CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 24 August 2019

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The odds against us

In our baptism, we have been baptised into Jesus Christ. We walk the journey of life in Jesus’ life. For the next five weeks, we will journey with Christ to his death and resurrection. But this is not just a journey into the past—it is also a journey into the present.

Today’s scripture readings contain symbols. The first reading is set in the Garden of Eden. It is still an expression of absolute tranquillity.

And in the gospel, Matthew quickly sketches developments in the life of Jesus using two symbols, the desert and wild animals.

In Jesus’ time there were real temptations, and there still are today. But the riches are also a symbol. They are real blocks to following Jesus. They prevent us from journeying with Jesus.

In some parts of our world, being a Christian is dangerous. Nigeria and Egypt remind us that simply being a follower of Christ can lead to persecution, even death.

In other parts of the world, the dangers may be less, but they are still real. Some of our brothers and sisters in faith from China have spent years in prison, simply because of being Catholic.

Yet dangers are not only far-away. For example, in a family with mixed beliefs, there is the danger of family division or even breakdown. There are key events, such as a choosing whether to marry or simply live together.

This can be the catalyst for family division. These choices bring pain, not only to those who make them, but to all around them. These kinds of danger may not be mortal, but they are real.

We can sometimes feel that the odds are against us. It is too tiring to maintain our faith and to live it out every day. 

When this happens, the temptation is to give up and to live an easier life.

It is not that we abandon our faith, but that we feel overwhelmed and unable to continue. We become tired and the temptation is to choose a softer, easier life, which has no crucifixion.

This withdrawal can take various forms. One is to opt for a personal religion, which has no dimension for others. We retire into our own shell. 

Inside that shell, we keep our religious practices and devotions, but we are afraid of all the dangers outside. Another is to ignore the dangers to our faith. We just hope that everything will go away.

We cannot avoid danger, but we can be assured of that God keeps his promises to us, even if we do not see how. The tranquillity of any garden is a constant reminder of God’s unfailing fidelity.

 

The angels looking after Jesus are reminders God takes care of us. Dangers do lie ahead. Yet, with God’s help, we can survive the journey and come to share in the resurrection.