Reflections on the Readings
June 30, 2013 - Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C
Important Spiritual Guidance
But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18)
This week we hear about the freedom Christ invites us to accept from him. If we are led by his Spirit, the same Spirit that raised him from the dead, we will live by another law. It is the law of love where obedience to the Spirit of life is for us righteousness, joy, and peace. It is a whole new world of freedom that opens up to us when we are led by the Spirit. It is a new and dynamic opportunity to fill the world with the Love of God
There may be some apprehension with todays readings. The tension we may feel is important and I propose we look at what are some of the challenges we face in ourselves.
First, the tension we have is not that the offer of Christ is too small or limited. I think we may be numbed by the narrowness that comes with the invitation, that is:
No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.
Christianity is a challenge to the drift we let come into our lives. A certain leisurely and comfortable movement away from the focus of our faith creates an opportunity for a spiritual ship wreck. No ship in the water or flight into the heavens begins a journey without filing a navigation plan. Guidance through the waters or the skies does not allow for drift. If a plane or ship gets off course there will be trouble. Maybe even loss of life. Certainly there will be demotions and firings at the the very least.
We who follow Christ are called to follow him with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind. We stay on course by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Captain of our Salvation. If we keep our hearts for Christ alone we will stay on message and stay on course. The road is a narrow road, it is the only road to the kingdom of Christ. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The only road to heaven is the one that goes right through Jerusalem to a hill called Golgotha.
Second, the tension we have is not that the offer of Christ is too small or limited. I think we may be stunned by the imperative of his invitation, that is:
To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father. But he said to him, "Leave the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
I read somewhere that Christ is not looking for admirers, but rather he is looking for disciples. It may not always be convenient to give witness of our allegiance to this other King. Family, friends, and evil rulers may all equally make it very difficult to follow only Jesus. It may mean letting the spiritually dead bury their unbelieving dead. Is there a cost in knowing Jesus and the salvation he wills for us? I think we would all say, "Yes." I think we also would agree that there is no attachment or relationship in this world that is worth losing our soul over. Jesus talked about seeking first the kingdom of God. If we are to compare what costs more, to postpone Jesus or to follow him first in all things, let us be very, very wise.
Heaven is too good, and hell is too hot, and life is too short to get this wrong. Our American ancestors left other shores to journey to this land of promise. Leaving whatever had to be left behind our American Pilgrims sought for a place where there was freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press. We too are sojourners. Like Abraham of old we are called to seek out a heavenly country. There is for us who have the faith and the vision of Abraham an inheritance in another homeland. It is that place we seek. It is a better country, that is, a heavenly one, where God is not ashamed to be called our God, for he has prepared for us a city.
Getting from here to there requires a single heart. A divided heart will only keep us from our truest self and our truest reward. True love begins and remains for those who forsake all others and cling only to the God who calls them out of darkness into his gracious and marvelous light. The Love that made the world can remake us. Such Love will only lead us to what truly redeems us. There's no looking back for those who are lead by the Spirit.
The challenge for us is not that the journey of faith is too big. Perhaps we live to contentedly with smallness of heart, smallness of faith, and smallness in general. We sometimes don't really know the bigness of God because so many are telling us how important we are. All the advertisements on TV are about you and me and how we can be leaner, and how our teeth can be whiter, and how our abs can be tighter. None of these things gets us closer to God. When we see God at that great day he won't ask us what toothpaste we used or if we had a membership at the Rush. I think he may look behind us to see how many we brought with us into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Third, the tension we feel is not that what Christ offers us is too small or limited. We just may be shocked that not everyone will welcome us, that is:
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.
Jesus entered this world without a bed of his own where he could lay his head. In a manger, a lowly feed trough is where he slept his first night. Why? Because there was no room in the Inn. There was that hasty trip to Egypt because Herod sought to kill him in infancy. So that meant more homelessness. When Jesus died it was outside of Jerusalem on a Cross. And then they buried him in a borrowed tomb. A person could think the world is against him under these circumstances.
Peter wrote in his first epistle to those he loved in the Lord. From Rome he wrote, "Beloved, I beseech you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh that wage war against your soul...Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God." (1 Peter 2:11) Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. Although this world is not our home, it is the place were we are called to witness to the Love of God.
It is here in this world we bathe in God's love those in most need of his mercy. We may have to do that without a tax exempt status. We may do the work of Christ without the approval of the Government or the Supreme Court. It may become unlawful to adhere to sound doctrine about the beauty of marriage between a man and woman. We already have laws and statues governing where folks can pray in proximity to an abortion clinic.
Rescuing the dying and caring for the perishing comes with no promises of approval or even a pat on the back. But I like this quote from the founder of Methodism, John Wesley: Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergyman or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth."
Such are they who are led by the Spirit of God. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org Visit him at: www.dennishankins.com