Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 1, 2017

When I was a sophomore in high school I broke both of my wrists at the same time.  That’s a long story and a whole different homily, but the good news of that event was that it happened at the end of October, which meant that I got out of the wrestling unit in P.E. class.  I hated wrestling.  Now don’t get me wrong; I think it’s a great sport…for others…just not for me.  I was (and still am) claustrophobic, so I hated getting caught in holds that tied me up like a pretzel and held in a position that was clearly not meant to be for a human body. Given the option I would just lie on my back and get pinned to get it over with.  But over the years I’ve come to appreciate wrestling, but in a very different way, with a very worthy opponent:  God.  

We might assume that our greatest spiritual wrestling happens with the devil; a personified-evil opponent in our lives.  We might see ourselves on the mat with temptations of greed or lust or rage or one of those easy to spot opponents.  But I think our most significant, most important spiritual wrestling takes place with God, the God who says, “Go out and work in the vineyard today”.  And the match begins.

It‘s the kind of wrestling we often see in the Old Testament dialogues (like the one between Ezekiel and God that we heard today). They were not afraid to just put it all out there and go at it. You thing MY ways are unfair?  Or is it YOUR ways that are unfair. It’s like the father and sons in the Gospel parable.  We know where God calls us; we know God’s expectations.  But it’s one thing to say, “yes” and a whole other thing to do “yes”.  Yet God does not shy away from challenging us to change and transforming us to his will, no matter how long it takes.  

It’s really about coming to know and surrendering to God’s will. But we can’t do that simply by lying on our back and giving up.  We get there by honest struggle and resistance.  We get there it by reflecting deeply on the complexities of life and love, not by simply accepting someone else’s interpretation of God’s voice.  We get there by the hard work of prayer, not the simple recitation of words, but by the willingness to allow prayer to shape us and form us and change us.  We get there by struggling with the right and wrongness of a situation, the gray areas of life that cannot be reduced to black and white.  We get there by wrestling with the what-ifs and what nows of life.  We get there by coming to the mat, not by standing outside the circle.    

The spiritual mystics call it “being bold with God”.  This boldness, they suggest, cannot come at the beginning of the spiritual journey.  It’s more like a friendship.  It takes time for friends to get to know one another, get acquainted with each other; we have to bump into each other a few times.  Then, once that kind of intimacy is well worn, friendships can sustain the kind of encounter that allows us to be honest and bold.  Paul says we must come to be of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing with Christ.  Old friends, precisely because they know and trust each other, can risk boldness in their friendship that younger friendships cannot.  They can go to the mat and wrestle and both come away better people.

Once we are willing to wrestle with God, once we are willing to enter that kind of intimate friendship with Christ, once we are willing to be changed by the Spirit, only then will we  be able to say to God -with both integrity and honesty- “Thy will be done”.


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