Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The person the world sees is often not the one that comes out in the silence of the home. Our society has taught us to put on a facade when we are in public. (click the link to read more)

July 2, 2017

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 97

2 KGS 4:8-11, 14-16A

PS 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19

ROM 6:3-4, 8-11

MT 10:37-42

The person the world sees is often not the one that comes out in the silence of the home.  Our society has taught us to put on a facade when we are in public.  Hillary Clinton infamously once said that she had a “public and a private position” when it came to politics.  The media went insane with this quote.  The problem is, it’s not something we aren’t already aware of.  Our politicians have been saying they believe one thing and acting differently in their voting for hundreds of years.  What is said on the campaign trail is often just a set of bullet points that are designed to resound with as many people as possible.   It’s often not as much about truth as it is about getting votes.

This has crept into our society so abundantly that the common consensus is that relationships are always built on lies.  Earlier today I stumbled across a list of ten of the most important things to remember about relationships.  I disagreed with nine of them.  The second one on the list?   “You have to lie to each other.”  Apparently, society believes it’s more important to lie to keep from arguing than, to tell the truth, and work on being a better person.   I was given that same advice when I first married.   Someone took me to the side and said that I couldn’t raise a family if I didn’t learn to lie.    This wasn’t someone that I expected that from.   It was someone I trusted and had always thought to be a pillar of truth and honesty.

In today’s first reading we see a generous family who has gone out of their way to do nice things for Elisha.   They not only make sure he has food to eat, but also a relationship with them as friends and even a room to stay in when he travels through.  Elisha knows she is a good woman, but he wants to know who she really is.  So he asks the person who sees the real her.   The servant.  The one who is there serving and picking up after.   The one who has no say in the matter.  The one who often has no voice. Those are the people who truly know us.   The person who depends on us and sees us at our most vulnerable.  

Mahatma Gandhi once said that the true measure of a society is found in how it treats it’s most vulnerable members.  How we treat those who can give us something back is often determined by the fact we get something out of it.   The way we treat those without a voice, those who can’t fight back, those who can give us nothing in return… that’s the measure of our true nature.  As a man who is very concerned with animal rights, I think this applies to pets and livestock as well.  Growing up there was the saying: “You know a man by how he treats his dog.”   I would agree with that, and that’s from a man who is not always as patient as he should be with our pup.

Jesus in the Gospel today reminds us of those simple truths.  It is those who give even a cup of water to the child who has none that are truly his disciples.   To the orphan who cannot repay a debt we must give freely.   The man who is down on his luck and is asking for help should receive it with no conditions. The animal that has no idea why it is being punished or kicked, should rather get kindness as a part of God’s creation.  Dominion, not domination.  Stewardship, not a free reign to destroy a vineyard that is not our own.  

A friend of mine was telling me how her father had told her once that you should only give money to those who give you something for it.  The street musicians, the actors, the guy cleaning your windshield… those who earn it, those to who you give handouts.  To the one who can’t give you anything?  Don’t give anything either.    I was astounded by this claim.   That a person must earn love before they can receive it.   We tend to think that way, don’t we?  “You choose your family.”   “A real friend is one who does this for you.”   When what true love is, is giving without expecting in return.   Sharing without waiting for reciprocation.   Pouring out our hearts in sacrifice for the other without worrying if they will thank us, love us, or even remember us.

I don’t do well with that.  I struggle with it daily.  I see my own family members struggle with it too.  Not just them, but so many on Facebook who is frustrated and throwing up their hands because someone they did something for did not return the love.   Love anyway.  Share anyway.  Give anyway.  Sacrifice anyway.  It is for Christ we do these things.  Mark Zuckerberg recently said that people who go to Church are often more likely to be generous and help in the community.   I agree with that.   What I don’t agree with is his assessment as to why.   He claimed that it was because they belonged to a group and that Facebook could be just as effective a group as Church, little league, etc.   In fact, he said the new mission of Facebook was to replace those sorts of groups in our lives and provide us with a new “sense of purpose.”  

The reason people go to Church is not just to be a part of a community.  I could do that with any fraternity and yes, even with Facebook to an extent.  We go to Church to worship a God who challenges us to go out of the way to be better people.  The reason many Churchgoers are more likely to give freely of their own is that they’ve received freely something Facebook can never give.  Love.  Agape.  Forgiveness.  Christ.   The One True God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We don’t go to Church for the music, though it’s nice when it’s good.   We also don’t go for the friendship, though it’s important that we have those in that context as well.   We don’t give because we feel obligated to by being a member, we give because it is what Christ demands of us, and it is what makes us more like Him.  It is what makes us fully human.

When we give then we don’t let our right hand know what our left is doing.  I have been lectured so many times about handing money directly to people in need.  “You don’t know what they are going to do with it!”  You’re right.  “What if they buy liquor?” It’s their money.   We have a really bad habit of not realizing that.   Instead of letting this human, filled with the dignity of being made in the image of Christ, decide what they want to eat or drink;  we go and order them something without even asking if they like it.  We hand them a cheap burger or slice of leftover pizza and think they should appreciate it.   In most cases, many do.  Is that how we should treat them though?   I don’t expect anyone else to tell me what I have to order for lunch, nor do I expect you to tell me what I can and can’t buy with my own money.   There is a dignity that is lost when we say “Here this is your five dollars, but you can’t spend it on anything I don’t approve of.”  

As the Fourth of July approaches, let us celebrate the Freedom that our country won from an oppressor who tried to tell them how they had to live.   Then let us remember that Freedom extends, maybe even most of all, to the one who can’t do anything to earn it.   All rights come from God, not from the government.   It is because we are made in His image, because there is a source of Truth outside of mankind, that there are rights that cannot be taken away.  Let us not forget that as we celebrate our Freedom, our Independence, and our love for God and country. To recognize the dignity of others, that we can be better able to remove the mask we hide behind and be proud of who we truly are.. made in the image of a loving God.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14