Enemies of the Cross–Second Sunday Lent

In recounting the covenant Yahweh made with Abram, the author caps the covenant off with the promise of land. Land was the source of security in their society. If you did not have land, you were poor and dependent upon others. In Jesus’ time, many of his followers had lost their land to predatory farmers who took advantage of their hard luck. Many of Jesus’ followers were without land and were sharecroppers or day laborers, not unlike the immigrant workers who gather before dawn on street corners in the hope of getting work.

We visited Israel and Palestine. Land is the issue. The bottom line for many Zionists is that God gave them the land. I just do not think that God is a real estate broker who favors one nation over another by giving them exclusive control of a parcel of real estate. Jesus told his followers they did not need land security. The Son of Man has no place to lay his head. They followed an itinerant, landless preacher who proclaimed a Kin-dom not of this world. The whole purpose of the Year of Jubilee was to return the use of the land to its rightful owner so that all could have life. In the end, however, land is a gift for the use of all. Abram’s reward for faithfulness to the covenant would be countless descendants. God would be his light and salvation, that is, his security.  Merton said:

Let my trust be in your mercy, not in myself. Let my hope be in Your love, not in health, or strength, or ability or human resources. If I trust You, everything else will become for me, strength, health, and support. Everything will bring me to heaven. If I do not trust You, everything will be my destruction. (Thoughts in Solitude, 29-30)

Paul warns the Philippians about people who conduct themselves as enemies of the Cross. Paul is warning them about anti-Christs. When I quoted a passage on social justice from Pope John Paul

II in a discussion this past week, I was reminded—and rightfully so—by one member of the group that the pope and bishops lack credibility. When they give up their treasures and plush life style maybe they will no longer be perceived as enemies of the cross. They are not walking the talk. They have shown over and over again that their main interest is in preserving the patriarchal androgynous institution we know as “the Church.” The cover ups, the narrow definition of life issues, and closed minded arrogance makes them, in spite of their robes and claims, enemies of the cross of Christ. The leaders need to stop expounding dead dogmas and start finding ways to give people life and life in abundance. The leaders need to stop excommunicating people who want thoughtful discussion of justice issues, like woman’s ordination, and start welcoming women as equals in ministry with open arms. [The Second Vatican Council said, “Every kind of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design.” No wonder there is an effort afoot to roll back the teachings and practices of the Council.] The leaders need to stop excluding people on the basis of sexual orientation (We now know that people do not wake up one morning and decide to be heterosexual or homosexual.) and welcome them as brothers and sisters in Jesus the Christ. The leaders need to stop threatening access to  Eucharist and start welcoming all to God’s table. Who did Jesus exclude? He did not exclude the prostitutes, sinners, lepers, and tax collectors. He welcomed all to dine with him in festive joyful settings. He ministered to the least and not the rich and powerful. We the people of God need to call the leaders to righteousness. We are the church and we will be heard.

Jesus and Jesus alone can transfigure the church. Jesus through the power of the Spirit is transforming the people of God. When Jesus was revealed in his glory, Peter wanted to wrap him up and put him in a box. Let’s keep things right like they are. Let’s preserve the status quo of this magnificent moment. Let us define this moment and cast it in bronze for posterity. Jesus defies all definition as we continue to enter into deeper communion with Him.

Abba God tells us to listen to Jesus. Listen to Jesus we must. The patriarchal, institutional church is not the community of life and love and inclusivity that Jesus came to form.

Jesus proclaimed the Kin-dom. He did not come to form hierarchies but to set captives free and to give sight to the blind. All too often the institutional church has put people in captivity. The church endorsed the Inquisition and slavery. Archbishop Romero stood with the rich and powerful in El Salvador until his priest friend, who was trying to help campesino coffee growers make a living, was killed by coyotes. This was a transfiguring moment for Romero. He became the servant of the people. He was no longer an enemy of the cross. He embraced the cross and was gunned down while celebrating Eucharist. His death liberated captives in El Salvador and gave sight to the blind around the world.  He arose in the Salvadoran people!

It is indeed good for us to be here in this time and place when the church is morphing into the community of the faithful, the people of God. It is good to be here when the mighty are being pulled down from their episcopal thrones. It is good to be here when the hungry are having their fill. It is good to be here when the Spirit if the Risen Jesus is transfiguring us.

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