#Promises is the reflection for October 18, 2015. Why is there evil and does God allow it? How do we counter act evil in the world? What is the solution and do we have the power to do it? Listen here in this reflection by Mark Kurowski: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #ChristianCommunity #Community #Mission #Power #Prestige #Glory #Love
(Fr. Kurowski is ill this week. We bring you this “best of” series.)
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/15/2015 The 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 10:35-45.
Jesus did not promise to take the Cross away from us. He invited us to be nailed to it with him.
Jesus did not promise to take the Cross away from us. He invited us to be nailed to it with him.
Friend(s), there is evil in the world. Evil is the rejection of God’s way. It was introduced by Adam’s first sin. That sin, that choice to not do what God wanted us to do, turned the world upside down. We Christians believe that the sin of Adam altered our relationship with God; altered our relationship with each other, and altered the right ordering of the world.
[I have said over and over that] God respects us. He gave us free will and lets us exercise it, even with all of its repercussions. When we don’t marry, have children out of wedlock without the proper moorings of a family to care for them, then this means that we have children who will grow up wondering why it is that their father doesn’t love them. The sins of the fathers and mothers go on and on and on to the third, fourth, and fifth generation. God doesn’t stand in the way, because love requires a choice. God is not going to make us love him.
Have you ever had anyone “make” you love them? What happens is that you end up resenting them instead. Forced love is not love, it is coercion. God is not into coercion. The fact that Jesus went to the Cross after he was cheated, betrayed, accused unfairly, convicted in a kangaroo court, beaten by the police while in custody, and executed in the most cruel and unusual way possible, should indicate to us that God does not promise that he will remove suffering from our lives.
So, please, do not come to me and ask, “Why did God allow this to happen to me?” Do not say, “If God were really God he would have made it so that this wouldn’t happen to me.” Do not say all of those other crazy notions that we who have such a limited view of life give. God does not do evil things to you. God endures it with you. God endures his creation, whom he created to live with him in a perfect place with everything we needed, he endures his creation’s desire to go it on their own. God endures his creation, whom he created to live in peace and harmony, he endures their cruelty to one another. God endures his creation, which he created to run smoothly without violent storms or disease, he endures the disordering of the world until his Son comes again.
To the liar, the Lord shakes his head: He didn’t create us for that. For the people who are unfaithful to their spouse, the Lord shakes his head: He didn’t create us for that. For the perpetrator of violence against another human being, the Lord shakes his head: He didn’t create us for that. For the one with the cold judgmental stare, the Lord shakes his head: He didn’t create us for that. For the one who tries to white knuckle through their anxiety attacks, the Lord shakes his head: He didn’t create us for that. For the fraud and the extortionist, the Lord shakes his head: He didn’t create us for that. There are so many ways that the Lord endures us day by day, moment by moment. So, if you are fed up with liars, adulterers, the violent, the judgmental, the people who forget the Lord, the fraud, stand in line. You are not alone.
This is why the Lord comes after Job in the protestant reading for today and foretells of the suffering servant in the reading from Isaiah in the Catholic readings for today: the invitation from Jesus is not about having a life free of suffering. If God will not escape the disordering of sin in this world, why do we expect to escape? God expects Jesus to face the suffering, endure the suffering, and then transform the suffering. If God wanted Jesus to escape the suffering, then he would have had Jesus zap people with his power and clear the way of escape.
We should not be too hard on ourselves, though, because we are no different than James and John from the Gospel lesson today. James and John decide that they want to think of the glory of heaven without the pain of the Cross. They seek a seat in glory in heaven. Seriously?! My mother used to call that, “Getting too big for your breeches.” The really galling aspect of this that we don’t hear in the Gospel for today is that just before this, Jesus tells the apostles for the third time in Mark’s Gospel that he must suffer and die. Yet, right on the heels of Jesus telling them for the third time he must suffer and die, James and John act like they didn’t even hear him! “Oh, and by the way, as you are doing all these other things for us, Jesus, would you be sure to polish off the chairs to the right and left of the Father in heaven for us while you are there?”
