Changing our life
This is my third contribution in the way of a sermon to be discussed in the Lenten Study Group meeting after this mass.
Even as Lent demands a personal reflection on one's being and faith, I have largely given thought to personal spirituality.
We have looked at anger and ended up with the WRATH OF THE LAMB.
We have looked at what might make our faith difficult to practice
Now, I would like to turn to the Christian changing his/ her life. And I start with a story [you may have noticed that I love stories].It is a true story which I shared at my mother's memorial service last year, some of you may have been at that service.
It is a story about four children, two doves, and a funeral. My mother had three brothers - my uncles Dorian, Vernon and Tony. When they were children - they had two doves that they kept in a shed in a big garden. One stormy night the shed blew down and, sadly, the two doves were killed. It was a devastating time for the four children. They decided that they should hold a funeral for the two doves and have a proper burial.
Uncle Dorian, the eldest, was the minister; Uncle Vernon was the grave-digger; Uncle Tony made the coffin, and my mother was the mourner. It is uncanny that in that childhood scene - each child grew up matching the role they had in that funeral.
Dorian, the minister (with the cure of souls) became a PHARMACEUTICALS salesperson, using persuasive words to sell healing products. Vernon, the grave-digger, became a labourer in whatever job he had. Tony, coffin maker, became a carpenter, and my mother the mourner became one who mourned a lot in life.
There is a tendency in life, to fulfil a pattern laid down in early life. The Dunedin experiment bears witness to this fact. The Dunedin longitudinal experiment has shocked and re-oriented PSYCHOLOGY throughout the world.
What does this mean for Christians who are called to change by a gospel which constantly challenges?
I believe that too often we follow a pattern in life. We learn much from our mentors and elders. Where they have demonstrated a good life-fulfilling model - we have a healthy pattern to follow. Often it is otherwise and good parents do not necessarily lead to well-functioning children. People can step into life-patterns of their own.
Cognitive psychology talks about LIFE SCRIPTS. A life script is a story of our life that we repeat - it is a way we follow, a meaning we ASSIGN to the events that happen to us. A life script is not always a healthy schema to hold on to. Life scripts are usually created in childhood and are discovered by reflecting on one's life.
One life script is: ” I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH”. One somehow feels inferior or defective - and there is often a fear that one day we will be exposed as not good enough. Living with this life script means that one is over sensitive to criticism or comparison. The opposing life script is “ I DESERVE THIS AND MORE “. One will feel superior. It can lead to SELFISHNESS. There can be a lack of empathy for others.
So, often we follow a life-script. To confront a life-script can be a liberating moment.
I believe that JESUS confronts us and any life-script we may hold. In Jesus we are told: START AGAIN. The cleansing of the temple was a STATEMENT. Jesus lay out his cards (as it were). The old order of worship is to be replaced by a new one - an order focused no longer on the old temple but on the Body of Christ: the glorified humanity of Christ - what Paul would call the Church Body. This is what Jesus was referring to when he said: ”Destroy this Temple and I will raise it up in three days”. In the cleansing of the Temple there is the new: a new religion, a new focus - the new that says start again. And life- scripts are put under the SCRUTINY of God's light. Are we following a trend DICTATED by the old way we see life or do we allow God's light to illuminate a new path. Jesus confronts us. Just as Jesus confronts us and our life-scripts, so does the CROSS, I believe, confront us with love.
One of my favourite pictures is of a knight who kneels before a wayside Crucifix and prays to Jesus. A vision comes to the knight and Jesus bends down from the Cross and EMBRACES the knight. The cross offers love to us all.
The cross confronts us with a message - we are loved, whoever we are, when we look at him. The cross confronts us so that we can no longer say - I am not good enough. Change your life-script.
The Cross confronts us with a love we are called to share. We are drawn into the one household - even as the beloved disciple and Jesus’ mother were called into the same household. In this household no one can say “I deserve this and more”.
The cross confronts our life-script…. we are liberated from the past and we find the new.
In conclusion - who we are may depend on the past and may never change. But we know that Jesus confronts us with a path to follow,
and the cross confronts us with a love
that changes us
and gives us a love to share