Reflection for Wednesday, September 28, 2016: 26th Week in Ordinary Time.
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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
Tug-of War contests were a delightful part of our Irish-relative picnics in my youth. A thick rope was held tightly by two teams of eight or nine pullers. All had been properly reinforced with muscle-enhancing food and beverage. The losing team was roundly celebrated with rounds of derision and rounds of more beverage.|I do reflect at this distance of time, that more verbal Tuggings continued during the non-picnic days. It seemed tensions between and among us were a way of life. I have noticed that tensions are a necessary part of all and every relationship. I suspect Adam had no such tensions until Eve came along and not because she was a woman, but simply another-other. In a short story by Mark Twain he creates a diary in which Adam cannot quite figure out why Eve wants to name everything. When Adam was alone things did not have to have names, they just were. So tensions began around naming and thereby identifying.|It does not take a very long reading of the Gospels to figure out that Jesus is inviting followers and opponents into a relationship of identifying. God has been seen in the Hebrew Scriptures to have been doing the same. Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Amos for examples were interrupted, invited and they were put in tension, because they were just doing their own thing, quite naturally and apparently happily as well.|In today's Gospel, Jesus is doing some inviting. Three persons are attracted to their following of Jesus after their being invited by what they had witnessed. They seem to be willing enough. The first is challenged to reflect that those who follow Jesus will not have an identifying place or home to call his own. The second man has first to bury his father. The third has some goodbyes to family and then he would catch up with the group. They are all good-hearted, but Jesus doesn't seem to want to give them time. They are not ready in their own minds. They have good excuses which flow from their human ways of identity and preexisting relationships.|It is a healthy response to have excuses when being invited to the experiences of adventure and especially the adventures of relationships. When invited, our natural reaction is around some form of selfishness. We reflect on whether this invitation is going to cost us time or money. Will this relationship ask me to change, to let go of something more convenient? The invitation is the rope and the tension is caused by the tug of selfishness and the tug of generosity, or love of life, or desire to grow.|The day I entered the Jesuits my two high school friends drove me to the novitiate outside of St. Louis. We drove up to the driveway and Jim, who was driving, pulled half-way into the property and turned off the ignition. He said to me, "Gilly, this place looks terrible. If you want to go in there, just turn the key back on." I did of course, but later as they were about to leave, they said, "We'll drive back here in the morning, out there on the road. We'll be there at ten and if you want to go back home, we wouldn't blame you one bit. We'll take you back home, no questions asked." So at ten the next morning, there I was, not at the road, but at my window and I heard the car's horn beep a final invitation.|Invitations cause reflections. Relationships are constant invitations and they force us to respond or react. Excuses are a way to begin prayerfully resolving the pulls. We cannot always know or understand the future consequences of our responding. What Jesus asks of these three good men and of us, is that we listen to our selfish inclinations pulling us one way and listen to our good-hearts urging us toward newness of life. Our excuses, such as we read in today's Gospel are very good and healthy. God, Who does the calling, also does the pulling to what is life for us.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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