Have you ever had the experience of driving by an accident, and despite your best efforts, simply having to look at it? I suspect you have. I know I have. Even traffic reports have developed a term to describe this: “rubbernecking.” There are times when we simply cannot avoid looking at suffering. We are both repulsed by it and attracted by it.
I wonder if the words of today’s first reading describe “rubber necking”. Only, in this case, the destruction is pervasive. Everywhere the writer looks there is destruction. Individuals slain by the sword, those who are hungry, those waiting for peace without satisfaction, seekers of healing who only experience terror, and those priests and prophets who find this land so strange they cannot recognize it.
It only takes a little bit of time with a newspaper or the television to know that little has changed. Our city of Chicago has evidence every day of people who are the victims of the modern day “sword”, the gun. Each weekend we hear about more shootings around the city, to a point where at least I find I do not even find that I am affected by it any more.
Wherever I walk, I cannot help but come across those who are hungry, poor, homeless. I cannot help but feel the despair that is described in the first reading.
But these feelings are the easy part. The hard part is when the first reading takes me where I do not want to go, namely the acknowledgement that these things exist, at least in some way, because of my sin. MY SIN. Not the sin of others, but my sin, which has contributed to the world of evil.
It begins with the acknowledgement of my sin because I can too quickly move to the communal sense of sin. Yes, it is true, I alone am not responsible for world hunger. But I am responsible. I waste food, I do not consider how I could live more simply, I find there are times I cannot even bring myself to look at the poor.
And, there are times when I all too easily let myself off the hook. But Jesus did not. He spent time with the very people who may have been described in the first reading. He was with the tax collectors, the outcasts, those who are victims of violence and hunger. In short, Jesus often sided with the very people I sometimes find it hard to be with in my own life today.
In the gospel, as always, the key to the mystery is found. Becoming detached from the barriers to being that person who is the seed planted in the ground that will yield such a rich harvest. Less activity, less anxiety, and more reflection on the presence of God in my life form the way in which God answers our prayer, “For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.”