Friday, September 02, 2016

Fools On Christ’s Account

For as I see it, God has exhibited us Apostles as the last of all, like people sentenced to death, since we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and men alike. We are fools on Christ’s account, but you are wise in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clad and roughly treated, we wander about homeless and we toil, working with our own hands. When ridiculed, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we respond gently. We have become like the world’s rubbish, the scum of all, to this very moment.  1 COR 4:9-13

Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”  Luke 6:5

Mother Teresa's Sandals
I shall follow you, dear Jesus, wherever you may go, in search of souls. (Morning prayer for Missionaries of Charity recited while donning their sandals.)

Jesus, the Sabbath, and the ritual laws are a combustible combination.  Violations of the rules of the community are easily noticed and these violations – like harvesting on the Sabbath – provide Jesus with a welcome pulpit to teach that satisfying human needs such as hunger and performing works of mercy take precedence even over the sacred Sabbath rest.

The root of the issue today in the Good News is the conflict between human need and the rituals.  Jesus explains that the hunger of his disciples outstrips the requirement to blindly observe the rituals. Even though it was technically NOT Jesus who was in violation, as the leader of the band, he must answer for the rest of his companions.

One more thing outshines human need AND ritual law: Jesus himself.  “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”  If there was not already enough conflict to agitate the Pharisees against Jesus, this statement probably puts another nail in Jesus’ cross.  St. Luke fails to provide the reaction of the Pharisees to the first argument or the second.  Instead, he drops this bombshell in verse five and then immediately moves on to another violation.  “On another Sabbath…” No wonder the scribes and the Pharisees were watching him so closely from this point forward. The authorities did not want to be made fools by Christ.

That humility – or lack thereof -- is exactly the difference between the Pharisees and the Apostles.  St. Paul notes that the Apostles were willingly made fools on Christ's account.  The Pharisees refused to give up their authority, strength, and place of honor. No one would mistake Paul’s commentary to the Corinthians as describing the scribes and Pharisees.

And these situations occurred BEFORE Jesus chooses his Twelve.

Are you willing to become a fool on Christ’s account?

On Sunday, Mother Teresa of Kolkata will become St. Teresa of Kolkata (by man’s account – by God’s account, that occurred at least 19 years ago). When she is beatified by Pope Francis, there are many things that we can note about the life of this icon who walked the earth during our lifetime.  For me, some of the enduring images I will recall are when Mother Teresa was visited by Princess Diana. We saw one of the richest, most powerful, women side-by-side with the servant of the poor.

As one blogger noted: “How oddly fitting that Princess Diana and Mother Teresa, who had some connections in life, are connected to each other in death because they died six days apart in 1997. The coverage of Diana’s death made for a somewhat memorable Labor Day weekend that year, which then rolled right into the coverage of Mother Teresa.”

But we do know this much: in their public work, both Mother Teresa and Princess Diana stood out as symbols of love and compassion, publicly speaking out for those who were needy, powerless, and downtrodden. What we know of their charitable work has inspired many people to take a greater interest in causes helping their fellow man, which is the standard of Judgment Christ uses in the parable of the sheep and the goats.[i]

Despite all the wealth and privilege, I wonder if Diana had any real happiness?  Yes, her princely sons.  Yes, her causes – banning landmines, AIDS and more.  Maybe even at some point her husband.  However, the tabloid media scrum that followed her every action and her unfaithful husband stood to break her heart at every turn.  They tried to make her a fool at every turn.  One can only wonder what was in Princess Diana’s heart when she stood next to Mother Teresa, her seemingly exact opposite.  Old.  Poor.  Powerless.  Yet the Princess knew deep down that Mother Teresa was the real royalty. 

Compare the public tragedy of Diana with the private dark nights that Mother Teresa wrote about and – like Mary -- “kept all these things in her heart.”  For fifty years she struggled to regain her faith in Christ: “for there is such terrible darkness within me as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started 'the work.'" Such revelations tell us that the two probably had more in common on those visits than we may ever realize.

Mother Teresa was a willing fool for Christ giving up what she had, picking up her cross of darkness daily, and following Jesus.  This weekend, as we watch the pageantry of sainthood play out in Vatican City, ask yourself, “Are you also willing to become a fool on Christ’s account?”

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