Sunday, August 28, 2011

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2011

Readings for August 28, 2011, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time:

Trinity Sunday 2011

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
August 28, 2011

We will hear from time to time that here in America one can be whatever you want if you really try. "Any child born in America can be President." Hard work and honest effort will be rewarded. Often the more subtle message is that rewards are the only reason for hard work and honest effort. The reward motive is securely rooted in the national psyche.

So you can say that, that makes a lot of sense and I suppose that is also the reason many are attracted to religion more then anything else. To avoid hell and to be assured of heaven is a great inducement to consider the teaching of the Apostles.

Then consider some of our TV evangelists who seem to have not a problem in appealing directly to the poor and the sick, not to mention the greedy, with bold assurances that they will receive precisely what they want. But don't you agree that there is something inconsistent, if not fraudulent, in inviting people to follow the Loving and Suffering Savior for what they can get out of it!

So it should not surprise us that once in a while someone gets it. Lewis Smedes, of Fuller Seminary in California, has written about his own reservations about this practice.

"My problem was," he wrote, "touting miraculous healings as signals of God's power and God's desire to heal our suffering in a world chock-full of suffering that never comes close to getting healed. It was a feeling I could not shake ... about the fittingness, even the decency, of celebrating far and wide the miraculous healing of a relatively few ailments within a world endemically infected by enormous intractable, unalleviated suffering. It felt to me like proclaiming that God is alive and well .. because you survived an airplane crash in which everyone perished." He goes on to say, "I think we should see miraculous healings not as a way of solving human suffering, but as whimsical signals -- not made too much of, but signals -- that God is alive, that Christ is Lord, and that suffering is not the last word about the human condition."

These remarks of Lewis' deserve careful and thoughtful consideration.

Then consider how simply Jesus recruited His followers. He was walking along the sea shore and called fishermen to follow Him, and they did. Was Jesus mesmerizing them? Probably more then anything else they had at least heard about Him. And from what we can glean from scripture they, along with many, had hopes of a grassroots revolution to rid the country of Rome rule. To join Him might mean helping restore the nation of Israel to its once proud status in the world.

It was not what Jesus said, but what they heard that made them such enthusiastic followers. Their eyes were full of stars, these simple fishermen, and their hearts full of dreams. They had every reason to follow Him, including God and country. They didn't ask about rewards, they were so certain the rewards would come.

It is obvious at the end that they had not anticipated His death. much less His simple acquiescence and acceptance of it. Whatever rewards they were expecting, they were utterly disappointed. It took the Resurrection, the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, and Pentecost to begin to set them straight.

How true it is that we tend to hear what we want to hear. Jesus had done the best He could to prepare the disciples for what was coming. When Jesus began to talk to them about it, Peter took Him aside and said such things would never happen. Jesus responded angrily, and said that Peter was not on the side of God. This led to some of Jesus' most memorable and important words, both for the disciples and for us. He explained what following Him would mean. His words were clear enough for anyone to understand. Deny yourselves. Take up you crosses and follow Me. Give away your life for my sake, and find true life in God.

They could not really hear it, because they could not believe it. The question is, are we really any different?

We redeem the reward motive by our own unqualified commitment to Jesus Christ. We are to come to Him primarily because of His unique and compelling worth. Christ is not a deal-maker; neither does He entice us. He invites us to become a part of His mission, not for our own self-aggrandizement, but to help Him realize God's purpose in the world. Any "rewards" come as a by-product of this commitment.

Jesus never promised happiness, but He had a lot to say about it. Happy are the poor in spirit. Happy are the sorrowing. Happy are the meek, the humbly trusting. Happy are those who hunger and thirst for goodness. Do any of us really need more rewards than these. All of this is given us along with the greatest gift of all that is Eternal Life given us in Baptism and Jesus Himself in Holy Communion. How can any human being deserve more then that!

'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

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