Reflections from The Hill – Lost Things
I can’t say that I’m excited by this week’s Gospel, especially the bit where it talks about losing stuff. It really doesn’t matter what the stuff is, it’s losing it that I find irksome.
Temporarily misplaced? Put it somewhere where it won’t get broken? Mislaid? Nowhere to be found? Nah. Time to call on St Anthony.
The “stuff” this week is “our life” which, when we stack it up against our diamond ring or gold brooch – things for which Anthony works overtime – we discover that Anthony isn’t all that interested in finding for us.
As the words of the
roll off the lips of the Gospeller this Sunday, we realise that Jesus isn’t talking about “stuff” like we think and that we’re facing that awful chasm that gets stretched between Jesus’ call on our lives and our part-time, mostly volunteer, discipleship. Reading
As an aside, years ago I figured the best way to overcome the guilt I felt in not being able to ‘give it all to Jesus’ was to sign up for Ordination. I contemplated missionary work and being a monk but they weren’t the same. Ordination was for life. Full-time.
Thus began the myth that clergy (or nuns or monks) are closer to God because of their time commitment. Ha. It’s like saying you’re closer to heaven if you live in a high-blocked house.
Instead of getting better, my guilt got worse because I soon learned that when he speaks about losing things in this passage, he’s actually talking about ‘destruction’. Destroy my life? Come on.
Well, I thought, at least I’ve got a few mates out there who congregate with me week after week, they’ll tell me that it’s OK for me to believe he’s not being serious and I’ve just read it wrong, right? Wrong.
The most difficult observation, though, was that most of us choose to ignore this passage. We’d rather read something nice. We’d rather hear the challenge and ignore it rather than surrender to it.
Precious are the few who can lay everything on the line for the gospel, it seems, but the majority can’t/won’t. The words, though, aren’t going to disappear as if by magic. We can’t avoid them; neither can we ignore their call.
What we tend to do is to fit church into our life as best we can. Most of us simply put it into the open spots on our calendar. The more we can fit it, the more committed we are in the eyes of the beholders.
“Does your mum practice her faith?” I asked a sad son whose ma had just been admitted to hospital.
“Oh, no” he responded, “She doesn’t practice it, she does it for real.”
Matthew 16:21-28 moves from a focus on Jesus and his vocation to his demands for his disciples. Jesus has just congratulated Peter for his recognition that he (Jesus) is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” and in the same breath uses words that talk of authority, privilege and power. It’s all good.
Then, in a surprising move, Jesus begins to reinterpret what being the Messiah actually means and what following that Messiah really entails. If Peter can’t bear the revelation of Jesus’ coming suffering, which he can’t, how will he respond when the focus shifts to those whose fate mimics that of Jesus?
Many of us know only too well that we fall far short of Jesus’ standard. By contrast, perhaps our culture needs the reminder, too. One of the cultural issues I’m struggling to overcome is the insidious assumption that God wants us all to be happy little Vegemites.
Ask any bride and groom what they want from their marriage and see if I’m not wrong. The quest for happiness has become like a weed that is slowly suffocating us.
It’s pursuit is aided by Christian music. There are countless choruses and songs that celebrate how much we love Jesus and how great he is. Open any Christian website and you’ll be flooded with invitations to buy the latest Self-Help book. At one level it looks good, as I say.
The happiness assumption has wriggled its way so far into our collective psyche that we’ve become almost incapable of being challenged by Jesus’ own words. Right there is our challenge.
Can we hear that God just might be calling us to a radical commitment and that this just might mean losing our life? It’s a tough question.