Lent 02, Year C-2010

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We do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death (Heb. 2:9)

In a letter dated January 9, 1650, St. Vincent de Paul asked a missionary to delay carrying out his plan, backed by the local bishop, which would generate income for the missionaries (P. Coste, III, 531-532). St. Vincent’s pleaded: “In God’s name, sir, let us take care of extending more Jesus Christ’s empire than our own possessions. Let us look after his affairs; he will look after ours.”

Such a plea was just another way St. Vincent gave expression to his trust in God’s providence. He thereby affirmed likewise his conviction that Jesus had it right when he taught: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides” (Mt. 6:33; Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, II, 2).

Others, of course, will have it differently. Included among these are those who have succumbed, consciously or unconsciously, to the devil’s suggestions. They live by the maxims and values that—I mentioned two weeks ago—“wreck economies, cultures, families, and even our souls” (see Jim Wallis, “Rediscovering Values: A Book I Didn’t Plan to Write” at [1]). They insist that it is not about anybody else or anybody else’s kingdom, not even about God or his kingdom. It is rather about one satisfying oneself now as much as one can (“I want it now”), about one getting all the power and glory of the kingdoms of the world (“Greed is good”), about one taking oneself to be a VIP who is guaranteed protection and special treatment (“It’s all about me”). Moreover, it is about one brushing aside or rejecting outright and forcefully every thought or talk of suffering and espousing relentlessly the kind of positive thinking that, according to Barbara Ehrenreich, has undermined America (see Anna Nussbaum Keating’s book review, “Worry, Don’t Be Happy,” in America [February 22, 2010] 33-35). It is also about one being convinced that the human kingdom one can establish here and now on this earth will satisfy all the desires of one’s heart (see Gaudium et Spes, 10).

But given that, among other things, confident positivism gave way, after two destructive world wars, to anxious and pessimistic existentialism, I am all the more inclined to take it as St. Vincent and other true followers of Christ had it, and look for an alternative outside ourselves, as Keating also suggests. Yet the alternative must also be within reach, and hence, I take it to be the Word of God that is near us, in our mouth and in our heart, neither too mysterious nor remote for us (Rom 10:6-9; Dt. 30:11-14).

Jesus, the Word made flesh, gives a glimpse of true power and glory when, as he prays, his face changes in appearance and his clothing becomes dazzling white even as Moses and Elijah, gloriously embodying the Law and the Prophets, converse with him about his exodus, that is to say, about the paschal mystery of his death, resurrection and ascension. True power and glory do not only mean resurrection and ascension but also suffering, rejection and death, which Jesus predicted eight days before, according to Luke. Hence, brushing aside Jesus’ prediction of his passion, death and resurrection, as the disciples appear to have done, according to Luke, or rebuking Jesus for such prediction, as we read in Mt. 16:22; Mk. 8:33, is not the appropriate response of a follower of Christ. The cutting or the making of a covenant as well as its fulfillment always require making a sacrifice and being overshadowed by “a deep, terrifying darkness” or by a frightening cloud. One cannot at the same time be a follower of Christ and an enemy of his cross.

Neither can one genuinely proclaim the Mystery of Faith, and eat the bread and drink the cup until Jesus comes in glory without prejudice to oneself, unless one proclaims as well Jesus’ death.