Our reflection this week is once again kindly contributed by Cath York.
Those of us who are into gardening know we have to prune our bushes and shrubs. Otherwise, they can get too big and the flower or fruit loses its quality. Jesus was in many ways a pruner. He pruned back the traditions that had come to acquire an importance they did not deserve. Gardeners are also familiar with the term ‘perennials’. The term (per- + -ennial, “through the years”) is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter-lived annuals. The dictionary definition of ‘perennial’ is: lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.
Many spiritual writers speak about The Perennial Tradition or Perennial Wisdom. The Perennial Tradition points to recurring themes and truths within all of the world’s religions. At their most mature level, religions cultivate in their followers a deeper union with God, with each other, and with reality. At their immature levels, religions can be obsessed with the differences that make them better or more right than others.
The theme of today’s readings is the nature of true religion. Jesus was very aware that religious tradition can hide God as well as reveal God. An important dimension of his work consisted in pruning back those elements of the tradition that were hiding God. In his pruning he tried to highlight what was most important in God’s eyes. The precise difference between Jesus and the Pharisees was that they looked at the external activity whereas Jesus looked at the heart, the source of activity. They looked to the fulfilment of law and tradition while he looked to love and commitment. They looked at the letter of the law while he looked at its spirit.
In the second reading, James tells us to ‘humbly welcome the Word which has been planted in you’ and that Word is God Himself. The message of Perennial Wisdom Tradition is “Don’t settle for anything less than the truth of your Christ-self.” This is the self that is not only at one with Divine Presence, it is at one with the world, and with all others who share it as their world. All that is missing is awareness.
(Adapted from Association of Catholic priests and Richard Rohr)