In what could be a reflection on today’s Second Reading from Scripture, Irish Jesuit, Michael Paul Gallagher, (who died a short time ago) said the following: “You probably don’t hate anyone, but you can be paralyzed by daily negatives. Mini-prejudices and knee-jerk judgments can produce a mood of undeclared war. Across barbed wire fences, invisible bullets fly.” This commentary is from a book, Into Extra Time: Living through the Final Stages of Cancer and Jottings Along the Way, that Father Paul wrote during the final months of his life following a diagnosis of cancer. The commentary about the book reads,
While undergoing several cycles of chemotherapy and ultimately passing into palliative care, Father Michael Paul documented his journey – physical, psychological and spiritual – in a diary which is included in this book alongside other notes and insights, and two theological essays: on death and on concern for unbelief. The whole is a remarkable testament to the life, intellect and spiritual sensitivity of a much-loved author, theologian and priest, which offers light to others looking for guidance in times of struggle.
Let’s look at a couple of aspects about complaining and negativity. First, everyone complains about something. As one Bible commentator says, “The problem is you are not going to complain yourself … into increase.” Complaining is easy. But, if we are going to NOT complain, we’re going to have to do it intentionally and on purpose.” That’s hard.
A second issue concerns complaining about people. Take a look at the Gospel reading from Mark 5:1-17. Jesus didn’t see this man as “the demoniac” or “the crazy man in the graveyard.” Jesus didn’t classify him according to his problem. Jesus saw him as somebody’s son. This insight was provided in a great article entitled, “The Problem of Reducing People to Their Problems” by J. D. Walt, a “Farmer, poet, theologian, jurist, publisher and Sower-in-Chief” for the website, Seedbed. Walt continues that, “The mission of Jesus, the Son of God, sent by the Father, is the restoration of all sons and daughters. His was and remains a mission to reclaim and restore what has been lost.”
This is a spiritual issue that finds itself in the business world as well. The Arbinger Institute is a consulting company that was founded in 1979 by Dr. C. Terry Warner. In companies and organizations across the globe, he found two distinct mindsets from which people and organizations operate— either a self-focused inward mindset or an others-inclusive outward mindset. Arbinger helps individuals, teams, and organizations move from the self-focus of an inward mindset, which is the default, to the results-focus of an outward mindset. This is described in the book, Leadership and Self-Deception – Getting Out of the Box. By the way, to do that is hard.
The third issue is how do you do this? You can’t – not on your own. People easily dismiss the idea of “Original Sin.” However, this is precisely what is at the heart of the matter. The effects of Original Sin slam through all aspects of our life. Remember what J. D. Walt said, “The mission of Jesus, the Son of God, sent by the Father, is the restoration of all sons and daughters. His was and remains a mission to reclaim and restore what has been lost.” The way this is accomplished is simple: it is prayer and encountering Jesus physically through the sacraments – Eucharist and Confession. That might be “easy” but doing it is “hard.” If not, why would so many people avoid it? Remember what G. K. Chesterton once said, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found to be hard – and thus not tried.”
To start us on that journey to restoration, J. D. Walt offers us a prayer:
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. I confess, I so often see people as the sum total of their problems, or worse I see them for what problems they pose for me. I want to see with the eyes of Jesus, to see beloved sons and cherished daughters. Give me eyes to see people and ears to hear them and a deep heart to love them as you do. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. For the glory of your name, Jesus. Amen.
For further reflection, Walt also offers us a question:
Do I tend to see people in need as the sum total of their problems; especially people in need that you do not know (i.e. the poor)? Why do I do that? What if I saw them as God sees them?
Audio version of the homily is here: