B Cycle – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time 21
Many years ago, I became friends with a Holy Cross priest who had spent many years in Puerto Rico and who spoke of a spiritual revival among the people. He said that revival started when he chose 12 men to mentor and form into disciples. When I asked him how he formed them he said it was simple. He sat with them and using the New Testament they learned discipleship from Jesus. They discussed small details and sought the Holy Spirits guidance to reveal to them God’s will for every believer. He relied on the scriptures to challenge them to draw closer to God.
The scriptures are God’s revelation of himself. If we read them reflect on them and allow them to penetrate our hearts, we will not only discover the depth of God’s desire for intimacy with us, but we would also desire intimacy with him. That priest understood how the words of Jesus were more powerful than his if he only helped them desire to encounter Jesus. He realized how the disciples of Jesus needed to be challenged to discover God’s plan for each of our lives.
We just heard from the gospel of Mark eight verses of a continuing message given to by Jesus as he traveled from place to place. This continuing message began with Jesus’s walking on water, multiplying the loaves and fish and teaching the people. Two weeks ago, we heard about Jesus healing a deaf man and restoring his speech by spitting and touching his tongue.
Theologians tell us he did not spit on the ground but spit on his hands and then with those hands full of spittle touched his ears and tongue. The image of that is not only gross and unsanitary but it is a small detail which shows us a side of Jesus we fail to grasp – he will meet us in the ugliest and messiest parts of our lives. Last week we heard Jesus ask his disciples not only who people were saying he was. Peter was quick to respond to that question declaring Jesus to be the Messiah. But immediately after that profound response, the scriptures show us like Peter we do not fully comprehend the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
So here we are today, Jesus is continuing the journey, but this time Jesus avoids the crowd to speak to a very specific audience – his disciples. Those he has chosen. If you pay attention, he is speaking to us, people who proclaim Jesus is the Son of God, Jesus reveals God’s plan for our salvation by removing the barrier of sin between ourselves and God by the death of Jesus on the Cross. Jesus reveals our destiny to live a life here on earth knowing God desires to embrace us and restore us as he did the prodigal, and we will be not only embraced but celebrated.
The disciples failed to understand how his death fits in with the miracles they witnessed. This tells us we need to as Paul says be transformed by the renewal of our minds. That does not mean we must study harder, but it means we must allow Jesus to show us how our thinking needs a new perspective. The real issue for us is to see how we like the disciples are seeking to be the best of followers by focusing on external actions to define our holiness. Do we even look at how the world has influenced us? Do we fail to see how our faith journey is incomplete until we allow Jesus into our hearts? Does our understanding of forgiveness prevent us from discovering how God forgives so we can like the woman at the well influence others to believe? Do we keep God at arm’s length because we are too busy trying to be great in the kingdom of God and seeking the approval of others?
The scriptures give us an image of God that is eager to dive into the mess of our life. Jesus touched the lepers, dined with sinners, chose the least likely of followers, broke the laws all to show us an image of God that wants us to understand his desire does not depend on us. But God does desire for us to allow Him into our hearts. The truth is We have become too comfortable, and we like things as they are. Jesus never let the disciples become comfortable. We must like them, learn there is more God desires to give us and more God demands we give to him.
Christ challenged them to never stop growing by challenging them at every step of their journey. It began with a challenge to cast their nets, to leave the life they knew and follow him. He challenged them to feed the multitude themselves, to walk on water, to listen to Him as God told Peter at the transfiguration. Today we read how little they understood about the death and resurrection of Christ. What challenges us today in our faith? Are we struggling with belief, with doubt, with believing God cares what we are going through? Do we encounter Jesus in the Sacrament or hear him speaking to our hearts? Are we uncomfortable with any change no mater how big or how small? Jesus continues to invite us to discover the transforming power of the resurrection in our lives. He is inviting us to allow him to change our hearts and to empower us to live our faith, so we impact others.
For us to become who God desires us to become we must be willing to respond to the invitation of Jesus to show us the Father. We are being called by God to become a force for change in our homes, in our community, our workplace and in our Church. Just as the men of Puerto Rico became disciples by spending time with Jesus, we too are being invited to begin that journey.