Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I never promised you a bed of roses

In tomorrow's Daily Mass we see Jesus sending out his apostle's two by two.  This is indeed a significant moment in the history of our Church.  Most biblical theologians see it as a training mission, one in which they are being prepared for what will come after Christ has ascended.  There are some very powerful images there.  One of the major things we see though is that the Twelve have been entrusted with both the mission of Christ and the authority.  They do not go out impotent but rather casting out demons, healing the sick, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The thing is though, that in taking on Jesus mission and authority, they also took on his lot(CCC 765).   They weren't just accepting Christ's abilities, nor his eloquent speech, but rather they were accepting his lifestyle, his mission... even his death.   We see that in the future events of their own deaths.  All but John were martyred, and John only because boiling him in oil didn't work.   They each took the mission so seriously that they went to their death proclaiming the Gospel.  Even Peter, who thrice denied Christ, was crucified for his faith.   Refusing to reject Christ, he begged to be crucified upside down, because he didn't deem himself worthy of being crucified in the same manner as his Lord.

Just think of that for a minute.  How much trust that takes.  How much faith. My friend Deborah shares stories about her friend the "Brown Dog."  Today she was speaking about how Brown Dog never rejects what she offers him as food.  He simply trusts her.   Sometimes he doesn't like it and turns away, yet he always tries it.  Always trusts that it must be good for him or she wouldn't put it before him. That's faith.  Right there in one image of a trusting friend, this dog that comes into her life, not quite a pet but not quite a stranger.  

How much more so you and I?  Many of us want the Gospel to bring us a bed of roses.  There are many preachers out there who proclaim that life will be sweet and bring you lots of wealth and pleasure, all you gotta do is jump..   but Jesus challenges us to something more.  He challenges us to share not just his mission, not just his authority.. but his lot.   He challenges us to live like him.  We often forget what that looks like.   In this short verse we see though two things that Jesus tells his apostles they must embrace: poverty and trust.   He sends them out without any possessions.  He tells them to take no money.  No extra things.  Simply trust in God to provide their food, their shelter, their needs.  He wants us to be like Brown Dog. 

Unlike Brown Dog, you and I also have been given faculties that allow us to think for ourselves.  To go beyond just the taste of the food, but to understand that what God gives us in our bowl is good for us.  That sometimes it might taste sour or bitter, but if he is the one providing it... then it's something we must consume.  Sometimes life gives us a tepid bowl at best.  Our loved ones are sick and dying.  Our friends are aching and hurting.  Our own bodies wracked with pain day in and day out.  We could become bitter ourselves, very easily.  It's at times like these though that we look for that example.. that true living out of the beatitudes.. to Christ on the cross.

Christ asked for his cup to pass from him.  It was very bitter indeed.  Then he did what all of us must do... he stood up and declared, but your will be done.  He drank the cup.  Wracked with pain on the cross they offered him vinegar, then gall.   How bitter and horrible these things.. Mother Teresa challenged us to see a new reality though... under the crucifixes in her homes she had the words "I thirst" painted... she believed that when Jesus said I thirst on the cross he was speaking of his love for us.  The Psalmist says "Like a deer yearning for running streams, my soul thirsts for you, Lord."  How much more so does it make your eyes open to think of Jesus on the cross thirsting for you and I?  "I thirst for you."

I've been meditating on the beatitudes lately.  I've been thinking of how they exemplify Christ, how they are a gift..    Some see them as a rule, guides.. things to be lived by.. Laws... I see them as a promise.  A promise that when we open our hearts, our intellect, our will to the Holy Spirit, then He will begin to live out these fruits through us.  The fullness of what it means to be human.  This morning as I walked up the aisle to receive Jesus in the Eucharist a sense of overwhelming awe struck me.  I've felt awe before.. but not like this.  I've even experienced longing, fear, dread... but not like this..   It was as if someone was whispering in my ear "This is holy ground."  I wanted to remove my shoes and fall prostrate on the ground.   I am not worthy.   I wanted to cry out like Isaiah "Lord I am a man of unclean lips!"(Isaiah 6:5) I still received Him, I still cherished his presence in my hands.  It left me drained and shaken, longing for more.

I'm like Brown Dog, you know?  I just want to trust everything he puts in front of me.  I want to consume what he offers... and yet, instead of vinegar he offered me today(and every day!) his very self.  Wow!  Think of that for a moment.  I deserve nothing.  I haven't earned anything.  If he were to put the worst of the worst in front of me, it would be well within what this man deserves.  Rather though, Christ says take and eat.. this is my body, given for you.  If you're not feeling worthy?  and oh man, there are so many times I don't... so much so that I often make sure I am last in line... why?  Because I realize I am a dog too... remember though,  even the dogs eat the scraps from the masters table. (Matt 15:27-29)

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."