9 June, Hmmm

Even back when Jesus was with us his teachings were not popular with the “insiders”, people who felt comfortable and safe in their religious tradition. The poor and the outcast, however, loved them. Since that time any who feel the Spirit is leading them in a way that does not follow usual terms and ideas is thought of as out of line. If we are sincerely trying to be open to God’s Spirit we will find ourselves being led to unexpected places and situations. So it has always been. This is especially the case with religious traditions that require uniformity, as the temple system in Jesus’ day, and some traditions in our own day. Thinking outside the box is not looked kindly on by the system and its self-appointed enforcers. We only need to look at how Bishop Tom Gumbleton was treated for his witness. This is happening today all around us. And, people are hurting, being hurt, and causing hurt. Somehow Abba is in this asking us to help, and showing us how, if we are willing to listen.

In the Story your relatives say, “He is out of his mind”. How you were living and what you teaching was far beyond anything they were used to hearing. The Temple was focused on people getting to Yahweh only through them, with their prescribed rituals and sacrifices which could be done only in the temple and which cost the people a lot of money, kept them in line, and was a money-maker for the Temple. You taught that Abba is very close to everybody, available to everybody always, and people don’t have to go through anybody to reach Abba. The Temple system felt this was a threat to them. In our own day, not much has changed.

In the Story you say, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”. The “will of God” is a relationship I work out with you in my every day choices and decisions, and goes as deep in my life as I am willing to let it, and impacts every part of my every day living. It involves the practice of discernment where I ask “what are you saying to me in this situation, is there something you are asking me to do now, right here where I live?”. This becomes for me a way of living, if I let it and work hard at it.

There is a lot of nastiness and suffering happening all around us, both in our country and in our church. In our country we are experiencing a polarization and violence that can very well destroy us. In our church, especially the American Church, there is significant opposition to Pope Francis as he tries to move the church towards being more open to the Spirit speaking in everyone. The only way to deal with this is for us to do our best to be fully open to the Spirit in our own everyday living. Jesus promised to send the Spirit to remind us of what he taught. In other words, the She offers us insight to how we are being asked to live as disciples of Jesus here and now, in all that is going on, in the midst of all the commotion. Asking for, and being open to and willing to accept, the Spirit’s wisdom and guidance is an absolute necessity. The only way we can serve and minister in all this is to let her “enlighten the eyes of our hearts”. If we try to do anything just by ourselves we will end up adding to the problem. 

I can see all this as a criticism of the church, where there is a lot to criticize, or as a criticism of me, where there also is a lot to criticize. Blaming and finding fault in others, in institutions, is easy. Recognizing the flaws in myself is hard, even painful, but this is a journey I have to make. Your Gospel is about what you are saying to me now in how I am living, my choices and priorities, not about what others should do so I feel comfortable and safe. Talk is cheap. Am I ignoring or judging anybody at all? While I talk about how emigrants are treated at our borders am I mistreating anybody for any reason whatever? While I talk about how our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers are badly treated in religions and other places, do I reflect that treatment in any of my relationships with anybody? Am I willing to really learn from wonderful folks who are devoting their lives to helping helping them, or am I content just to talk about it, and so feel proud of myself. Does there have to be a “them”, or can we move to “us”? Your message that everybody is welcome in God’s kingdom is denied by many claiming to act in your name, especially with our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers. Pride Month has generated a lot of hatred and anger, as well as a great deal of loving support, often in spite of religions. People are hurting. I have been hurt and have hurt others, but that was then and this is now, I hope. Am I willing to let the Spirit help me grow, or do I just want to worship the Messenger so I can avoid the message?

You offer an example of how to live in our tumultuous times. Am I even paying attention to you, or am I making you into who I want you to be for my own comfort? I talk a lot. I have a pretty easy life. I’m retired, and have no responsibilities other than occasional masses and sacraments. From time to time I’m called to the local hospital to help a patient and their family, something I consider a real privilege because the staff at this hospital are among the most loving and caring people I have met anywhere, and they have a pretty good sense of humor, which helps a lot. I am treated very well. A lot of good happens there, and it’s nice to be even a small part of it.

The Gospel is not “nice”. It is not a call to think holy thoughts, to be moral, to follow the laws, to be “good”. It is an invitation to walk a path of letting go, of learning and discovering, of growing, wandering and wondering, a call to action, to getting involved. What this means for each of us is something we learn in our quiet time with God and our prayer together as a community, a church, if this is what we want. Religion is the things we go through to meet God. The Gospel is how we see and think after we have met God. Religion can be a way of avoiding an encounter with God: keeping the rules is the important thing, more so than being open to the Spirit. Religion is the invitation to encounter God, and the Gospel, Jesus’ way of living, is the banquet.  Just sayin  .  .  .

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  1. Sheby

    Thank you for these very enlightening words. I pray that I will be able to apply these words of wisdom to my life

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