Saturday, March 4, 2006

Haunted by the Saints

The saints have really been challenging me lately. Reading about St. Francis has me thinking a lot about how much he and his brothers sacrificed to live the Gospel as best as they knew how. These guys embraced the poor. When St. Francis heard the Gospel reading at Mass, it was as though God were speaking personally to him. Christ says to each of us, Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. What if we took those words seriously? Do we really see Jesus in the "least of these" in our society? When we have a conversation with a homeless person, we're talking with Jesus; when we look them in the eye, we're looking Jesus in the eye. We talk about "experiencing God" through contemporary worship, and while that has it's place, it seems like for most Christians that's where the God experience ends. I feel haunted by the lives of people like St. Francis because I know more people are called to similar lives of sacrificial love for God and neighbor, but it's such a radical calling that they opt for a safer road.

I've also been learning about a different saint every day with the Saint of the Day e-mail. It's difficult for me to ignore the chasm between their lives -- the sacrifices they made out of their deep love for God and desire for others to follow Christ -- and my own life. Of course, I don't want to throw a little pity party for my sinful self. That would be worthless. But I can't ignore that God is starting to prepare me to abandon everything for Him in a similar manner. Some mornings I wake up and the first thought in my head is, "You don't seriously want to become a priest, much less a Franciscan. That's ridiculous."

Exactly... such a calling was too ridiculous even for St. Francis, but God is faithful every step of the way. "But God," by the way, happens to be one of my favorite two words in the Bible. This short phrase occurs 41 times (at least in the NASB translation)...

But God remembered Noah ... and the water subsided. (Genesis 8:1)

But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. (Genesis 21:12)

But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,For He will receive me. (Psalms 49:15)

My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:26)

Who can forgive sins, but God alone? (Mark 2:7 and Luke 5:21)

You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts... (Luke 16:15)

But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. (Acts 2:24)

But God raised Him from the dead... (Acts 13:30)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

You know how certain words from a sermon will stick in your head for months? I keep going back to something one of the priests at the Youth 2000 retreat said about our expectations in praying for miracles. "God isn't going to raise someone back from the dead," with which he followed after a short pause, "in all likelihood." Isn't is awesome that we believe in the one God who holds power over sin and death, that even the one miracle that most would consider impossible -- well, not necessarily. Throughout history, God has intervened in the bleakest of times and revealed His glory. We can go before our Lord in full confidence that no request is too great -- nor too petty -- no matter how weak our faith might feel, for nothing will be impossible with God.

2 comments:

B. Preston said...

Jason,

I just stumbled onto your blog from browsing at Foedus Gratiae.

Good post.

I noticed on this post you were quoting Matthew 25 regarding the separation of the sheep and the goats. However, I encourage you to read vv 31-46 in context and note who it is that those in prison and hungry represent. Is it a neighbor or a brother?

Here is another excellent "But God" section.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, *so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.*
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:4-9)."

Blessings to you,

B.Preston

Jason said...

hmmm... Jesus says "the least of these by brothers," but clearly we are to show kindness to all who cross our path, especially the poor, homeless, or even the overworked part-time waiter serving our table. We definitely shouldn't ask, "Well, Jesus, who is your brother?" :)

Is that what you were getting at, or am I missing your point?

Thanks for stopping by!