#Minority Opinion is the podcast for June 21, 2020. Our culture makes hearing the Gospel shocking. As we deliver that message, we ought to consider the cost and expect it. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew10 #Minority #Jewish #Christian #Race #Gospel
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/21/2020 The 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 10:24-39.
Imagine being in a small town that is predominantly Jewish and you are a Jew. The synagogue is the center of your existence. You are a member of the tribe of Israel that is being occupied by the Romans. You are awaiting a Messiah and you live with your family, praying with them throughout the day and on Shabbat. You keep the laws and avoid contact with Gentiles. Your customs and way of life are all wrapped up in your faith, in your town, in your family.
Then, in the midst of this, you encounter the Messiah, Jesus Christ. You are overjoyed. You are amazed and even believe that he rose from the dead. In the midst of your Jewish synagogue, your Jewish town, and your Jewish family, you are now going on Sunday mornings to celebrate Mass with Christians. St. Justin Martyr described the gatherings “On the Lord’s Day”, which is Sunday, not Saturday, like Shabbat. You begin to meet with Gentiles as well as Jews. You are “Baptized” and begin receiving the flesh and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ at these early morning meetings on the first day of the week.
You begin to interpret the Torah differently. To your community is delivered a Book called “The Gospel of Matthew”. In it, are a collection of sayings and stories about Jesus of Nazareth about which not all members of your family are keen. The Torah is interpreted through his teachings. Not only is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but you must love your enemies and not seek revenge at all. Not only must you not make an oath, your “yes” is yes and your “no” is no. Also, you do not have to observe the dietary rules if you are moved. As well, you are talking about being “in mission” to baptize “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Who are they?
In fact, the Gospel of Matthew was written to a predominantly Jewish Christian community and we pass over this fact like it is nothing. Yet, what would it be like in your own personal life if everything you were taught you understood to be fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth when people in your synagogue, your town, and your family do not agree? The whole place is formed by the practice of Judaism in the first century! How do you, a practicing Jew in a secluded community, begin to go out into the world to preach, teach, and witness to Jesus Christ being the fulfillment of the Law and prophets?
We need only look at the Acts of the Apostles to see how Paul was treated. In 2 Corinthians 11, St. Paul lays out that he was beaten five times under the Law, which means he was whipped with 39 strokes. He was beaten with rods three times. He had large stones thrown at him for the purpose of killing him once. We call that a “stoning.” This was just from his preaching Jesus as Messiah in the synagogues. I think we gloss over this stuff because we have heard it so much. Yet, stop and think of how much time, how much pain, and how much healing it would take just to get through the entire process of one whipping, let alone five times.
It is in this context, the context of being an observant Jew in a faithful synagogue, in a faithful town, in a faithful family, that we need to hear the words of Jesus as he says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the servant like the master.” That being the case, the injunction to fear not the one who can kill the body, but the One who can kill the soul, is particularly apropos. If Jesus is crucified and resurrected, it is enough for us to be crucified and resurrected.
I was recommended a book to read about the current thoughts on race relations in this country. It is called “White Fragility”. In it the woman who wrote it mentioned she is “cisgender”. Cisgender is defined as when your gender identity matches your biology at birth. It is as shocking to me as when a friend of mine who teaches at the University said, “you will be accused of “heteronormativity”.” In other words, I will be accused of saying that heterosexuality is the norm for gender and sexuality. Well, as Christians, that is what we believe. We do not believe in being cruel to people who do not believe what we know to be true. We should not treat people who live according to something different than the idea that there are two genders, male and female, as God has made us, like they are scum or vile. Every human being deserves to be loved, no matter what, because God loves them.
Yet, in our world today, especially on social media, we are becoming in the minority. We will be persecuted. In fact, when I was on a social media string, a person looked up my podcasts and found where I have talked about this before and used it against me in the string. I had to block them and report them to get them to stop harassing me. The thought that went through my mind was, “A disciple is not above his teacher…”
Even in my own family, I am treated as if I constantly need to be corrected in my world view. It is like there is something wrong with me because I believe in Jesus Christ. Yet, that is what we should expect, brethren. We need to be careful, too, because having Christ at the center of our life means that others will not understand. It is as if we are a Jew, living in a Jewish town, going to a synagogue, and having a very Jewish family, yet, we are newly minted Christians, trying to navigate all the mischaracterization, rejection, and even in some cases, hatred. In short, we are like those who received Matthew’s Gospel.
This past week, during daily Mass, my favorite passage in the Bible came up. It is the passage where Jesus says that we should love our enemies. He says, “the sun shines on the evil and the good, and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.” It is in Matthew 5, part of the Sermon on the Mount. So, if our allegiance is to Jesus Christ, we too must rain sunshine on those with whom we disagree or know they are wrong. It is not easy. Often, taking the high road is very difficult.
I remember Vertelle Staton, a very classy distinguished African American leader in one of my parishes. She was about thirty years my senior. She was teaching me one day, as a young white pastor in a 98% African American community, how to deal with racism and racist comments. She said to me, “Oh, Pastor, they are just ignorant and ignorance is different than stupidity. Ignorance means, they just don’t know. You cannot hate people or be mad at people who just don’t know.” Whether you agree with Vertelle or not, it is a lovely way to view those who you could see as your enemy.
The model of the Cross is non-violence, my friends. Non-violence is rooted in love for the other even when they do not love you. It is rooted in a commitment to the love of the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. The rooting is that the mission of God is to love the world into his way of living. That is not done with laws, or force. It is done by introducing people in their own places of spirituality, in their own towns, in their own families, to the person of Jesus Christ and seeing their lives transformed.
We have been entertained into Christianity into thinking that this kind of missionary work is easy or that Christianity can be bent to accommodate any kind of behavior. Neither of these things are true. Christianity is hard. It is loving people who do not love you for the sake of them seeing that God loves them. We hope that they, then, will love God and their lives will be transformed. Unfortunately, that process more times than not will include blow back.
We need to remember, there are hardships like St. Paul, hardships like the Jewish community that received the Gospel of Matthew, and hardships in this world as we participate in the Mission. We also need to remember what it is like if we save one soul. We need to remember what it is like to be resurrected. We need to remember that the Father counts us more valuable than even sparrows. We need to remember that of all the people in the world that God could ask to help him save his treasured creation, he asked us.
May God bless the preaching of the Gospel in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 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, 2020
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian