18 August 2013

Not a New Mayor, or a Wide Receiver: We Need Jesus (20th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year C

In a panic as a friar, I once asked one of my mentors how I could I possibly fix all of the many things that were wrong in my life: my temper, a mouth that all too often fit the New Jersey stereotype, my aggravation when people didn’t meet my expectations – and perhaps even worse, my aggravation with myself when I didn’t meet them.  Father Phil looked at me, sighed the sigh of experience and said simply, “Don’t try to fix it all at once.  The Holy Spirit will let you know what to do when.  One project at a time.”

And so it is with our faith.  We are provided with opportunities in our lives each day to act as God would have us act: every chance to serve another, no matter how small or inconsequential may think it is, allows us to follow a little more closely to Jesus or a little bit further away.  Included in this is also the ability to show others not just how we believe, but also in WHOM we believe.  This is, of course, no easy task.  If today’s Gospel speaks about setting the world on fire with love for the Lord, then we all know just how many buckets of water there are to put out this fire.  In some cases, it is easy to look around and think that the fire with which Jesus wished to the light the world has gone completely out – or at least gotten to small that it isn’t noticeable any longer. And these challenges are, of course, not only around us in the forms of temptations, but also within our own selves – our own brokenness, our own weaknesses. 

Despite these realities of our own inability to get “it right,” so to speak, we are still called to spread the Good News of Jesus.  In this morning’s second reading, a portion of the Letter to the Hebrews, the author reminds listeners that each day we are called to “persevere in running the race that lies before us” all the while “keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”  And that is our challenge today: to keep our eyes on Jesus: the real Jesus, the Jesus who is both God and human at the same time, who is both our brother and our judge, our friend and our most frequent challenger.  Though it may be unpopular to say, what our world needs most is Jesus.  A consistent ninth inning man for the Sox or a dependable set of hands to receive Tom Brady passes would be nice.  Yet these aren’t going to solve the problems of the world.  Even as we prepare to elect a new mayor – he or she is not, will not, cannot be the savior of our city. The reality of our situation is that there is only one Savior, Jesus the Christ, dead, buried and risen from the dead who has the ability to provide us with lasting peace: there are no other options for us! Our world, our city: needs the love of Jesus, the mercy of Jesus, the forgiveness of Jesus, and the strength of Jesus.  And today, the Lord calls us not to talk about it – but to DO IT!

While this task may seem overwhelming, the Letter to Hebrews also reminds us that we do not this ourselves.  There is, in the words of the letter, “a cloud of witnesses” which surrounds us.  And who makes us this cloud?  Well, for starters, the community gathered here.  But it’s more than that: this cloud is also made up of the saints, those men and women who the Church remembers as specific and enduring examples of what it means to set the world on fire.  And it’s even more than that: this cloud of witnesses is filled with all of those wonderful women and men who taught us about our faith not only through their words, but also – and perhaps even more meaningfully – with their actions. 

This cloud of witnesses surrounds us and lifts us up, prays with us and through us each time we gather here as a community.  Every time we recite the Creed together and state that we believe in the communion of saints, we are summoning the cloud of witnesses who live with God to be present with us and remind us of who we are and what we have been put here to do: set the world ablaze for the Lord.

Each encounter on the street, in our home or at work is a chance to light the fire that Christ calls us to light.   At the same time, this fire is more than “being a good person.”  No, Christians are not called to be good people – we are called to be foolishly good – to give without counting the cost, to forgive without consequences, to pray for those who hate us.  The fire that Christ calls us to light is the fire that allowed him to go to the cross and die for the very people who had put him to death; this same fire also was what burst through his corpse in the tomb on Easter Sunday as he was raised from the dead.  It is the same fire too that will push us to do extraordinary things as well as pick us up when we fall in our attempts to relight this fire. 

So let’s get burning: so that one day, people will remember you and me and ask for our help from the cloud of witnesses to get their own fire burning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"foolishly good"--well put!

Chris J