What we don’t deserve
From our earliest days we get used to falling, a toddler seeking to walk, a child on a bicycle, in my case falling from a tree house (we learnt about the importance of solid foundations that day!) right up to more personal and wounding falls emotionally. Yet it seems to be a time where if we exhibit an exterior confidence, people assume that all is well and you actually know what you’re doing.
“Beware false confidence and putting Christ to the test” seems to be the caution of St. Paul in the Second Reading. He alerts that if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. Which is sage advice. Jesus seems to be addressing a twist on this. Where the fall of others is interpreted as the judgement of God on them. He points to news events of the day, the fall of a tower, a mass murder. Did his hearers have this false confidence that such would not happen to them as they were “better” people.
Today I often hear people mutter “karma” if something bad befalls a person they perceive as having done wrong. It’s a word I hate to hear. It’s funny how it has seeped into our Christian thought like it’s cool and it’s not right. God’s kingdom operates by grace and grace is VERY different to Karma. Regardless of the Buddhist and Hindu origins of Karma with traces in Sikhism and Taoism- Karma is a strange thing. So if you find yourself cut up by a speeding motorist in traffic and later see a Garda has pulled them over and find yourself muttering “karma.” What are you saying? Karma teaches you get what you deserve. Worse still, it teaches you get what your past deserves, even if it isn’t your past. In modern society people rejoice when the wicked get what they deserve in the form of financial hardship, health issues or relationship struggles. Seriously! How mean spirited is it to hope that people get what they deserve. Isn’t getting what you don’t deserve- kind of wonderful? And if you think about it- we certainly don’t deserve a lot of the blessings we have.
I somehow remember fondly a fellow student at Mass in Maynooth. The Celebrant (now a serving Bishop- my lips are sealed!) prayed that we exam students get the marks we deserve. He said afterwards to the same priest (now a serving Irish Bishop!) and remarked that the prayer wasn’t of much use to us students as “we’re praying for marks that we don’t deserve.”
Getting what you don’t deserve. A gift from God- or as the old hymn puts it “Amazing Grace” Let’s hope the gardener gives our (as yet) unfruitful tree of our life- another chance.