Tuning the instrument

– Wednesday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time –

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? [Luke 14:28]

There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, and if we think we are going to earn our way into heaven, we are sadly mistaken. This point has been the focus of debate between some Catholics and some Protestants for centuries. Apparently, the stereotype is that Catholics believe we can earn heaven, while Protestants believe it’s all a gift. I say ‘apparently’ because even a cursory look at the practice of both faith traditions indicates that it is a little more complex than that. A Catholic who is trying to earn heaven ends up uptight and exhausted. A Protestant who believes it is all gift ends up lazy and complaisant because there’s nothing he can do anyway. Most Catholics and most Protestants know there’s more to it than that. 

And then we read the words in today’s gospel reading. It starts out harsh, with Jesus using a Semitic exaggeration as a technique to draw attention to a point (unless you hate your father or mother). It then goes on to a teaching on the need for each of us to prepare. You and I have a role to play when it comes to what God is doing in and through us. We may be saved by grace as a pure gift, but if we think we can sit back and presume that gift because one day we said to God ‘yes, alright’, then we need to consider this text carefully. 

One way to think of it is this. God is the musician who wishes to play his music in and through you. The music is his, and it is given to you as a pure gift. However, you are the instrument, and you have a role in ensuring that this instrument is well maintained and prepared for the master musician.

If the instrument that is the heart of each of us is out of tune, then, with God’s help, there are things we must do to prepare.

By Shane Dwyer

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