Today, I read between the passage in Matthew and the passage in Romans several times. Both intrigued me.
As I read Matthew I was fairly sure that, at least, part of passage was an addition by the author. The words attributed to Jesus about the cross would have been a little out of place pre-crucifixion. In addition, the passage reflects the early church’s hope and expectation that Jesus would return in their lifetime. But I don’t want to dwell on these aspects.
The thing that gripped me was the idea of stumbling blocks. In response to a heartfelt cry by Peter, against the idea of Jesus suffering, Jesus had called him a stumbling block. It shows again the humanity of Jesus who perhaps worried that Peter’s very human response could indeed cause a problem.
Stumbling block is defined in various ways:
1. an obstacle or hindrance to progress, belief or understanding.
2. a circumstance that causes difficulty or hesitation.
The question I mused on is what are stumbling blocks for us. As a community we are rooted in the world in which we live. Most of our priests are bi-vocational. We have not chosen to isolate ourselves. We have to find away of being as Christ to those we meet in our workplaces, neighbourhoods and families. I am sure we will all meet many stumbling blocks. They will probably be different for each of us. They may be people, they may be situations or circumstances. I confess “time” is a huge stumbling block for me. I have such a lot I want to do or intend to do. It is impossible to do it all! I need to learn to navigate the time I have wisely.
The passage in Romans gives some deep insights into how we can live as spiritual people as we journey through this world. Love, show honour, be patient, pray, contribute to needs, extend hospitality to strangers, bless those who persecute us, live in harmony, live peaceably with all (note the repetition of those last two), then, enemy love. “If your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink”
Perhaps, in these days our reaction to enemies is one of the biggest stumbling blocks we have to deal with. The media is fueling a lot of hate at the moment. By saying this I am not in anyway belittling the atrocities that are happening at home and abroad. We will continue to pray for all who suffer. However, I do deplore the way the media is constantly bombarding us with horrible images and stories . . . some of which are later refuted.
I had an experience a couple of days ago. Someone put one of those poster type things on Facebook. It look like a photograph of a roadside billboard. It read, “It is God’s job to judge the terrorists . . . It’s our mission to arrange the meeting . . . US Marines”. It disturbed me greatly. I read it a number of times and each time felt more disturbed. It was a stumbling block to my inner peace. In the end I left a response for the person who sent. I simply wrote, “That is an awful sign”. The person, who placed it on Facebook, (and several others) immediately defended the sentiment it expressed. However other responses showed that I was not the only one disturbed by it.
So, how as spiritual people do we react to this abundance of enemy hate that is surrounding us. There definitely seems to be more hate and enemy talk about these last few weeks.
How do we give our enemies something to eat and drink (figuratively, of course)? How do recognize when something said is a stumbling block for us?
How do we go against the flow?
It is very difficult. I have no answers for anyone. This is a personal issue and may be different for each of us. It is something that each of us must decide and deal with ourselves. However, it is important that we learn to recognize when someone says or does something that is a stumbling block to us. These are turbulent times.