Lives of Saints
#MiserableAwfulFrustratingMagnificentLivesofSaints is the podcast for July 8, 2018. Being a saint is not what you think. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Mark #Mark6 #Rejection #Ezekiel #Hosea #JesusatHome #Faith #GodsRespect #Sin
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/8/2018 The 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 6:1-13.
Saints do not catch bullets in their teeth. They take bullets for Jesus Christ. Let me repeat that: Saints do not catch bullets in their teeth; they take bullets for Jesus Christ. They bleed. They fret. They agonize. They think they fail. In the face of stiff opposition, they are crushed in their own mind. Yet, here we are talking about them, inspired by them, and trying to emulate them, all these years later.
Many of us were stunned to find out how far away St. Theresa of Calcutta felt from Jesus Christ. On the outside, the founder of the Sisters of Charity that served the poor in the slums of Calcutta, India when no one else would looked invicible. The person who spoke of human dignity as she helped people systematically rejected by society, some literally in the gutters of the slums, looked like she had the Peace life of Christ. It is a popular thing these days to criticize St. Theresa, formerly known in this life as Mother Theresa. She is criticized because people feel she should not have been “coercing them” to believe.
What they mean by “coercing them” is to invite them to faith. In the face of such staggering poverty, she established hospitals, soup kitchens, schools, etc. As we can see from the Gospel, it would not have been right for her to forget to invite them to faith. In the invitation to faith is the implication that they are desirable to be like us. The invitation to faith says, “I want you to be a part of my group.” In the invitation to faith is the invitation to be healed. If we did not love people, then we would forget to invite them to faith. We just wouldn’t care.
What is even more staggering about St. Theresa, as I have said before, was her feeling of abandonment, when the rest of us just assumed there was no one earth as connected to God as Mother Theresa. She not only did great things, she said great things like, “It is a poverty that a child must die so you may live as you wish.” We all thought she was a living breathing walking saint who could catch bullets in her teeth.
That is not the case. She didn’t catch bullets in her teeth. She took bullets for Jesus Christ.
We act as though the process of spreading the Gospel is about bigger, better, more efficient, glitzier, and spectacular. If we think that, we are sadly mistaken. The scripture lessons for today show it in spades.
Look at Ezekiel, the great prophet. He is in the section we call “The Major Prophets”. He is heralded for being one of the greatest prophets ever. Listen to the spectacular adventure that the Lord is sending him on,
“I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation[a] of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. 4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.”
What a thankless task! We see this in the minor prophets, too. The prophet Hosea is sent to marry a prostitute who will be unfaithful to him because God wanted him to be a symbol of how the people Israel ran after other gods like a john running after prostitutes. What a horrible job!
Even the apostle Paul, someone we act like is catching bullets in his teeth every hour, talks about how he has to reconcile the dejected and hard nature of being an apostle with the mission on which he is sent. He says, “I am content with weaknesses, hardships, insults, persecutions, and calamities, for the sake of Jesus Christ.” Why would he even talk about being content with these horrible outcomes unless he had to wrestle with encountering them all the time? We are talking about the guy who evangelized the Mediterranean world all the way to Rome!
Even Jesus! He goes to his home town to preach the Good News and to heal them and is soundly rejected. He points to the truth: prophets are not honored in their home town, amongst their kin, and in their own homes. Prophets are not welcomed by the place where they have an initial reputation growing up, in their family that has an even greater knowledge of them growing up, and with the people who know all of their foibles because they live with them and see them when they are hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Familiarity breeds contempt.
Just like last week Jairus and the bleeding woman needed faith and the power of Jesus to heal them. This week, we have to realize that those of us, meaning all of us, who are Christians can only offer the healing power of God. We cannot make someone trust it. Without trusting the healing power of God it will not be active in a person’s life.
The Church Father St. Gregory of Nazianzen points out that God respects our freedom to resist his promptings. Even in our sinful state, if we or the people we invite to be healed, decide to stay in their sin, then the Lord will respect that—and all the consequences thereafter.
The consequences about which I speak are the people in Jesus’ hometown not being healed. They are the people who stay in their sin instead of accept St. Theresa of Calcutta’s life as a life of charity. They are the people who resist the second chance we gave them at work. They are the people we have given 1,000 chances in our homes. They are the people who say ‘yes’ and then did ‘no.’ They are the people who betray our trust, shipwreck ours’ and St. Paul’s careers. They are the people who hear what we say, agree that God can heal them, then go back to their abusive spouse or partner.
What is even more, is that they will often times turn on us, use the information we give them on us, and then betray us. They will misrepresent us, like the people in Jesus’ hometown synagogue were amazed at his teaching, but amazed in a way that didn’t get it. The wisdom they heard could not be true, they thought, because of their preconceived notions of how God works. He couldn’t possibly work in our lives, in our town, through someone we know. How sad is that? They are so in love with their sin that they can’t even open themselves up to the possibility that God is doing something mighty in their lives, in their town, through someone they know!
Last week, I said that the healing of God is there if WE cooperate with it. This week, I need to tell you that others are not going to be healed by your invitation to faith unless they cooperate with faith, have faith, believe in Christ, and are healed. We often will think we did something wrong. We tainted the Gospel. In our delivery, in our setting, in our approach, we somehow messed it up. That may be true, but it discounts one thing: sin.
Jesus didn’t ruin their amazement at his teaching. The hearts of the people in his own hometown did that. He himself was amazed at their unbelief. These were the people God chose to surround his Son, the Savior of the World as he grew up and they didn’t get it. Ouch. That had to hurt.
Paul got hurt. Hosea was heart sick and crushed by his wife, Gomer. Ezekiel was punished over and over for delivering the message. That is the nature of the battle for souls we are in. We are to fight the battle regardless of whether we will or will not see the results. We will be hurt. We, like Theresa of Calcutta, will take bullet after bullet for Jesus Christ. That is the nature of the battle we are in.
That brings me to my last point. Being a saint isn’t doing it right all the time. Being a saint is having it in our orbit to be concerned with doing it right for God all the time. If we do, we can do no more than that. We have done our part for the mission of God. We very well may be a saint already. Take another bullet for Christ because another is coming. 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, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian