Saturday, October 05, 2013

Back to Enduring Joy

“Fear not, my children; call out to God!  He who brought this upon you will remember you.  As your hearts have been disposed to stray from God, turn now ten times the more to seek him; For he who has brought disaster upon you will, in saving you, bring you back enduring joy.”  Baruch 4:27-29

Turning to the disciples in private he said, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”  Luke 10:23-24

O, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. I detest all my sins because of your just punishment, but most of all because they offend you, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin. (Act of Contrition)

The tension between the political leadership of the day and Jesus has been evident throughout Luke’s Gospel.  From the minute he set foot into the temple and reinterpreted the words of Isaiah to those gathered in Nazareth forward, the message that Jesus preached differed from the needs of those in power in the church, the Roman army and the government.  Remember Herod – who executed Jesus’ cousin – still sought to learn more about Jesus. 

Today, Jesus reminds the disciples privately that they are in the middle of that tug of war.  They have seen what others did not, heard what others did not.  The “others” desired to see if but there was some speck of dust in their eye that prevented them from seeing.  There was some cotton in their ears that prevented them from hearing.  Recall the rich man Dives from last Sunday…the Kingdom of God sat outside his gate in the person of the poor beggar Lazarus.  Yet he did not lift one brick to build the kingdom by feeding Lazarus. 

Sources in the New American Bible explain that Baruch’s letters were probably compiled two hundred years before Christ.  Their distractions to serving God were daily survival.  Growing food.  Hunting Dinner.  Their temptations were driven from deprivation -- stealing food from those who had it in abundance.  Seeking liberty if they were captured by the belligerent Roman army or other enemy and forced into service/slavery. 

They had no mortgage brokers or credit cards.  No NCIS to watch on TV, let alone Netflix, YouTube, or Amazon Prime.  They had no Playstation.  They had no 401K account to monitor.  They had no multi-car garage filled with Chevys and Fords and Toyotas and Hondas to maintain and pay for.   They had no Xbox or iPhone.  They were not bombarded with advertising messages to separate us from our time and our treasure.  These do not provide enduring joy but only transient happiness.  We can enjoy one moment at a time.  However, if we surrender some of our choices to God’s, we still may be “reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.”  (Reinhold Niebuhr, The Serenity Prayer)

Then or now, our rebellion is a revolt against the discipline and sincerity needed to clear away the distractions from life that obstruct us from hearing, seeing and encountering the Lord.

In the Act of Contrition, we acknowledge that firmly resolve to “avoid the near occasion of sin.”  Like the disciples, we, too, are standing on the point of tension.  Other messages can drown out the Good News.  Other sights can blind us to the emerging Kingdom.  Let us resolve today to see the Kingdom around us and to hear the word of God spoke to us through others.

What distraction or wealth and power can you clear away today?  Because just like we need to clear away these obstacles to God’s friendship so we can hear Him, we also want God to hear us.

Behold, you desire true sincerity; and secretly you teach me wisdom.  Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  You will let me hear gladness and joy; the bones you have crushed will rejoice.  Psalm 51:8-10

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