Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Changing Our Minds and Hearts" To Keep Up With A God "Ever Ancient, Ever New."

St. Augustine, one of the most revered Christian writers and an early Church Father, once remarked that God is "ever ancient, ever new." This speaks to an incredibly dynamic divine reality that, while completely "conserving" the past, unceasingly marches "progressively" into the future! While people of the Christian faith generally grasp the "ancient" aspect of God, on the whole it's probably safe to say that we "limp" rather sorely when it comes to not only grasping the newness of God, but being grasped by God's new, adventurous, progressive, and forward moving Spirit!

At one level, today's Gospel from Mass (Matthew 21:28-32) is essentially about Jesus trying to communicate to the religious leaders of his day about the "newness" of God. He tells them the parable of the two sons of a vineyard owner who were asked by their father to go into the vineyard to work. One says "yes" and than proceeds to do otherwise and the other says, "no" but eventually has a change of heart and does as his father requested. Jesus than puts the question to them, "which of the two did the father's will"? The religious leaders responded in the only way they could by admitting that it was the son who had the change of mind and heart and actually went to work in the vineyard. Once Jesus has them "cornered", he than tells them that "tax collectors and prostitutes" (read: "sinners" and "reprobate") are entering the Kingdom of God before them because they responded favorably to the preaching of John the Baptist while the religious elite refused to change their minds and hearts and believe his message.

Jesus "indicts" the religious leaders of his day on the charge that they have heard John's message, they have seen the conversion of the sinners who have responded to his message and repented, and yet they have steeled themselves against doing likewise. Why have they done this? It's very likely because they have placed such importance on their religiosity, cultural biases (against certain members of society), and social status that they are blinded to the new things that God is doing in the world.

The "trap" that the religious elite of Jesus' day fell into is an ever present one. Very simply, it's the temptation to reduce God and the way that God participates in reality to the "lowest common denominator" of a particular creed, Christian communion, religion, culture, social group, political party, or the status quo default of, "it's always been done this way." However, to have a dynamic faith that is vitally attuned to God's presence right-smack-dab in our midst calls for a continuous willingness to change our minds and hearts in order to keep up with a God who is ever ancient AND ever new. Pat, TOR