November 17, 2013
ORDINARY 33 (C)
By your perseverance you will secure your lives. – Luke 21: 19
Given the havoc visited upon us in recent times by hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, & terrorists, we might understandably feel that this Gospel passage was written just for us. The sad fact is it applies to every age & time.
According to an old legend, a man became lost in his travels & wandered into a bed of quicksand. Confucius saw the man’s predicament & said, “It is evident that men should stay out of places such as this.” Next, Buddha observed the situation & said “Let that man’s plight be a lesson to the rest of the world.” Then Mohammed came by & said, “Alas, it is the will of Allah.” Finally, Jesus appeared. “Take my hand, brother,” He said, “and I will save you.”
Jesus is trying to bring us the same assurance in what we have just heard. There is no greater sinkhole that we need to be saved from than that of human sin. His words might seem a bit Pollyanna at first glance, but when He said them He knew that He would soon be delivered into the hands of his executioners & He is trying to prepare His disciples for the tough times ahead. He had called them be His disciples & had given them a vision of love, a sense of their own value, & a hope for the future they had never known before.
But He also warned them repeatedly that the journey would be difficult. Those who identify with Him will begin to love with a love so deep & sensitive that they will begin to take on the sufferings of others. For those who live for others, rejection & persecution is the inevitable consequence. But the disciples didn’t get it at first. It literally took the resurrection before this truth grabbed them at a deep level.
You see, our Lord’s call to a new life is not a call to withdraw from this tainted world into some kind of holy hothouse. Rather, He calls us to new life through the give & take, & rough & tumble of the real world: through the laughter & tears, both; through both joys & sorrows.
There is a story told of an American soldier during World War II serving in N. Africa, who befriended one of the local men. Wherever this man went, he would walk out front while his wife trailed behind, leading the camel. After the war he returned to look up his old friend & noticed how the wife was now walking out front while the husband trailed behind leading the camel. Curious, he asked what had happened to change the custom. Had women’s lib come to N. Africa? The man responded, “No, it’s just that there are still a lot of unexploded land mines left over from the war.”
Life is like that. We are always treading on dangerous ground, so to speak. There is no way to insulate ourselves from pain & suffering, from broken dreams & broken hearts. Nor can we send someone out ahead to absorb the hard knocks for us. Jesus had to confront His own agony, endure betrayal, suffer His own passion, & die His own death. But they were not His undoing. They did not have the final say – God did! That victory over evil flashes through all of human history like a lightning bolt.
Dr. Jess Lair, a psychologist, describes in a book an encounter with a member of A.A. that led him to investigate what makes the program work. He writes, “I came to see that the heart of that system is a deep surrender to God…. That’s the crucial part of the system & without that surrender the system cannot get a person sober on a long-term basis, & especially it won’t give them the happiness & contentment they would like to find in life.”
In every parish there are those who are hurting badly, but there is no illness or catastrophe which can escape God’s loving compassion & concern. Ultimately, there is nothing in life that can defeat us if we are open to God’s healing presence. Jesus asks us to step out front, even if it means treading on dangerous ground. In doing God’s will, even when our heart is broken, we will hear Jesus saying, “Take my hand & I will save you!” AMEN!