On Friday I was once again brought face-to-face with the fragility of life.
Two separate incidents, a continent apart, devastating for the families and friends. It was a sad day, a sad weekend. Sickness often takes a grip when least expected and suddenly everything changes. The trivia that a few days before seemed important no longer are. Life is precious and fragile.
I turned to the lectionary passages to see if they would bring comfort and hope. As is my wont I turned first to the gospel (Matthew 23:1-12).
It talks about people spending their lives being hypocritical or trying to be important in the eyes of others. What a waste of time! The writer of the gospel clearly thought so too. The punch line is “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted” (12).
Of course, it is not talking about a false humility as demonstrated by Dickens’ famous character, Uriah Heep, in David Copperfield. As one of the antagonist, Heep was completely insincere demonstrating false humility yet continually talking about being ‘umble.
In the text the people who are exalting themselves are not demonstrating the claims they are making for themselves. Their concern is only to make themselves look good regardless of how it affects others. What a waste of life!
The gospel passage certainly shows how a life shouldn’t be lived. This week the epistle is more hopeful. The passage (1 Thessalonians 2: 5-20) gives a clue as to how to live. The author of the letter talks about thankfulness and living a worthy life. Yet I think the key verse is where the writer talks about the attitudes of himself and his companions, “we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children” (7). What a contrast between this and the lives depicted in the gospel passage. What a better way to live — gently caring for others.
This week, as I was once again brought face-to-face with the fragility of life, it caused me to ponder. What do I want my life to look like? One of self-importance or one of caring. The contrast in these two lectionary passages is stark. Life is precious and fragile, no-one knows how long their life will be. I want to make a good and worthwhile choice about how to spend it.