Friday, March 24, 2017

Behold the Power of God!

Getting closer to God is a scary thing at times.  It often leaves us confused and wary.  Paradox.   Yesterday in our bible study we talked about that word.   We often say things in our common vernacular that don't make sense.   "I'm nobody."  "That was bittersweet."  "Nobody goes to that restaurant because it's always so busy."  One of the better examples is from St. Paul himself, "I am crucified with Christ, and yet I live."  The greatest Paradox though is truly that of Christ on the Cross.  Here is a man who is defenseless, naked and abused.   He cannot take himself down for he is nailed to the wood.   He has no ability to stop the people and is even being jeered at from the ground.   Yet, we Christians call that in our Scriptures "the power of God."  

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:18Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

Mark's gospel is one in which there is a Messianic secret.  The disciples have trouble understanding who Jesus really is.   In today's gospel though.. someone is close to getting it.  So close that Jesus says "You are not far from the Kingdom of God."   How ironic that statement is, since God is sitting right before this knowledgeable Scribe.   What would be your reaction to that statement?  Part of me says that I would hope to be flooding him with more questions!  Yet, another part of me thinks I may have reacted just as those around Jesus did.   "No one dared to ask him any more questions."  We often look back with our 2000 years of Christianity and call out with our hearts, "Why!?   Why didn't you ask the Kingdom of God Himself as He sat with you more?"

575 Many of Jesus' deeds and words constituted a "sign of contradiction", but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply "the Jews", than for the ordinary People of God. To be sure, Christ's relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting; Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes. Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God's people: the resurrection of the dead, certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer), the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.

Then I look back at my own life and wonder how many times when I was drawing closer to Jesus did I panic at what He was asking of me.  When he asked me to give up something I didn't want to give up.   When the savior of the world asked me to take up a cross and follow Him to Calvary.   "Can you drink this cup I will drink?" (Matthew 20:22)  How our visions of grandeur make us believe that when the time comes for us to stand before the firing squad with the choice between denying our faith and going home to our family or dying for Christ, we hope to be stronger than Peter on his journey to the dawn of Good Friday's morning.  Our ego gets in the way so many times.  Are we ready to get rid of it all for the sake of the Kingdom?  As a man discerning his call to the Diaconate I am asked that very question.  "Is God enough?"

Think about that for a moment.   That is the very question that is being asked when, God willing I am ordained, I take a vow to never remarry if my wife were to pass away.  To become a celibate man for the Kingdom, for Christ's Church.   "Is God enough?"   Will I be able to live a life that realizes that Christ should be able to fulfill everything I need?   Every desire, every want, every single emotional and spiritual need.  He should be enough shouldn't He?   Then we go to Mass where He descends into the form of bread for us to receive and instead we worry about the music, the lector who stumbles over words, the family whose kid isn't being as quiet as we would like.... our minds are all over the place except right where Christ is.  The funny thing is he is in all of those things... in the lector giving them strength to go through whatever it is in their life that has them distracted, in the musician who is running on a few hours of sleep in the heart of the singers who simply want to praise God the best they can... in that child running too and fro with excitement! 

220 God's love is "everlasting": "For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you." Through Jeremiah, God declares to his people, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."

The last few days we have been hearing the same call to repentance from different Prophets in different ages.  It reminds us that God has been calling men from the beginning of time to be in relationship with Him.  In Jesus, God himself came down to make that relationship even more intimate, to give us a way to relate to Him that we can understand.   God wants us to know his love... the immense and pure love that comes from love itself... are we willing to let Him love us?  To live out in our lives that call that He offers continually: "I will be your God and you will be my people"?  Or will we too, when we come face to face with divinity itself, refuse to ask questions?  Or better yet, live out the following(a powerful meditation to spend time on today):

"To embrace a poverty of being subsumed in the Word, a spiritual poverty that calls [one] to listen to the Word and welcome its forming power.  Having the Word of God as [our] only word implies that [one] is more disposed to be questioned by the Word than to pose questions to the Word."  From the Heart of the Diaconate: Communion with the Servant Mysteries of Christ by James Keating. 

His servant and yours, 
Brian Mullins
"He must increase, I must decrease"

A reflection on the readings for daily Mass on Friday of the Third Week of Lent: May 24, 2017