So that we might see and understand, hear and be converted, return to the fountain and be healed.

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