Michæl McFarland Campbell

Always telling the story

Archive for November, 2023

Confidence in God leads to interior peace

without comments

Reflection on readings for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A), Sunday 5 November 2023. Malachi 1:14–2:2, 8-10; | Psalms 131:1, 2, 3; | First Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13; | Matthew 23:1-12.

interior of cathedral hall in daytime
Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

God Himself is the source of all grace, all light, and all hope. If we look anywhere else for stability in our lives, sooner or later, we will be deeply disappointed. This is the point Malachi makes in the First Reading.

He is trying to get selfish, corrupt priests to get back to basics. He wants them to stop fighting among themselves, creating their own little cliques of self-absorbed followers. He reminds us:

“Have we not the one father? Has not the one God created us?”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tries to tell us the same thing. He explains to His followers that the scribes and Pharisees have lost touch with the source and purpose of their service to the people of God. They have become conceited and self-centred, thinking their wisdom comes from themselves. But God is the source of all wisdom, goodness, and grace. He is the Father of us all, the rabbis and priests are simply His messengers, not His managers.

Even St Paul expresses his joy because the Thessalonians recognised the message he brought them as being from God, not from him. It is easy for us to forget this most important truth. It is easy for us to start to expect fulfilment, happiness, and meaning to come from our achievements, our relationships, our reputations, or any number of other transient things. But true, lasting meaning and happiness can only come from God.

As we accept and absorb that truth, we will begin to experience spiritual stability in our lives, an interior peace that nothing can disturb, just like the peace described in today’s Psalm: “In you Lord,” the Psalmist writes as he describes his soul as being like a little child in his mother’s arms, “In you, Lord, I have found my peace.”

Wisdom from an old farmer

man with cows in ploughing field
Photo by Alexey Komissarov on Pexels.com

This interior peace, which comes only from knowing that we are loved and treasured by God that our lives have true meaning through our friendship with him, gives us inner strength and stability. A minister from a Midwest farming community tells a story of an encounter he had after Sunday worship one time.

The subject of his sermon had been the Gospel passage where Jesus invites us all to “come to be, you who labour and are heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you… for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30). After the service, while speaking to the congregation at the door, a man came up and told him, about his boyhood days.

My grandfather used to plough with a team of oxen. He used a yoke, but it never balanced. So, he built it heavier on one side and then hitched the stronger ox there. The other side was lighter and he put a weak ox there because he could pull as much.

That is what God wants to do with us. That’s why He sent His son to be one of us and accompany us through life. We are not meant to plough the field of life all by ourselves. When we try to, we make little progress, we get frustrated, and maybe we even give up entirely when the crop of happiness and fulfilment we are hoping for never materialises. We were made to live in communion with God, to be dependent on Him. To find the interior peace and stability we long for so much, we have to accept Christ’s yoke, letting Him take the heavy part and carrying our part right by His side.

That is exactly what the Pharisees and scribes forgot. That is exactly what Jesus wants to make sure we never forget.

Checking up on our spiritual foundation

side of a ship in the sea at sunrise
Photo by nevtug on Pexels.com

This is the kind of interior peace and stability that God wants to give us. He wants us to have a sure anchor in our storms, and he wants us to be able to help others weather their storms too. We can ask ourselves, how deep does my spiritual foundation go? Can I really repeat the words of the Psalm with all my heart: “In you, Lord, I have found my peace.”? If not, some self-reflection may be in order.

If we do not build our lives on the foundation of God’s love for us, of His passionate interest in us, then we must be building on some other foundation. What is that foundation?

Perhaps it is the false foundation of our own achievements. We may think that interior peace and satisfaction will come once we reach a particular career milestone, get into a particular university, or make a certain amount of money.

Maybe it is the false foundation of pleasure. We are vulnerable to addictions of all kinds, to over-indulgence leading to unbalanced lives.

Or is it the false foundation of popularity? If we find ourselves disobeying our conscience and renouncing our friendship with Christ out of fear of what others will say or think about us, we will never experience the peace that only the Lord can give.

As we continue through this week, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to give us two things: first, the interior enlightenment to identify where our spiritual foundations really are; and second, the interior strength to start laying a new foundation, a true one, built on God’s wisdom, love, and grace, if we need to. And, if we don’t need a brand new one, the Holy Spirit will gladly help us make repairs on the one we have.

Written by Michæl McFarland Campbell

November 5th, 2023 at 11:59 am