24 September 2014

Graft your life onto the Cross

25th Week OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA

Kings fear prophets b/c prophets have nothing to lose when the kings decides that the prophet's truth-telling threatens kingly power. With nothing and no one to hold hostage, nothing short of death can silence a noisy prophet. And thus are we tested in faith: are you prepared to die for telling the Truth and doing the Good? More specifically, are you prepared to die for preaching Christ and for living out his unbreakable Word? If not, Christ says, “Take nothing for the journey. . .” Take nothing along with you but Christ. Take nothing but his Word – his promises, his mighty deeds. Anything not of Christ and everyone but Christ can be taken from you. Mother, father, brothers and sisters, friends, car, house, job, reputation – all of these can be/will be destroyed when the powers of this world tire of your truth-telling and do-gooding. If nothing and no one comes before Christ, if nothing and no one counts more than Christ in your work, then the king cannot silence you. He cannot kill Christ. Not again. Christ has defeated the kings of this world. So, whatever treasure they may have to tempt you into silence – it all belongs to Christ. . .and to us as his adopted brothers and sisters. Our prayer as prophets on the Way: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only [what] I need.”

In the summer of 2013, Pope Francis preached to a group of seminarians and religious novices in Rome. He exhorted them, “Herein lies the secret of the fruitfulness of a disciple of the Lord! Jesus sends his followers out with no 'purse, no bag, no sandals'. The spread of the Gospel is not guaranteed either by the number of persons, or by the prestige of the institution, or by the quantity of available resources. What counts is to be permeated by the love of Christ, to let oneself be led by the Holy Spirit and to graft one’s own life onto the tree of life, which is the Lord’s Cross.” Graft your life onto the Cross. Is it possible to graft your life onto the Cross if you come to the Cross weighted down with Necessary Things, with Important Relationships, and Serious Responsibilities? If we love these more than Christ? No. No, we cannot be grafted onto the Cross weighed down by these burdens. However, if we love Christ first, that is, if we love all other things, people, and relationships through our love for Christ – placing Christ first in the order of understanding – then we are already grafted onto to the trunk of the Cross. And our lives are lives of praise and thanksgiving for the chance to die with him on the altar of his cross.

In 21st century America, it is more than just a little difficult to imagine the depth of surrender that Jesus is urging on us. Yes, he means material poverty when he says “take nothing on the journey.” Yes, by “[take] neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, [nor] a second tunic” he means to say that the things we own too often come to own us. And yes, he means that virtuous detachment from stuff is essential to the preaching of the Good News. But the depth of our surrender can only begin with material poverty and virtuous detachment. If we become poor and wholly detached and yet remain uncommitted to Christ's ministry of freely given mercy and sacrificial love, then we are nothing more than just detached and poor. Can poverty and detachment alone tell the Truth and do the Good? No. Kings do not fear the poor and the detached. The powers of this world fear the prophet's trust in God alone. They fear humility, mercy, and the sort of love that dies for another. The depth of our surrender then is measured not by our material poverty or detachment, but how freely and eagerly our poverty and detachment bring Christ to those caught in the traps of sin and death. 
So. . .who or what owns you, holding you back from diving to the deepest depths of surrender in Christ?

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