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Saturday, August 20, 2011

going against



We may never realize it but all the times in our spiritual lives when someone hurts us deeply, we are asked to forgive. And that is very hard to do as a matter of fact, the hardest!

 Here are situations I will give you: A person we don’t really like is in need of financial help, and we are asked to be generous....A spouse betrays us in some ways, and we are asked to give him/her a chance to make things right.... Our children make different life decisions than we had hoped, and we are asked to love and support them anyway.... Someone commits a crime against us, and we are asked to not want to seek revenge.... Our unmarried, teenage daughter becomes pregnant, and we are asked to do all we can to see to it that she continues to support the life of her child....Our aging parent is in the hospital, suffering, failing in mind and body, and we are asked to not hasten his or her death in any way.

 In all these real-life situations, we often find ourselves asking the same question, “When did I agree to that?” The problem comes when we are asked to love in specific, concrete situations.

 And so most of us do have a certain, sincere desire to love and be merciful and be generous, and so on, but run into trouble when that desire runs into real life. It’s not easy doing all that the Lord asks. I don’t have to tell you that. “Lord, I know I agreed to love people, but do I really have to love that person?”

 And so we often find ourselves in situations in which we’d rather go a different direction or stand on the sidelines and let someone else do the tough stuff. Sometimes we simply don’t want to accept the invitation and challenge to clothe ourselves in Christ. “I agreed to wear whom?”

 In those moments, we are once again asked to say “yes”, once again invited to remember what our hearts, minds, and tongues profess. And each of these small “yeses” are really a participation in, a sharing in the one great “yes” of faith, that moment in which we acknowledge Jesus as Christ and God, as Lord and brother, as teacher and judge, as healer and friend.

 One of the characteristics I see in many human beings is that we often have strong opinions about the lives of others.We look at their relationships, spending habits, friends, lifestyles --- you name it --- and we often find ourselves thinking, “If only they would do this . . .” or, “If only they wouldn’t do that . . .” Sometimes we get so interested in the choices others make that we even go so far as to give unsolicited advice. How does that usually turn out? Exactly. When we do that, it usually ends badly. Somehow, we have a tendency to convince ourselves that we always know better.

However, it really shouldn’t surprise us that others often don’t take our advice. It makes perfect sense. People know themselves the best, right? The truth is, even when people ask for advice from someone, they usually just want the person to affirm what they have already decided.

 One could argue that the world began to become disordered the minute human beings thought they knew better, thought that they should call the shots.

 Instead of looking outside of themselves for guidance --- from the God who had created them and sustained them --- they turned inward. And human beings have been turning inward ever since.

 One of the hardest things to understand is that sometimes some of the deepest truths of faith are tough to understand. It’s not that our faith isn’t reasonable, or that it doesn’t have a certain internal logic and cohesiveness, or that we can’t use our minds to help deepen and strengthen our faith.

 It’s just that no matter how hard we try, we will never fully see as God sees, know as God knows, or understand as God understands. It’s just not possible.

 And so it’s hard for us to . . . . . . . . imagine a world in which enemies forgive one another. . . . . . imagine a world in which people give from their want and not their excess. . . . . . imagine a world in which outsiders are welcomed at the table. . . . . . imagine a world in which people love without asking for anything in return. . . . . . imagine a world in which the first will be last, and the last, first. And the most difficult of all --- It’s almost impossible for us to . . . . . . . . . imagine a world in which God dies for his people.

 And so, if the words of Jesus that we just we heard proclaimed seem difficult to grasp, understand or accept, that’s ok.

 But let’s not let our difficulty in understanding keep us from placing all our trust in the one who truly knows better.

 And may that deep trust in our hearts strengthen and motivate us to faithfully deny ourselves and carry our crosses courageously --- thereby allowing our lives to be “saved” by the one who died to make that possible.

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