#TheMission is the reflection for September 13, 2015. Who Jesus Christ is, who we believe him to be, has an impact on whether we are ready to die or not. Even more, it has an impact on how and when we are ready to live life, and live it to the full. Find out how in “The Mission”, the podcast for this week. Get this podcast on your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay #MySpiritualAdvisor #Sermon #Homily #TextingWhileDriving #EmilyBrochu #Philo #JohnWesley #Called #Persecution #MissionReady #Forgiveness #Prepare
For My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 9/13/2015 The 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Mark 8:27-38. The Catholic readings for this week stop at verse 35.
The text message said, ‘I love you and I’ll try to do I can to make you happy’
It was the message of Emily Brochu, 20, who was texting her boyfriend instead of watching where she was going. Instead of getting back to him, she crashed into the back of a semi-tractor trailer and died. Can you just imagine all the loose ends of a life taken so suddenly? I have a link to the article on the website MySpiritualAdvisor.com for you to see.
What if you knew you were going to die and how you were going to die, how do you think you would react?
Unlike the sudden and tragically sad incidence of Emily Brochu, and more than once, I have been called to the bedside, living room, or kitchen table to assist someone who has learned that they are going to die. The last time, I was called to listen to and then counsel a person who had ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. How did I counsel them?
The ancient Roman Philosopher Philo, who was a Hellenistic Jew, and Suetonius, who was an ancient Roman historian, both remarked that it was widely held that to know the circumstances of one’s own death ahead of time was to be considered a mark of wisdom. Or, it was considered a sign of the gift of an extraordinary person. That is how I counseled the person who knew they were going to die. I told them it was a gift.
If we know that we are going to die, we have an extreme advantage to those who are like Emily. If we know we are going to die, we can begin to make arrangements. I don’t know about you, but I would go through my inventory of wrongs I have committed one more time just to make sure I have apologized. I would make sure I have said that I loved everyone around me who is special to me. I would make sure that all of my papers are in order for my children. I would do all the good I can, wherever I can, whenever I can. More than anything, I would make sure that I have a steady and sure relationship with God. I would be on a mission.
The biggest revelation in Mark 8 for us today is that Jesus says for the first time in this Gospel that he came to be rejected, suffer, die and rise again. It is definitely a shock to the apostles as Peter demonstrates. How can the Messiah suffer? Isn’t the Messiah supposed to be the one who delivers everyone? It reminds me of when you get the call to go into the ministry or the priesthood.
I remember when I was called to be a pastor. It was an exhilarating feeling for me. It was in the mighty rush of the Wind like at Pentecost. I thought it meant that there would be smooth sailing. God was going to change the world through me! I loved John Wesley and I was going to be just like him and help reignite the movement to holiness and devotion to Jesus Christ. Little did I know at the time that Wesley was run out of Savannah, GA when he was a missionary. Nor did I know that he started a riot and was bloodied at Wednesbury in England because of what he said about Jesus Christ.
It is not a commonly known fact amongst those who are not clergy, but being a clergy person and called by God is hard. You are often called to live a life that no one understands and no one wants to hear what you have to say on behalf of God unless it makes them feel better about their circumstances. Shouting “repent!” is not considered pastoral, unless you are shouting it at someone who is not in your parish. So, I understand why Peter rejects Jesus in a way that Jesus admonished demons (in fact, the same word in Greek is used in both places).
As Christians, we know that the term “Son of Man” comes from the Book of Daniel and refers to the one in the fiery furnace protecting Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It also comes from the vision in Daniel 7 as a heavenly being sent by God to judge humanity at the end of time. For Jesus to appropriate this term means he is the Heavenly One. He is stating that he is the Messiah, of God.
As Christians, we also know that since the time of the writing of Isaiah 53, the Messiah was sent to be the suffering servant who will deliver humanity. So, this declaration is simply that Jesus has come to complete his mission and it is a mission that involves rejection, death, and resurrection.
The responses we see here to who people say that Jesus is are three fold. Most people think he is the forerunner of the Messiah, so they don’t have to really change anything. The disciples think he is the Messiah, but think that means prosperity and power for them all. The last response is from our Lord himself: he denies himself and lays down his life. He will then call us to deny ourselves. He lays down his life, we lay down our life.
One time, in a phone conversation with My Spiritual Advisor’s Harmon Smith, he said to me, “You are one of those who believe this Jesus stuff: you have the scars and so do I.” Little did I know that the man who taught me Christian ethics had been arrested for civil disobedience in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
Jesus knew he was going to die and lived his life accordingly. He understood that he had a mission to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He knew how he was supposed to talk and act. He knew he was going to be rejected and did not act like it was a shock. So, why do we who follow him get so easily knocked off the rails?
Lord, why didn’t you protect me from those lies? Lord, why didn’t you protect me from the damage to my career? Lord, why didn’t you protect me? I did the right thing! I was good!
Yes, you were good. Yes, you did the right thing. That is why you were hurt and rejected. That is why he was hurt and rejected. Those who are on the mission wherever they are take precautions because they know they are going to die in one way or another for Jesus at some time or another. People lose careers because they stand up for truth. People lose money and prestige because they do the right thing. People are constantly rejected by society because they don’t bend to immorality or injustice. It is what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, at least that is what Jesus himself has just told us in our Gospel today.
So, we are not like Emily Brochu. Our lives are not going to be lost in an instant with us unprepared. We have been warned, no, we have been invited, to live the mission wherever we are, with all that goes with it. It is the mission to be God’s loving generous community that loves when the world cannot understand love. It is to be the continuation of God’s plan for the salvation of people we call neighbors, friends, and colleagues. So, how are we going to prepare? What changes in attitude do we have to make? Who do we have to forgive? For what do we have to say we are sorry? Who do you need to tell that you love them? What provisions do you need to make? What changes do you have to make to be closer to Jesus Christ? About what do you need to make a stand?
It may hurt. It may be an inconvenience. It may be something you never anticipated, but it is the mission and the calling is for everyone, even you. Amen.
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