Thursday, October 12, 2017

“Neutral Isn’t a Valid Choice” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Blow the trumpet in Zion,
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all who dwell in the land tremble,
for the day of the Lord is coming.   (Joel 2:1)

The prince of this world will now be cast out, and when I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all to myself, says the Lord.  (John 12:31b-32, Gospel Acclamation for today)

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23)

Lord, you gave your very life for us.  Help us to be your committed followers all the days of our lives.
In today’s first reading, the prophet Joel issues a call to repentance.  The day of the Lord is approaching, he says.  Everyone, from the greatest to the least is called to forsake sin and return to God.  We would do well to take Joel’s words to heart.
As I look around, this is definitely not the world I grew up in.  I remember being at a party a few years ago where someone declared himself a pagan in the course of a conversation.  I thought to myself, “Are you bragging or complaining?”  But he seemed to find nothing wrong at all with labeling himself as such.  Even among our friends and within our families, more and more individuals are turning their backs on God and faith, and not hesitating to say so.  Using the imagery of driving, these people’s vehicles are in Reverse, backing away from God’s Kingdom at a breakneck pace.

Then there are all those who are uncommitted and refer to themselves as “Nones.”  Maybe they believe God exists.  Maybe they even believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  But they don’t see how any of that relates to them.  They’ve got other business to attend to.  They think their cars are in Neutral.

There are also committed Christians, whose vehicles are in Drive, who are striving to follow the path where Jesus leads.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus steps up and says we’ve got it all wrong.  There are only two ways to go.  Either you’re for me, the Lord says, or you’re against me.  You’re either in Drive or Reverse.  Neutral doesn’t exist in the Kingdom.  When all we are willing to do is give intellectual assent to the idea that there’s a God and then go our merry ways, we show our indifference to Jesus, which is hardly the behavior of a true friend.  The Lord considers indifferent men and women to be in the same category as people heading away from him and the Kingdom.

Jesus’ words provide food for thought because it’s so easy to slip out of Drive into Neutral and indifference.   For example, most of us say grace when we have guests or on holidays, but are we truly grateful for what we have every day?  When there’s no one around, do we remember to give thanks?

In moments of desperation, we cry out to the Lord or ask someone to pray for us, but do we turn to God only when we want or need something?  Do we pray on a regular basis, offering thanks for the many blessings that come our way, lifting up the needs of others, asking for forgiveness for our transgressions?

If you need a spiritual tune-up and if your gears have been slipping and you find yourself idling in Neutral more than following the Lord, seek out a close friend in the faith or a spiritual director and get yourself back on the right track.  All of us find ourselves in this position at one time or another, and being willing to ask a trusted person for help can be a good thing.

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