Jesus begins his ministry by calling people to repent. In today’s Gospel, he repeats the call to repentance twice. Thomas Keating says that repent means to change the direction in which we are looking for happiness. The programs developed by the false acquisitive, consumerist self. Not being able to get our needs met when we were growing up and emerging into adulthood led us to create false programs for happiness. Pushing the hurtful stuff deep out of sight, we found ways to satisfy our need for power and control, affection and esteem, and security. These programs have become our addictions. Jesus is calling us to authentic life, life in the true or inner self where God finds us and heals us of our addictions.
Paul tells us that we live in the Spirit. We can find God, or rather God can find us, in the depths of our being when we enter into our cellars and close the door. Resting quietly in God allows the healing process to emerge. God bring us to greater awareness that we are created in the image of God. God dwells in us. In fact, we are Christ because Christ now lives in us. The process of divinization, championed by the Eastern mystics, brings us into our true, inner self where God dwells. We begin to regain our original unity with God. We can re-enter Paradise. We have eternal life now because God wants us to have life and everything we need.
Life in God, life in the Spirit is gift. All we can do is show up. God does the rest. Showing up means living mindfully, as Thich Nhat Hahn, Merton and Keating, remind us is living in the present moment. God finds us in the present moment. When you chop wood, chop wood. When you wash dishes, wash dished. When you carry water, carry water.
In a world driven by greed, success and consumerism, acquisition, mindfulness is necessary. St. Francis taught us that we must have arms when we have possessions because we need to defend what is ours. The truth is that nothing is ours. All is gift to be used for the benefit of all. We are not to build bigger and better silos to hoard the gist we have received. We are rather to share what has been given to us. Catholic social teaching refers to this as solidarity and the common good.
Jesus is not about power and control. Places at this right hand are not what he is about. For Jesus, service to others is the key. Jesus is not about security because we do not live by bread alone. Jesus is not about affection and esteem because his mother and brothers and sisters are those who do the will of Abba God.
JESUS IS ABOUT LIFE BEFORE DEATH. Life before death is life in the Spirit. Peace, joy and the other gifts of the Spirit are present in our lives.
Thomas Merton and Dorothee Soelle, a German theologian who taught at Union Theological Seminary, grew up during World War II. In the aftermath of WW II, they experienced the trauma of the holocaust, the atomic abomination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, buzz bombs in London, and carpet bombing in Dresden, the war in Viet Nam, the civil rights movement and race riots, the Cold War arms race, exploitation of the creation, and unending nuclear proliferation. They lived through the assimilations of Dr. King, JFK and RFK. Reflecting on their lives and their beliefs in such troubled times led them to contemplation and mysticism. They both understood that the solitude of contemplative mysticism was not for them alone. They understood that they were in solidarity with the people around them. Entering into mystical contemplation, Wisdom (Sophia), empowered them to see to the heart of matters. They understood that they needed to proclaim Gospel values in a world that sorely needed hope. Mysticism led them to resistance.
Jesus was their model. He resisted the Roman Empire and the greed of their priestly collaborators. Merton’s theology of Jesus was more from the top, from the perspective of Godly kenosis of the risen Jesus whereas Soelle’s theology was from the bottom, from the humanity of the historical Jesus who came to liberate the oppressed and to set captives free. Soelle wrote:
From this critique of the theistic-patriarchal God I developed a position in which the cross of Christ stands at the center, as an affirmation of the nonviolence impotence of love in which God himself is no longer one who imposes suffering, but a fellow sufferer.
For it is not only the poor man from Nazareth who is tortured together with his brothers and sisters on the cross, it is also our mother earth herself.
They nicely complement one another; however, they both understood the need for nonviolent resistance to empire and the things of empire.
Life before death is a life of resistance—resistance to acquisition, greed, violence, and war. Like Gandhi, they understood that their resistance had to be nonviolent if it were to be consistent with Gospel values. [I think that I prefer the term “resistance” to “nonviolence” because resistance implies something active.]
Michael Moore, who certainly acknowledged his Catholic teachers and mentors in Capitalism: A Love Story, has provided us with a practical list of the ways in which we can resist today http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mikes-letter/michael-moores-action-plan-15-things-every-american-can-do-right-now
Just don’t stand there, do something. Do it TODAY! We need to repent and change our false programs for happiness as individuals and as a nation.
- Resist the buildup in Afghanistan (http://noescalation.org /)
- Protest exorbitant bonuses for executives who work for companies now owned by us by calling your representative and senators
- Demand health care, housing, clothing, food, education for all again by calling Washington
- Demand justice for Farmworkers (http://www.ciw-online.org/ ).
- Demand an end to genocide in Sudan.
- Campaign against capital punishment.
- Protest the RomanChurch’s fishing expedition into Anglican waters to woo those who oppose human God-given rights for GLBT persons and women in ministry.
The list could go on. There’s a lot to do—Just do it!!!