Do not harden your hearts! – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
I make the foolish mistake of leaving my phone on my bedside table at night. One practical reason is to use it to check the time. However, it takes willpower to not check the notifications that have come in from the CBC, the BBC, and the New York Times. I’m not sure that it really helps me to remain peaceful as I sleep.
And there is certainly nothing practical I can do about the news at that moment of night, if at all.
There are reports of terrorist atrocities, another scary development in North Korea’s move towards threatening to send us all into oblivion, signs of racist violence all over the world, political skirmishes around the globe, flooding and other disasters that are not helped by global warming, reports about a police officer charged with crimes, and accounts of the regular domestic violence of families.
It was such a pleasure to check my phone several nights ago and see the reports of Kate Middleton’s third pregnancy. A picture of hope!
Otherwise, the picture one gets of our world is that it is pretty bleak and lacks peace. There is certainly good news out there if we search for it, but we have to look beyond all the other stuff.
One of the most pressing and consistent needs in our lives and in the life of the world is for reconciliation. Take a look at family life, relationships between the races, our cities, our workplaces, and our nations.
Scripture today offers some wisdom for our reflection. Psalm 95 reminds us, “Do not harden your hearts!” Hardened hearts! Think of the Grinch who stole Christmas. And Easter! And joy and peace!
That is a good image for reflecting on the personalities behind so many of the situations that need reconciliation: stubborn, pigheaded, convinced they are right and everyone else is wrong. And that no one is entitled to be happy.
Of course, we don’t have to move far from our own lives to see the need for reconciliation. There are wars going on within us. I have great desires for perfection, or, at least, to live a better life. Why do I have such impatience and intolerance for certain people? Have I hardened my heart against them?
And even against myself! Why do I choose unhealthy options in food and drink when I know with certainty that it’s not really what I want or need?
I know that caffeine may have benefits for the human body, but is it really what will help with my personal neurological damage from two brain tumours? I know how I will respond to caffeine and alcohol, so why do I pretend otherwise? I know that sleeping with my phone so close to me is not creating peace, so why do I do it?
When we actually sit down and listen to each other, we discover that we are not really that far apart in our desires. What about listening to our bodies? When I have been overseeing a difficult work situation, I’ve occasionally been tempted to stand there and shout, “Why can’t we all just get along!”
Perhaps the starting point is for me to get along with myself and to be reconciled with my own needs. We hear from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”
Even if I can’t imagine loving my neighbour, can I be civil and tolerant? Can I listen to them and have a civilized conversation? How about being tolerant and accepting of myself.
Hatred towards self has been behind many poor leaders. Perhaps I’ll purchase a clock for my bedside table and wait until the daytime to catch up on the news.