As we celebrate the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, it is an opportunity to acknowledge all that has happened over the past. We do this in anticipation of Jesus’ invitation to look forward to the kingdom of God. If we are to be true disciples of the Lord, we cannot dwell on the past or somehow pine away for what was. Instead, we look at previous events and experiences as tools for how we should behave in the future. In other words, the past serves as an educational experience for what to do and what NOT to do.
In terms of our personal life, looking backward can sometimes assist us in determining which direction we should pursue in the future. If we analyze our mistakes (as well as our successes), we may be able to judge more accurately what we should be doing. Perhaps a pattern of behavior has been our nemesis. We have chosen friends who continually bring us down or we may find that when we’re depressed we overeat. Perhaps we have fallen into the trap of being overly self- critical. We may focus on our bad habits instead of seeing ourselves as God created us: good creatures in His likeness. Perhaps we have been too focused on what others think of us rather than on what God thinks of us. And the list could go on. Looking backwards with a focused and analytical eye can help us to correct our faults and move forward in a positive direction.
If we look to the past and realize our successes, it is an opportunity to give thanks and praise to God for our many blessings. If we have the tendency to focus on our failures, perhaps God is asking us to put our hand to the plow and move forward: Leave the past behind and only look to the future. Sometimes by looking back we become fixated on what was and in the process become paralyzed. If we are to be true disciples, we need to look at the past insofar as it moves us forward into the future.
As our prayer for this week, consider one that is found in the rite of ordination: “May God who has begun the good work in you, bring it to completion.”