Friday, 8 August 2008

A Cardinal, hippies, and Jesus

Two friends and I at a candlelight peace vigil earlier this Summer

As Christians, we believe that war is not inevitable; people choose war and
people can choose peace…. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus said. (Lebanese
Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir)

His Eminence is right, of course.

That is one of the most fundamental tenants of the Gospel: peace. It is so simple, yet sometimes it seems so complex. Our realities make the simple truths of the Gospel complicated, and difficult, and seemingly unreachable at times.

I think that Jesus realized how hard his truths were, and continue to be even 2,000 years later. However, as with the whole of his message, Jesus did not back down. He left no wiggle room; there are no compromises.

Remember when, as the story goes, the young man came to Jesus asking to be a disciple? Jesus told him to forsake everything, to sell all of his possessions, and to follow him. He would then be a disciple. The young man could not do it. Remember when Jesus told him it was OK, that he did not really have to, that it was more of a suggestion? Nah, he did not say that. He let the boy go, and the young man knew that he could not give up everything to follow this man who was taking his people, his religion, and his heart by storm.

Remember when Jesus was teaching and he told the people gathered around him that he is the very bread that came down from Heaven, like the manna sent to the Hebrews? That his flesh is real food, and his blood real drink? Remember when everyone started saying how ridiculous that was? Then Jesus told them that it was OK, that they did not really have to believe it, that he would change things a bit to make it more believable and more palatable. Wait, hold on. Jesus did not do that, either.

No, it is really very simple, fundamentally. Jesus asked very little of us while he was here, sharing his Gospel, and yet he asked of us everything.

When he said that the poor in spirit are blessed, he meant it.

When he said that they who mourn will be comforted, he meant it.

When he said that the meek are blessed, he meant it.

When he said that those who seek righteousness will find it, he meant it.

When he said that those who show mercy will be shown mercy, he meant it.

When he said that those who are clean of heart will see God, he meant it.

When he said that the peacemakers are the children of God, he meant it.

When he said that those who are persecuted for doing right are blessed, he meant it.

If we are not prepared to follow this man’s Gospel- this man’s life- this man’s Truth- it is probably time to get out of it now. (Islam is always looking for new members, and the Protestant denominations seem not to be doing very well numbers-wise, either. All of the dogma, with none of the Catholic, Gospel responsibility.)

Forgive my recycling (or does that make me Green and cool?), but I wrote this yesterday about the Feast of the Transfiguration, and I thought that it might work well here:

I very much enjoy the Feast of the Transfiguration, but I'm not sure why.

It's so mystical and otherworldly, which I think is the point. The Jesus
that we encounter at Mass is also transfigured, in a bit of a different way. The
Jesus that we follow, and emulate, or should, the rest of the day and week is
the Jesus of love, of compassion, of justice. He is the person that we always
strive to be, and nearly always fall short. He's the guy who eats with
prostitutes, and throws a fit at corruption in the religious establishment. He's
the man who loves his mom and his family, yet leaves them often, because he
knows that's the only way that he can do what he needs to do.

transfigured Jesus at the Mass is the one who loves us, and only us, for that
brief moment. We are his all-consuming passion, his reason for living and dying.
Our face is the face he saw as he finally closed his eyes after a night and day
of unthinkable agony. He's the one who holds us, comforts us, and endlessly
gives his life to us. We are his ultimate, and he is our ultimate.

like on the mountain, Jesus is with us, teaching us to be loving. But he is also
with us, holding us, loving us, and saving us from ourselves.

Did the
Transfiguration literally, actually happen? It's so fanciful, so unbelievable. I
don't know if it literally happened, but I know that it happens everyday for me.

Living the Gospel doesn’t make you a hippie. It makes you a Christian. And, as unpopular as that was in Jesus’ time, it still seems as unpopular today. Meekness and being merciful aren’t likely to land you on the cover of Vogue or the National Catholic Reporter, but they’ll win you mercy, and the kingdom of God. Like the good Cardinal said, we can choose to follow the Gospel, or we can choose not to follow it.

The way of Jesus is so simple, and yet so difficult. We live as he lived, we do as he did, and when it gets tough, as it always does, we receive his Body and run to his arms and let him hold us, letting us go on another day.

Ultimately, it is a decision that we have to make for ourselves.

His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and
called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers
[and your sisters] are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and [my] brothers? And looking around at those seated in the
circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. [For] whoever does the will
of God is my brother and sister and mother.” [Mark: 3:31-35 (New American

Pax et bonum.