theROCK

Long-suffering

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I'd like to reflect today on a small little autobiography I've read, rather a memoir, about Mother Teresa entitled “Something Beautiful For God: The Classic Account of Mother Teresa’s Journey Into Compassion” by Malcolm Muggeridge. It was published in 1974, which was important to know while reading the book. Mother was just starting to expand her charity outside the streets of Calcutta at that time. Her mission was just starting to grow. Similar to the daily readings this week. The Good News is starting to spread. Collections of the faithful are starting to take root in the cities where the apostles/disciples teach. Each small group is sharing all they have with one another as they bring people into knowing, loving, and serving Jesus. You are all doing that in your own homes right now. The Church couldn’t be stronger, in my humble opinion. Why? Because we are suffering. Long-suffering is a fruit of the Holy Spirit – it is evidence that God is alive. Suffering is meant to foster a dependence upon God. We continue to feel deeply for those around us. If we didn’t feel deeply, then that means that “we retreated so far into our egos and our flesh, put between us and Him so wide a chasm, that our separation became inexorable” (p132). We care. A lot. What we do matters, deeply. Mother Teresa lived this to her core. This is why she saw everything she did as an offering, something beautiful for God, to turn suffering into joy.

I asked our students who their favorite superhero is. Mother Teresa is certainly one of my superheroes. Her model of vocation, tenacity, compassion, and suffering turned inside out is something I strive for. While I know the poverty she encountered every day is foreign to my own experience, she reminds me that poverty exists in many forms. It is where and how we meet poverty that is the love of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but I am feeling things rather deeply at this moment. A sense of helplessness that I am unable to correct despite my efforts. It is a feeling that I am not unfamiliar with but results in a level of suffering. As my superhero demonstrates, connecting to God is what helps the most. Pray. Pray unceasingly. Pray that we learn what the Lord is teaching us and never to forget the lesson.

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.

All In!

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“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” ~Luke 14:26

Did Jesus just say that? Has the Lord become an advocate of hate? Hate my wife and children? I think what Jesus is trying to teach us is the cost of true discipleship. A few chapters later in Luke’s gospel (18:18), a wealthy official asks Jesus what he must do to inherit the kingdom. Jesus tells him to sell what he owns and give to the poor, and then follow him. Perhaps what Jesus is saying is that true discipleship is difficult if one is significantly bound to the things of this world. If we are tied to earthly things we cannot fully take up the cross of discipleship. It’s not that Jesus wants us to abandon our families, but rather to make Him a priority in our life. He wants us to be “all-in” in this discipleship thing. Unlike the wealthy official, let us not sadly walk away from the Lord because of our love of the transitory things of the world. Let’s cling to the cross and walk the road to a more perfect discipleship. Let’s be ALL IN!

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