Inertia and responding to grace

Monday of the 29th Week in Ordinary time
Ephesians 2:1-10; Psalm 100; Luke 12:13-21

Sir Isaac Newton (and we all know who that is) defined Inertia in the first of his famous three laws of motion. Quite simply, he stated that an object at rest stays at rest, object in motion stays in motion. Something that is stationary will take more energy to start it moving and something that is moving will take more energy to stop it. The natural world mirrors our interior world. Think about our behaviour – when we are out we tend to want to continue to stay out. When we are at home, we tend not to want to go out. Making changes in direction, activity and state are difficult. Inertia seems to apply in many situations.

St Paul seems to hint at this in the First Reading. He describes people living sensual lives, ruled by desires. That description seems apt even today. Leading lives where we are in touch with our senses and desires can be good as that leads to awareness. However, having lives ruled by the need for sensuality and desiring things that are not of God where we forget the need for faith and reason – that is bad. And we do do that often when we prefer comfort or the easy way out instead of sticking to our faith. St Paul says that doing this would lead us to live in God’s bad side.

The Gospel echoes and deepens this. Jesus responds to the greed of the man who comes to him by telling a parable. Jesus was a respected teacher and rabbis were often asked to judge disputes in property similar to this one. Jesus uses this opportunity to teach an important lesson. He reminds us of an oft-quoted phrase said to rich but miserly people – ‘you can’t take it with you’. We’re reminded not to put trust in riches but in God. More money won’t help us to live better lives.

In fact, law of inertia comes up again. More money very often tempts many to want to have even more money. Or worse, this could lead to an insidious form pride. In the parable, the man wanted to build ever bigger barns, which again is not bad in itself but the intentions behind them show a certain pride in his own ability, forgetting the source of all his wealth and riches. One can imagine him not just wanting to enjoy the fruits of his apparent labour but to enjoy the envious, admiring looks of others when they see his bigger barns. The man seems to be drunk on his own wealth and it would take quite a bit to shake him out of that stupor. Inertia again.

St Ignatius has a good description of how difficult it can be to overcome this inertial. He says that if we are on a path away from God, suggestions that would lead us on the right path would be jarring and uncomfortable, like water falling on stone. However, if we are on a path towards God, suggestions for us to continue on that path would sound smooth, like water falling on sponge. We need to be aware of which road we’re on and to to know how we’re reacting to suggestions on how we can improve our lives.

So what can be done? The answer lies in the First Reading about God’s love and mercy. Even though we were once dead, we were saved through the love of Christ. We’re infinitely rich in grace – that’s the riches we should yearn for. And its free too. All is pure gift – through grace and faith we are saved. We’re God’s works of art. Mirrors of creation. We aren’t designed to fail but to succeed. We fail because we think we’re better than God – we idolise money, fame, self and a myriad other things. So instead of keeping things, let’s try to keep our faith strong. Instead of trying to build things up, let’s build bridges with others through love.

We’re invited to let God take charge for a while. To do what we can and to allow God to do the rest. That would break us out of inertia. Words from a prayer tribute to Archbishop Oscar Romero, martyr of El Salvador:

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.


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about the brushhead

had a head like a brush (it's more like an egg now). seeks to sweep through thought and faith with that brush. tries to wax philosophical but often forgets to wax off. trying to be good brush to all, while discerning what kind of brush he's meant to be.

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