Friday, October 23, 2009

If You Know How To Interpret The Weather, Why Can't You Interpret The Present Times?

Today’s First Reading is from Paul’s Letter to the Romans (7:18-25a)

The scripture scholars are of two minds about the struggles with sin that Paul confesses in the first three verses of today’s reading. Some think that Paul is writing about his experiences before he became a disciple of Christ. In those days, Paul wanted to please God, and tried to act according to God’s will. As a Pharisee, he was convinced that the best way to achieve that goal is to obey the Law of the Moses to the letter. But he learned that he was unable to fulfill this commitment. He realized that he could not save himself by his own efforts. That is when Christ “knocked him off his horse” and changed his life (cf. Acts 9:1-22).

Other scholars believe that Paul was writing as a Christian. Even after he accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, he continues to struggle against temptation and sin. In Philippians (3:12-14) Paul admits that he is not perfect. He is like a marathon runner, struggling to reach the goal. He urges Timothy to “fight for his faith”. In this light, Paul’s cry in is not one of despair, but one of trust. He desires to be free from the shackles of his weak human nature, and to become more holy. And he relies on the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit to grant him the graces he needs to reach the finish line and accept the crown of laurel granted to a champion.

At the end of this passage, Paul uses another image, that of a military combat. There are two opposing forces at war within him. He takes delight in the law of the LORD, but he observes in his body another force at war with his aspiration to obey God’s law, and makes him a prisoner of the sin that dwells within his bodily organs. He conclude with a sigh, and with a prayer of hope and thanksgiving: “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Today’s gospel is taken from Luke (12:54-59):

Jesus speaks to the gathered crowd: "When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, 'It's going to rain,' and so it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, 'It's going to be hot,' and so it is.” Jesus knew that people could understand the weather, and saw evidence that that it could change. When the clouds were floating in from the Mediterranean, they knew it was going to rain. When the dry wind was blowing from Arabian Desert to the south they knew that extremely hot weather was on the way.

Jesus calls them hypocrites. They understood how to judge the signs that bore evidence of weather coming during the next few days, even without radar scanners in the skies. But they did not understand the “signs of the times” that Jesus was talking about. “Did not”, not because they could not, but because they refused to. The word Mark uses for “time” here is “kairos”, which is best translated “the proper time”. People were deciding not to follow Jesus while they had the opportunity, while “the time was right”.

Jesus asks a pertinent question: “Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?” He uses the example of someone who is in debt. The debtor should settle the debt before the court date is set. Otherwise, the case will go before the judge, and the judge will hand him over to the constable, and he will be thrown into prison, where he will not be released until he has spent the time allotted to pay the last penny.

The message is clear: We are all indebted to God because we have failed to obey his great commandment, to love him will all our heart and mind and might, and to love one another as he has loved us. Before we appear before the throne of the divine Judge, we should beg for his forgiveness, which he will grant not because of our merit, but because of his loving kindness and his infinite mercy.

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