Scripture Readings for February 17, 2017
I think today’s readings challenge us to consider who we really are. To what extent is there a “façade” that we show to the world while protecting our inner more vulnerable self? Are we motivated solely by our ego or are there deeper concerns and realities that shape who we are and how we live our lives?
Without the help of psychological language or modern scientific understanding, Jesus in today’s Gospel raises the question of the authentic self by talking about taking up our own crosses and following Him. He raises the paradox of giving up a superficial, self-centered life to discover a richer more abundant life of loving care and concern for others. He goes so far as to predict that living in this way can make one open to the Kingdom of God right here in this life.
The reading from Genesis can be seen in a similar way. Human kind has plans of its own. These plans, designed to protect and strengthen people in their current ways, is in sharp contrast to God’s plan. According to the author, people thought the best thing for them was to be together, to pursue the same goals, to live in one place. In order to build on their uniformity, what they had in common.
God’s plans were different. God wanted them to spread throughout the earth, going to different places, developing under different circumstances and key to this passage, speaking different languages.
So whose plans do we follow? I do think the paradox stills applies. To become who we are meant to be we often have to deny some of things we think would be best for us.
I think most people would still be more comfortable with people like themselves. Don’t we often surround ourselves with people who think like we do, who have similar goals and have had similar experiences. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. But at the same time, because of foreign travel, television, the internet and all the forms of modern communication, we are becoming more aware of how a wide variety of experiences and knowing people from diverse cultures make for a richer life and a deeper appreciation of people and what is possible in this life.
Still the differences some people exhibit make us ill at ease or anxious before we even get to know them.
How often have we had plans for how our life was to go and then life went another direction that we could not control? What kind of differences have been forced on us that we later came to see as rewarding and wonderful. Haven’t we received the gift of God’s kingdom in many ways we could never have foreseen? Aren’t there joys in our lives that came out of nowhere?
I think these readings remind us we have to be open to the unexpected and the unknown both in our daily lives and even in discovering the parts of ourselves we may not have been willing to explore. If we believe as the Psalmist says, that God “fashioned the heart of each” of us. Then letting go of some of our attitudes and plans and trusting in God’s direction, in God’s call and in God’s challenges may lead us not only to God but to the joys and happiness that resides at the heart of who we are.