August 2, 2009
ORDINARY 18 (B)
Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. – John 6: 35
Once again our Lord is faced with the discrepancy between those who cannot think beyond the material & those with the vision to encounter the spiritual, between those with limited consciousness & those capable of embracing the infinite. It is a problem we still have to deal with.
Many people seem to think that religion is mainly for “good people,” that religion is a nice dull, safe routine for people who are afraid of living. In our culture, we are led to believe that only the “bad guys” have all the fun. Yes, we’re told that crime doesn’t pay, but virtue seems so dull & stuffy.
However, consider Peter & Paul setting out to conquer the world for the love of Christ. What about the free-spirited dedication to Grace & Truth revealed in the life of Francis of Assisi? What about Mother Teresa of Calcutta who electrified the world with her unstinting devotion to Christ found in the poorest of the poor? Clearly, dedication & dullness do not mix.
Holiness goes with high adventure. It’s a daring thing to set out to conquer with love a hate-filled world. We Christians constantly face the temptation to tame & domesticate the faith just as we might house-break an animal to have as a pet. Safety is our passion, but not that of the saints. Rules have their necessary place in the spiritual life, but God looks forward to our growing up so that we no longer just know about God but encounter Him first-hand.
For the Christian, not just religion but the whole of life is transformed from routine to adventure. It’s the difference between doing a job because we need the paycheck & doing it because we love the work; the difference between studying to pass an exam & studying because we want to know. It’s the difference between saying “I love you” because it’s expected & saying it because we cannot help but express what is in our heart. In short, it’s the difference between freedom & coercion.
God commissioned Moses to lead His people out of the land of slavery toward the promised land of freedom. When the journey became particularly rough, when the people saw how risky it was going to be, they complained: “Why did you bring us out of Egypt ? Did we not tell you to leave us alone? It is far better for us to be slaves of the Egyptians than to die in the desert.”
Like them, we also are tempted to turn away from a fresh spiritual way of thinking back toward our former way of thinking & old self. Do we come here out of some sense of religious duty or to joyfully celebrate our shared belief in the presence of the Bread of Life in our midst? Minimalist religion asks only “what is the least we can do to stay on God’s good side?” Our Lord advocates maximalism: living the greatest life ever lived – His life in us! Jesus risked all for us because He thought it worth the risk. Do we return the compliment? Are we even capable? AMEN!