Saturday, July 23, 2011

Living in the Wonder

Reflections on the Readings
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 24, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins

Living in the Wonder

"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." - Jesus

A little gospel song comes to mind. The lyrics express the deep intent of my soul:

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

Though none go with me, still I will follow,
Though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me,
The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

What or who is our first love? Is our first response revenge and hatred? What do we do when nobody is looking? When temptation comes knocking on the door, how do we respond? Just because everybody is doing it doesn't it make it right. Is our love for Jesus and his Church growing stronger and deeper or is it growing cold?

In the first letter of Peter, the sainted apostle is writing to encourage the persecuted believers in the northern part of Asia Minor. Peter, who would also become a martyr shared with his brothers and sisters in Christ the meaning and depth of their faith: "Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls." - 1 Peter 1:8, 9 This unspeakable joy is what Peter, James and John felt in the pit of their soul when they left their nets to follow Jesus. And it is this same unfettered devotion to Jesus Peter speaks of when writing to persecuted and maligned followers of Christ.

Paul helps us today to remember that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called to his purpose. That is not a promise that everything will be cushy and plush. Our destiny is to be conformed to the image of God's only crucified Son. Or as Bishop Stika reminds us, we are called to be the face of Jesus. We are a work in progress. One day we will enter into the glory of the sons and daughters of God, if we do not lose heart. That's why we must not grow weary, for in due time we will reap the full measure of our faith, if we do not faint and turn back.

I remember the uninhibited embrace of the mystery of life I had as a child. You remember don't you? Those were days of true adventure. When is the last time you looked at the clouds? What shape did you see or what ship did you sail? Those were the days of living in the wonder of it all. Jesus tells us the one with childlike trust and faith receives the kingdom of God. The simplicity of trust in the Father's love for us is a door into the joys of the Lord. Jesus came to restore the wonder of love and faith and forgiveness. It may be politically incorrect but everybody needs the mystery and the wonder of life in the Son. Our Lord did not come to condemn the world but to restore it and redeem it back into the wonder of life in the Father's love.

As I was preparing to write these words, I asked myself, "When is the last time I said to Jesus, 'Without you Jesus, I can't make it?'" I am reminded that it is a good prayer to pray often. Jesus tells us that without him we can do nothing. Perhaps that is the reason we must eat and drink often from this altar. And so it is as we come to Jesus this morning, he give us himself. We receive him in the bread and wine, his very body and blood, soul and divinity. Let us embrace again without reservation the joy of his resurrection and live this day and everyday in the wonder of it all. Amen.

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