Wait. Wut?

by Fr. Mark Kurowski | MySpiritualAdvisor2020

#WaitWut is the podcast for August 30, 2020. What does it mean to say “Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.”  Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew16 #JesusRules #Discipleship #Stewardship #Basics

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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday,   8/30/2020  The 22nd   Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read Matthew 16:21-28.

         We carry around our cellphones and check them over and over. Social media is designed to release chemicals in our brains to make us want to return to see how many likes or “hearts” we got in the last hour; how many people approved our messages.         We hang out with people who tell us that we are right. We look for people to affirm our world view. Yet, what if our world view is wrong?

         Wait, wut?

         I said, what if our world view, our whole way of thinking, our starting point is wrong?  We are usually so busy reacting to what someone has just said to us, accepting the underlying principles of what they said or what we think, that it is hard for us to stop and look at the foundation of our thinking. What if how our societies are ordered is wrong? What if how we have ordered our life is wrong? What if the way we operate is more about being successful in a capitalist consumerist America where we are given what we want on demand than we do with our focus on Jesus? Now everyone is saying, “wait, wut?”

         What exactly is the purpose of us meeting here [going to Church], watching livestream, and all this [that]? We say that the Lord is the center of our lives, but when it comes down to a decision, what are the principles that guide our thinking? Last week, I asked you to stop and say to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” for your own life. That is what Peter declared. He, representing the apostles, said it. We said it. Now, this week, we are faced with a stark reality of what that means.

         After the apostles proclaim Jesus the Lord of the universe, he begins to tell them what the plan is. He says he is going to build a church. They are good with that. You know, position, upward mobility, the corner church office, and all that. They are good with those things.  He said he has to suffer, die, and then rise again.  Wait, wut?

         The problem with declaring that Jesus is the Messiah who saves us, and the Son of the Living God is that it means that he is the center of our lives, the first, the beginning, the Alpha, the Omega, the end. Peter was OK with declaring Jesus the Messiah when Peter got to dictate the terms of what it meant. If, by chance, it meant a corner church office, then fine. If, by chance, it meant ease of life, deliverance from hardship, then Peter was good with that. But, what is this stuff about suffering at the hands of the elders, scribes, and chief priests, and, uh, dying!?! We want religion, not sacrifice!

         When we move from treating God as a concept, an add-on to our lives, and let go, we find out that we are encountering a person. God is a person with his own mind, not our mind. He has plans. Not our plans. He has a large plan. That plan is the salvation of the world. It is not an add-on. We are the add-on. The late Dr. David Steinmetz, professor of Church History at Duke University used to tell his Methodist students, “Let me disabuse you of the notion that God is a nice god, who does nice things, for nice people.” Nice cannot fight evil. Nice avoids conflict. Nice does not advance a mission, but sweeps the pain, suffering, and indifference of the powerful under the rug, to avoid suffering and death. In doing so, ‘nice’ also rejects resurrection. It rejects the restoration that comes after the suffering. Nice does not rebuke when evil must be rebuked.

         We see Peter, the ‘rock upon which I will build my church,’ tell Jesus, the Son of the Living God, that this suffering and death nonsense is not what God wants. This is when it is so much better to read the scriptures in the Greek than the translations. The KJV says, “Get thee behind me Satan, thou art an offense to me.”  The NRSVCE says, “you are a hindrance to me.” This does not do the play on words justice. In the Greek text, Jesus says to the rock upon whom he will build his church, “Get behind me, Satan, you are a stumbling block to me.” The Stone upon which he will build his church is a stumbling block to him. Peter is a stumbling block because he has done what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, he decided he knew better than God.

         So, that means that our allegiance is not to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. Nor, is it to a philosopher we have read in college. Nor, is it to a business principle. Nor, is our allegiance to a particular talk show host or self-help author. Nor, is our allegiance to social media posts, likes, and “hearts.” Nor, is our allegiance first to anything but Jesus Christ and his plan. Surely, all of these things above can be an assistance in achieving the mission which God lays before us. Yet, these are not where our allegiance lies. For all the help these things give us in achieving our mission, they also can turn in an instant and make us suffer. They can turn on us in an instant and kill us, either kill our soul or actually get us killed.

         Our first allegiance is to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God. He has said that he was founding a Church. So, it would stand to reason that we, who say Jesus is the center of our lives, would come to his Church. No, seriously, I have had Christians say to me over the years things like, “Preacher man, I can sit on my tractor and commune with God just as easily here as I can in that building.” Well, that would make sense if Jesus didn’t just as easily skip the dying on the Cross part for you. It would make sense if Jesus had not said he would build a Church and then offer us his Body and Blood from within it.

         Christianity is not a religion of convenience or escape. Carrying our crosses daily is not convenient. The mission of Jesus Christ is not convenient. When we are feeding the hungry, healing the sick, visiting those in prison, clothing the naked, and welcoming the alien, the stranger, none of these things is convenient. They require a sacrifice of time and money. Making disciples of all nations does not happen by doing nothing or not taking risks.

         Whenever I preach a homily like this, I have political liberals happy that I mentioned feeding the hungry and all the social initiatives of the Gospel. All the political conservatives happy that I said we should not be “nice” and we should rebuke evil. What is different about following Jesus is that the mission of the Church is about both. It is not enough to just love the neighbor. It is not enough to just love God. We are followers of Jesus Christ, we are to do both. If we retreat to our own corners, we are emulating this second conversation with Peter, we are denying that we must be converted of heart and allow Jesus to be the center of our lives AND we are denying that we must bear the cross of service to love the world. In short, we become stumbling blocks for the mission of Jesus Christ.

         Ayah Paras is a woman now. When she was a student of mine at Benedictine University.  She was a born leader. I remember we were getting ready for a retreat, which she was the lay leader of, and I said, “Are you ready?” She said, “I am mission ready!” Mission ready is to have our priorities straight coupled with a readiness to do what it takes, suffer the cost. It is to humbly admit that God knows better than we do about life.  It is to accept that we are going to disagree with God. We are going to rebel, but in the end, we will come around and follow him on his mission which is nothing short of saving the soul of the world.

         We may be mission ready by giving up our day off to help the homeless who never have a day off, or repairing something at the Church so we can worship safely. We may be mission ready by taking time away from TV or social media to pray and read the Scriptures, so that we can be with the Lord. We may be mission ready, having to put off the bling bling we want, tithing to express our willingness to let no part of our lives go outside the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We may be mission ready by making weekly attendance at Mass and accepting the invitation to come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we can be renewed and give praise to God, which means we will have to suffer not staying in bed or letting something else become more important.      

         We do these things, not so we can get self-fulfillment and not so that our view of the world can be affirmed, but so that we can live out a fulfillment of the self in service to God. We are his hands, feet, head, and heart here on earth until he comes again. His mission to save souls, and our necessary carrying of our crosses to join in that mission, are so much more important than social media “likes” and “hearts.” His mission is so much more important than our deciding we need time off from faith. His mission is, in short, important.

         We read these scriptures and we hear these kinds of homilies because we will be challenged to radically place Jesus Christ and his mission as the center of our lives.  That will cause us to go, “wait, wut?” a lot.   So, as we get ready [to fill out our Stewardship Promise] [commit ourselves to Christ and his mission] we need to remember we will be challenged at the core of our world view to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  Are we ready? Yes. We are mission ready.

         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.

Mark Kurowski, M.Div.

Executive Director

Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian