|Pen and Ink Reflections||
“Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” How fascinating! – the writer’s conviction that the second coming is at hand does not result in a plea for evangelism, or even for love, but rather for gentleness. So, what is to be gentle? The dictionary suggests, kindly, amiable, tender; or with more of a class nuance ‘of good family’ ‘noble’ – from the Old French from which we derive genteel. It is also a verb – ‘to gentle’ means to make less severe or intense, or perhaps to soothe by stroking; to treat with kindness and not cruelty. Gentleness is listed as the eighth of the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5;22. As such it translates the Greek word prautes, which is sometimes rendered ‘meekness’, which has unfortunate connotations in modern English of servility. The Full Life Study Bible defines the word helpfully as ‘restraint coupled with strength and courage’...
At times Jesus must have felt, as perhaps sometimes we feel, that he could not win. Had he followed the ascetic practices of John the Baptist he would have been condemned as demon possessed. As it is, his critics are quick to judge his joyous engagement with life as a failure of self control and an indicator of immorality. He compares the society around him with a bunch of quarrelsome children, who are refusing to enter into the dances and activities associated with wedding and funeral feasts - in other words they are refusing the very stuff of life. When we refuse to engage with the stuff of life, in all its joy and terror, we repress our emotions and become hard of heart. Then we can indeed become quarrelsome and irritable, concentrating on minor details and neglecting the big picture. Jesus is saddened when this happens, because we miss out on so much. We also end up weighed down with burdens too heavy to carry, that are of our own making, just as the Pharisees did in Jesus own day.
So what is to be done? Firstly we need to look to Jesus, who as the incarnation of God was not afraid to experience the full range of our human emotions of joy, anger, fear and grief. He lived passionately out of the very height and depth of human feeling. Now that can be pretty confronting for ourselves and sometimes others. As most of you know Jo and I have recently become grandparents. This week our daughter has been facing the challenges of an infant living into the fullness of their human emotions, expressing himself in anger and crying as well as beginning to reward her efforts with first smiles. It is quite a challenge for both of them. Yet infants as Jesus said, do indeed sometimes understand things better than adults...
This Sunday's Gospel story is about self offering. It invites a question. What is the quality of our offering to God?
Indeed we can ask about any offering we make to God three questions - is it generous? Is it genuine? And is it gentle? Mary's offering in this story is all three...