Sunday, March 08, 2015

No Prophet Is Accepted

But his servants came up and reasoned with him.  “My father,” they said, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, would you not have done it?  All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.”  So Naaman went down and plunged into the Jordan seven times at the word of the man of God.  His flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.  2 Kings 5:13-14

Jesus said to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth: “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.  Luke 4:24

God, I am far too often influenced by what others think of me.  I am always pretending to be either richer or smarter or nicer than I really am.  Please prevent me from trying to attract attention.  Don’t let me gloat over praise on one hand or be discouraged by criticism on the other.  Nor let me waste time weaving imaginary situations in which the most heroic, charming, witty person present is myself. Show me how to be humble of heart, like you. (The Humility Prayer)

Obedience and humility.  These are almost the diametrical opposite of freedom and independence.  Yet to recognize someone else in authority requires humility and obedience.  However, who wants to yield to another’s authority? 
We would all like to think that we are the smartest person in the room.  Yet intelligence does not necessarily mean that you have authority.  Jesus went head-to-head with the rabbis in the temple, the Pharisees, the Sanhedrin and Sadducees.  Among these groups were many who studied years in seminary and beyond.  Jesus did not choose ANY of them to be his disciples.  He chose people who were fishermen, tax collectors and peasants.

When we recognize someone as a prophet, then we must come out of the shell of our pride and follow the wisdom that they share with us. Naaman made the same mistake that many others made when they encountered Jesus or the prophets.  They layered their OWN expectations onto what the prophet would do or say.  Rather than accepting the words of the prophet out of obedience and humility, we draw our curves of pride and then plot our data of independence.  Maybe that is why St. Benedict’s little Rulebook devoted twelve steps to growing in humility.  There is no shortcut.

Humility is the foundation of prayer and action.  Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer and freely engage in the spiritual works of mercy.  Only when we focus more on the other and not on the self are we ready to receive freely the gift of service and engage in the corporal works of mercy.

You will not cultivate that disposition if you start believing anything that Hollywood and Madison Avenue have to throw your way.  We are not all some Rocky Balboa/James Bond super hero character saving the world from itself. 
It is never too soon to start helping even if you are in retirement.  Many retirees, in fact, “pay it forward” once they are free from the demands of a career and daily work schedule.  Whether you volunteer alone or with a friends, it is never too late to get started. 

For more on the benefits of volunteering in retirement, check out the ideas in this USA Today story:

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