Comfortable Christianity is an Oxymoron

(Originally posted April 2018)

The tomb was empty.  He was gone.  Mary cried out in anguish, “What have they done with him?” The response was not comforting to her:

Some mysterious guy with no name: “He’s not here”.

Mary with no filters: “Wait…What?  That’s not how this is supposed to go!”

It wasn’t what the other disciples wanted to hear either.  So when she told them, they didn’t believe her. Why would they?  She was just a woman and probably hormonal at that! Anyway, they thought the script was already written.  It was a done deal, and they were now scrambling to adjust their lives accordingly.

As Christians, we should be able to relate to them, except for one HUGE difference.  We relive that scenario year after year.  We are supposed to know how the story plays out. There should be no surprises. But by the way we act many of us seem to have amnesia.

Bumping into Jesus

How often are we oblivious to Jesus while walking our own Emmaus trail?  Whining and complaining about how unfair life is, acting like we don’t even feel him breathing down our necks.

After the Resurrection, Jesus revealed himself in the most unlikely places: Behind locked doors, within those tough relationships, at a fish fry on the beach, in the faces of the broken and downtrodden.  He’s there.

In many ways, the poor and homeless among us feel they are also staring into an empty tomb.  “Wait, if you’re not dead – where were you, Jesus, when I lost my job and my home?  Where were you when my child died and my husband left because my pain was too much to bear?  Where are you now as I struggle to feed my family?”

Often, in working with the homeless, when the need seems almost overwhelming, I experience a God moment that reminds me heis, and always has been, in our midst, changing lives and bringing hope to the hopeless.

I will share one beautiful story with you.  Since last September, I have worked with a woman who, through no fault of her own, lost her job, then her home.  When I met her, she was living in her car and felt hopeless.  She would search for available jobs on her phone but had no place to take a shower and “look presentable” to go on an interview.  We were able to provide her with a motel room and food.  She soon got another job as an Assistant Manager of a shoe store, moved into an apartment, and now has the stability we strive for in this work.

But wait, there’s more!  Experiencing the blessings of God, she now gives back.  Last week, I witnessed that once-homeless woman give another homeless woman brand-new shoes and coats for her kids. Is that not the epitome of being Christ to others just as we are called to be?

Can we try this again?

So, here we are again in the midst of an Easter season meant to draw us into a deeper relationship with God and, in turn, with our brothers and sisters.  Not just the ones that are low-maintenance and easy to love.

It is a time we are called to prayer and sacrifice to help us remember and then act on (we always forget that part) God’s scandalous, extravagant, outrageous love by sharing it with others.

On Easter Sunday, we sing and celebrate our faith’s most important Feast Day.  “Alleluia!  The Lord is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia!” What should that mean to us?  After the glorious Resurrection of our Lord – what then?  Yes, we get to eat chocolate again, but beyond that…

This is where our transformation should begin

Sister Joan Chittister tells us, “The real proof of the Resurrection lies not in the transformation of Jesus alone but in the transformation awaiting us who accept it.”

Transformation can be powerful if we are willing to seek God in new places outside the comfort of our assigned pew on Sunday.

Transformation happens when Jesus takes up residence within our often stubborn hearts and calls us to love and serve those he most loves: The outcast, the poor, and those the world rejects.

God is good ALL THE TIME!  And he’s hiding in plain sight.  Go see for yourself.

Hungry for LOVE

So many Americans pride themselves on what truly is a self-serving and glaring distinction between love of self and love of neighbor. But there is no such distinction if we are open to seeing the deepest truth of our connectedness because we are all created by one God to be in relationship with Him and with each other. Our perceived sense of control and security; our self-imposed separateness from “them” breaks the bond of our very creation and the heart of God.

Still many are too afraid to relinquish the precarious grasp they have on their self-proclaimed and arrogant superiority over others they see as “less”.

What, or who, gives anyone the right to determine who is worthy of love, dignity, compassion, and basic kindness? This country is bloated with anger and violence. We are quickly becoming a culture of hatred.

It is a frightening reality, especially for our children, which makes it even more imperative for us, if we call ourselves believers, to change the tide. To speak out against injustice and speak up for the downtrodden just as Jesus taught us in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10):

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 

Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In a 2012 speech to students at Georgtown University, Bono, of U2, challenged the almost one thousand students present to see the invisible (as he continues to challenge all of us).

Because when you truly accept that those children in some far off place in the global village have the same value as you in God’s eyes or even in just your eyes, then your life is forever changed, you see something that you can’t un-see.

This song, Invisible, and actually his life, are an incredible witness to that truth. It’s about getting real; about getting beyond self and realizing the connection we have with everyone. It is about the human dignity of every person as a child of God. We are to exclude no one – NO ONE.

Listen to these words:

I’m more than you know/ I’m more than you see here
I’m more than you let me be
I’m more than you know / A body & A Soul
You don’t see me but you will/
I am not invisible / I am Here.

There is no them / only us/ only us
there is no them / only us / only us
There is no them / only you, only me
There is no them.

Meghan Clark, writing in Catholic Moral Theology, commented on the song saying:

The ultimate violation of human dignity is to no longer be counted as a human person. The response must be inclusion and participation. Once I recognize that you have human dignity, that you are a child of God, that you are the image of Christ – I cannot un-see that. 

All of this has hit home for me in a more profound way than ever before (even more so since our time spent in Rwanda) since I have been working with the homeless in St. Charles County. We have the resources to meet their basic human needs as defined by Abraham Maslow in 1943:

Physiological needs are the physical requirements for human survival. Physiological needs are thought to be the most important; they should be met first: Air, water, food, clothing and shelter.

But, as St. Mother Teresa so powerfully states it isn’t enough:

Mother_teresa hunger