How we see and understand the various aspects of life changes as we mature and as our circumstances change. We are influenced by so many factors, some overt and some very subtle. We all have agendas of one kind or another. Emotions can play a part. Just when we think we have control, someone or something can challenge that perception. We hope our decisions about what is good and what is bad will keep us persevering toward positive outcomes. It is easy to fall into complacency or to just go along with the crowd if we are not careful.
Not many weekends ago, the reading from the ninth chapter of Mark’s Gospel included a teaching by Jesus that was aimed at changing his apostles’ perception about “the greatest.” (Verses 33-35) He told them that the greatest should be the least or servant of all! Whoa! Talk about a reversal!
And how about the parable of the Good Samaritan? (Luke 10:25-37) Does a “neighbor” have to be someone of your social status or someone with whom you have something in common in order to qualify for your love and assistance? Love does not have a nationality or special social order. Again Jesus is teaching about breaking out of stereotypical thinking and putting love first.
Jesus wants us to broaden our parameters for caring about others. We can exceed what we think our so-called limits of tolerance are. In Matthew’s Gospel (18:21-22), Jesus tells Peter that we should be merciful and forgiving when someone sins against us; we should forgive over and over again! What we perceive as unforgivable is worth more consideration.
Yet another instance of Jesus’ encouraging the expansion of our perception and widening of our definition of a common element of life occurs in Mark’s Gospel (3:31-35). While not denying his blood-family relatives, he invites his listeners to the proposition that:
Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. (verse 35)
We Christians can and should seek out and enjoy the companionship of a faith-sharing community. And we know we have the Communion of Saints praying for us even though we cannot experience their physical presence. One big holy family sharing love with God!
In today’s world, it is easy to get caught up in self-indulgence—me first! If we read and think about the parable of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:10-14), we see that we should consider how important each and every person is in God’s eyes—-even a person who has somehow gone astray. We know we should partner with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to seek out and somehow assist that person. Depending on the circumstances, our help may be praying extra diligently for the lost one—sort of a praying-hands-on response.
We can be very hopeful that our perceptions will only improve with God’s help. As St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:9-12:
For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete
comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I
thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end
to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to
face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash
Scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Sharon Krause is a RENEW volunteer whose writing has appeared in several resources for small-group faith sharing. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother residing in Manchester, Connecticut. Over the years, she has served in many parish ministries.