We ought not be surprised by the request for glory. After the first time Jesus told them he was going to suffer and die, Peter rebuked Jesus because he was thinking they would have political power. After the second time that Jesus told them, the twelve were debating about which one of them was the greatest. This is just like us humans. We think everything is about an exchange, a deal, a contract, a quid pro quo. We have so bought into the Enlightenment philosophy’s notion of the individual as being the highest order of society, that we have placed ourselves on an equal plane with God.
We act like God owes US something for our attention. Jesus, I will follow you if you promise to give me eternal life. Jesus, I will follow you if you give me a new car, a new house, a shiny suit, a new phone, etc., etc. The saying goes, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” What we forget is that God is not about deal making. God is in the gift giving business. There is no transaction involved with salvation. We act like there is. [Some Christian communities] [we]even have altar calls that have us begging people to give up their lives for a ‘better’ life with Jesus. [There are Catholics I know who say, “if I go to Eucharistic adoration nine first Fridays, God will give me what I am praying for.”]
This is NOT how God works. God gives and gives and gives. He gives to the evil and the good. He does not say, “Because you follow me, I will give to you. Because you don’t I won’t.” The problem is that we have a skewed notion of WHY God has salvation. God does care about us individually, but God has salvation not for individual reasons. The reason God has salvation is found in the Resurrection.
Jesus invites us to the Cross, but he also gives us the Resurrection. Jesus invites us to the Cross, but he also gives us the Resurrection.
When Jesus appears to his disciples, he is in a transformed physical body. He has faced the torture and persectution, the worst the world can give and he is still standing. They thought he was dead, but he isn’t. He has taken what the world has done and has transformed it. It is the same body that was nailed to the cross, but it has been restored and given qualities that weren’t there before. Look, Jesus even walks through doors and walls with that physical body. In Revelation 21, God reveals to us that when Jesus comes again, there will be a new heaven and a new earth that are transformed beyond what we have now.
When we are baptized, we are baptized into that Resurrected body of Jesus. We are made part of him. All of that is not just theological mumbo jumbo, it has implications as to how we live our lives. It means simply that unlike the world, we are a community of people who have been transformed to endure hardship within the context of a people who are in communion with God, love one another, and are doing what we can to alleviate the disordering of the world through disease and hardship.
How do we do this? We do it by being a community that refuses to be like the world. We remember who we are. We remember that we are Christ through our baptism. We are the children of the Father in heaven. We are people who have the power of the Holy Spirit at our fingertips. We are citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom. We start by being a community that lays aside all the pettiness of the world when we walk through [these doors] the doors of our churches. We lay it aside when we put the foot on the floor in the morning. We lay it aside when we sit down in our cubicle at work. We lay pettiness aside when we see another human being. We lay it aside because we do not hold our hope in political power. We lay it aside because we do not hold our hope in prestige. We lay pettiness aside because we do not hold our hope in glory. We know that there is a God and we are not him.
Our hope is in the Lord who made heaven and earth and is remaking heaven and earth through us. It is no mistake that when Jesus wanted to change the world he called a community to himself to be sent out. He sent them out and they faced persecution, ship wrecks, political betrayal, and more. What we were promised is that we would be entrusted with a very important task. We would be entrusted with being the community of God transformed in a world that is just rotting to the core. We are entrusted to be people who are about the mission of God, not the mission of politics. We are entrusted to be a people who are about the serving one another and not elevating the most prestigious among us. We are entrusted to be a people who are concerned with the dignity of the other and not glory for ourselves.
It starts with a community of seemingly one. What the world does not see is that it is a community of four: you and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That community comes together with another who shares the same community, the same power, the same willingness not to escape suffering, but to transform it. We come together to be the people who do right by each other and do right by the world. We will be a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.” By our very presence and the way we conduct ourselves, without need for politics, prestige, or glory, we change the way the world acts, reacts, believes.
The question is the same question for James and John. Are we willing to stop seeing our relationship with God as an eternal business deal and an invitation to a mission? Are we willing to stop wanting to be political in all our dealings, seeking prestige, and wanting glory so that we can do the work of God that actually needs to be done? Are we ready to move beyond the old structures of Christianity that looked so much like the structures of the world to create something that looks a lot more like heaven?
Jesus did not promise to take the Cross away from us. He invited us to be nailed to it with him so that we could be Resurrected to serve. Are you ready? Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2015.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian