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Be-Loved

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I must tell you, the gospel readings for these last two months have been challenging to me. Words that started the month with “those who exalt themselves will be humbled.” A couple of weeks ago, the story of the prodigal son, and this week the story of poor Lazarus and the rich man. Most of the remarks from Jesus are directed to his disciples…that’s us. The words of Jesus around discipleship are both hard and easy at the same time.

Hard, because Jesus’ call to give up everything and follow him, means letting go of all the protections we have built up over the years. Protections which mask our shame, imagine our control, and falsify our security.

Easy, because of the realizations of the false, paper protections they are. What does God want from us? In short, he wants our response to the unconditional love he offers, and has been offering since he “knew us in the womb.” Why do we, including myself, find it so hard to believe God will provide?

Instead we struggle, we scheme, we try to make life work, and when it doesn’t, we run to God like injured little children run to their parent. I am sure God doesn’t mind how we come to him, but I also know the peace of really letting God provide, and knowing, even if sporadically, that his love lets us lead the best life possible. We could be distressed by the commands of Jesus by trying to be humble, to be compassionate, to be empathetic. The revelation in these attempts is the word “be”. If you wish to know what it takes to follow God, just remember who we are…his beloved, and stop trying so hard to “do” and instead…be-loved.

The Shoes of Others

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I was walking to church. It was a Saturday morning. I was to be an altar server at a wedding. I was in fifth grade. I came past our school and turned toward the church. Seeing me, one of my school mates came racing down the grassy hill in front of school where he had been playing. He came right up to me and punched me in the mouth. He said he hated me because I was a “goody two shoes”. I had no idea what he meant.

I went home after the wedding and told my mother. She said I should pray for him. I did not find that easy, but decided on praying that he would die peacefully of some fatal illness…and do it before Monday.

What does Jesus want from us when he tells us to pray for those who mistreat us? As I grew up, I knew my prayer for my enemy from fifth grade was not right, but often I traded this prayer for wishes that my offenders would change. I prayed that those who mistreated me would think more like I did. In reality, this “mature” prayer for my enemies was no improvement from fifth grade. So what are we to do?

 Jesus tells us: stop judging, stop condemning, stop closing the door to those who hurt you. Jesus calls us to radical empathy, putting ourselves in the shoes of others in every encounter we have, joyful or painful.

This is the formula for holiness and believe it or not, peace. Instead of wishing evil upon that boy who punched me in fifth grade, if I had just understood that he was having a real bad day, the incident would not have bothered me so much that I still remember it decades later.

Stop your unwillingness to love, and be healed.

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