Instruments of God’s work

21 August, 2022 21st Sunday Year C

In “Walking in a Relaxed Manner”, Sister Joyce Rupp described how despite months of training and preparation, she never anticipated how difficult her 825 km walk on the Camino would be. She was often at the mercy of the weather and challenged by the rugged terrain.

At many points of the journey, she felt tired, discouraged and frustrated. Nevertheless, she was supported and inspired by the goodwill, prayers and support of fellow pilgrims and other ordinary people she met on the Camino. Everyone from those who ran the “albergues” (pilgrim hostels) to the residents of the villages they passed through extended extraordinary kindness, care and concern towards herself and her fellow pilgrims. She learnt to meet every experience with a deep awareness of divine accompaniment, and in unity with her fellow pilgrims. 

This spirit of courage and faith is reflected in today’s gospel where Jesus asks his disciples to enter by the narrow gate. He advises his disciples to avoid taking an easy option. This was not misguided advice to seek out pain, for the clue about good discipleship lies in another phrase in today’s gospel: that the last shall be first and the first last.

In Jesus’s time, those who were preferred last by society were those of little consequence: people on the margins, those without power and status in society, women, children etc. Despite their station in life, Jesus regards them with love. There are many instances of him reaching out to touch, heal and bless those who society spurned. Indeed, Jesus does not reject or exclude them but regards them as being first in God’s kingdom.

There is an additional dimension of God’s love for the vulnerable. He also embraces the broken parts of each of us; parts which we might dismiss or be ashamed of. Instead of feeling diminished by our sometimes painful circumstances, we are invited to trust in his love for us. He is tender with our failings and frailties. We are invited to walk life’s sometimes excruciating path in the awareness that he shares our burden intimately and is even able to transform us through it.

St Thomas Aquinas’s teaching: “Gratia non tollit naturam, sed perficit” – grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it, holds tremendous insight. Grace builds on and fulfils nature; for God who is never outdone in generosity, takes the humble offering of our life and weaves it into the fabric of his plan for redemption.

Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, already a renowned musician in 1913, bought a 180-year-old cello made by luthier Matteo Gofriller who was not widely known at the time. He chose this instrument as it had been tempered by years of playing. It spoke in a warm, rich voice. He often said he used his cello to speak for the soul of his country.

In God’s hands, all of us, no matter our station, can be his instruments: to proclaim the riches of his mercy, providence and unending love.

 Sophie Clements

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