Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory,
I want to announce to you this morning a difficult decision. After careful listening in prayer, consultation with my spiritual director, and a many discussions with my mama and daddy, I have decided, reluctantly, to be loved, included in the community, complimented, and thought of as a good person. I have arrived at this conclusion reluctantly b/c this means that I will no longer be blest as a disciple of the Lord. I can no longer count myself among those whom the world hates, ostracizes, insults, and calls evil. My days of exultation as a despised minister of the Word are over, and I watch even now as my reward in heaven shrivels up. I am, however, despite this, looking forward to being treated as a false prophet! As one who tells my admirers what they want to hear: happy prophecies, only bright-shiny futures where we are always doing what we ought—even when we’re not. The life of a true prophet is messy. Lots of rocks and mean dogs, spitting, rotten veggies, prison time, threats against life and limb. Angry kings and vengeful strippers. Yes, the life of a false prophet will do just fine for me. So, great! You may begin loving me now and thinking of me as a good person. And…the occasional gift would be OK too!
When Jesus tells his disciples that being prophets and preachers for his Good News will land them in jail, or on the cross, or worse, you have to wonder what he’s thinking. This is not the advice that P.R. firms are giving vocations offices around the country: “OK. Here’s what you do! Big poster with a bloodied seminarian in chains; wild mob beating him with bats and chains; you can see several of his classmates hanging from trees in the background. The caption? ‘Is Jesus Calling You to a Life of Severe Mob Beatings and a Trip to the Hangman’s Noose?’ Call Fr. Rudy for more info!” This is ridiculous, isn’t it? Yea. But here’s the real kicker: this is precisely how the church was built. The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.
Jesus understood then that his message of conversion, repentance, confession, mercy, and forgiveness would throw the cosmic order off its tracks. There is no balance in mercy. Mercy costs nothing to those who are shown mercy. Where’s the trade? Where’s the exchange? And then he goes on to really shake the foundations by teaching his disciples this bit of chaos: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you.” Why? Why would you do this? Not because Jesus says so. That’s mere compliance and not obedience. Listen: “You yourself show God to those who would harm you, be Christ to those who do not yet know God; will the best for those who will you evil and call on God’s grace for those who do not yet treat you as a brother or sister.” And what are we supposed to be doing here? Basically, in this malicious relationship, you and I are being called upon to sacrifice, to give up on pride, on being right for sake of mercy. We must shine out the mercy we have received from God. Otherwise, it could be said that we have received nothing of God’s mercy, nothing of His grace. How exactly will the Good News spread if we consistently confront Christ’s enemies with their own hatred, their own bitter bile, and vile violence? What are we witnessing to but their own rebellion?
It is a bit clearer to me now why we must be hated and thrown out and insulted for our preaching of the Good News. No one in their right mind is ready to die in order to love an enemy. But what happens when we are ready and when we do love and bless and pray for our enemies? They are confronted with the real possibility that their world, conveniently disordered in sin, is not the real world. And now they must choose: life or death. Sometimes they choose life for themselves. And sometimes they choose death for Christ’s preachers.
Advice from Paul: in all you do make sure you present yourselves as ministers of God, acting and speaking with patience, conducting yourselves with innocence, knowledge, sincere love in the Holy Sprit. You are poor but you bring great wealth to many. We seem to have nothing, yet everything is ours!Pic credit: Gorkum Martyrs