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Spiritual Reflection – Pentecost 16

Spiritual Reflection – Imperfection

Many of Jesus’ contemporaries would have liked him to present himself in a more heroic mode. His ordinariness was an affront to their expectations of a triumphant messiah. They were looking for a glorious epiphany, and what they got was something more humdrum and down-to-earth. 

People of my generation grew up with a triumphal image of the church: a noble (though misunderstood) history, marked by an unfailing defence of eternal truth, peopled by heroic witnesses of impeccable holiness, and governed by an unbroken line of wise and saintly pontiffs. It has been a bit of a struggle for us to accept the reality that such assumptions are false, that the church has always been imperfect (to say the least). Vatican II stated that the church is on the way to holiness, not that it has already arrived. The fact that we are all still traveling means that there is plenty of scope for scandal and things that shock our religious sensibilities. 

The Gospel of Mark leaves us in no doubt about the failings of Jesus’ first disciples so that we are not surprised that they ran away when they were needed most. Add to this the fact that the Acts of the Apostles lifts the veil on some of the bickering that went on in the early church. What we know of the next two thousand years is that there is ample evidence of weakness and blindness and malice at all levels. Our times are no different. 

The church is composed of sinners—people who struggle with the same uncreative tendencies as ourselves. Those whom we regard as holy have not exchanged this flawed humanity for an effortless perfection, but have drawn from their personal contact with Jesus the willingness sometimes to put themselves out in order to do a little good. The fact that we are less than we would desire is not a reason for feeling discouraged or for turning aside. It simply means that we need to rely more fiercely on the grace of God and put ourselves more regularly in the space to receive it. And, then, to act upon it.

Casey, Michael. Balaam’s Donkey . Liturgical Press. Kindle Edition. 

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