10 July 2009

Scaring the wolves

14 Week OT (Fri): Gen 46.1-7, 28-30; Matt 10.16-23
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Sisters of St Mary of Namur

As those who often have to tell people what they don't want to hear and risk being yelled at or rejected outright, we are not the ones you want on your marketing team. The whole point of marketing is to attract customers and keep them loyal. You have make sure your product is useful, attractive, affordable, and does what it promises to do. Telling customers the possible unhealthy consequences of using your product is something you will not do voluntarily. This is why we have laws that force you to be honest, if not exactly transparent. After reading the gospel this morning, we might want to suggest to Jesus that he take a few marketing classes, or at the very least, hire a PR firm. The promise of his product is anything but alluring. Persecution, scourging, betrayal, public scorn, and ultimate rejection, even death. With an ad campaign like that, there's lots of room for the new and improved. Fortunately, we Christians are geared to living on promises! Our hope in Christ is never a gamble.

Why would anyone listening to Jesus' sell his product run to the front of the line and plop down his/her life for a chance to be tortured and killed? There's a whole lot of crazy in that bet. Given the nature of the world and the gospel we preach, the chances of being ridiculed and rejected are high enough already. Throw in a little fundamentalist secularism and the need to design and rule social change and those who hate us feel entitled—even morally obligated—to shut us up, to push us toward the killing cliffs. We threaten the power of their narrow worldview. Knowing what we know about the gospel and Jesus' dire promises of betrayal and death, we have to be more than just a little crazy to listen to him. We must be suicidal!

Of course, we know that we aren't crazy or suicidal. We are something far more dangerous to the rulers of this world. We are hopeful, loving. And b/c we are ruled by hope and love, we are joyful. And b/c we are joyful, our faith is all the more attractive to those who have not yet tried our product. Our trust in the promises of God makes us less dependent on the nannies of the state for our basic needs, less likely to find our self-worth in achievement and wealth, more likely to cheer a virtuous peasant and boo a vicious king, and far less likely to offer sacrifice to the gods of war, vengeance, and material gain. The marketers for this world's messianic message fear the hope-filled possibilities we live and preach daily. We are a threat b/c we live and breath those virtues that look beyond their power, beyond their control and toward the One Who created us to love Him by loving one another.

Christ promises us that when the time comes to witness to his Father's plan for the cosmos and to endure persecution b/c we do so, His Spirit will give us the words to speak. These words will not be philosophically sophisticated, or theologically profound, or even all that persuasive to those who will not hear them. What these words will be is truthful—full of His truth b/c He is the Truth. When we speak the truth, we must do so in charity. Without charity, the truth is without passion. Without truth, charity becomes mere sentiment. Aquinas teaches us that “joy is caused by charity” (ST II-II. 28.1) and we know that God is love. Overwhelmed by the Spirit of Love and Truth, we can do nothing else but speak a word of contradiction to the world and suffer the consequences. So be it. It is better to be betrayed in hatred for his name than to betray in his name for the sake of applause. Wolves not only roam the wilderness in search of lost sheep to devour, they also roam the hearts of those same sheep, scaring them into silence and inaction. However, we know that they scatter at even the smallest word of witness.
So, speak the word of truth and watch the wolves turn tail and run!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. aspiring... said...
    I've had coffee, here's how it should read.

    ... an exceptional expository of the vastness between grit and glory, the polarities of which are also at once the same place. Within us and around us.

    ...and, amen +