Moving the World

Dear Folks,Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. In the Gospels, Jesus goes from His baptism to the desert to fight His own temptations, and then begins His ministry.As we consider what it takes to make a more peaceful world, I’ve been thinking about how people are drawn to violence, hostility, and destruction. I can’t help but think that part of the root of this is many people feeling helpless to make a difference. I know what it feels like to think that the world can make a mark on me however and whenever it wants, but I’m helpless to make a mark on the world. That is a terrible feeling and can lead to desperation.Desperation is a dangerous thing; it can lead to acting out in destructive and irrational ways.I know that lifeguards are trained to approach a drowning person prepared for that person to try to grab them and drag them down. I can’t think of a less helpful thing to do than grab and drag down the very person who is in here to save you, but that is the power ofdesperation.This leads me to think that making a more peaceful word includes helping channel people’s energy toward that which truly addresses their legitimate concerns. Besides, we Christians are in the business of changing the world by the power of the Gospel, so it is an issue for us, and I have a few thoughts.First, we need a sense of what it is that we are trying to accomplish. When we encounter something that is wrong, it is easy to say what is wrong, but harder to build a different reality to replace it. It is common to find people doing a lot of complaining andcondemning, but not as much trying to build a new reality. If we can build a vision, explain it vividly, and be ready to talk about the pros and cons of the idea, that can be more compelling. Jesus talked against sin, but He talked wonderfully and powerfully about the Kingdom, and about the challenges of discipleship. Focusing primarily on what is negative can make us negative people, but a people of joy and hope in the midst of calamity can bemuch more inspiring. How can we who believe in the resurrection of Christ not be a people of hope regardless of what happens in the world?Second, we need to have a deep enough commitment for the task. It is my observation that if we want to do good, we shall find that we have to work harder than we thought, for longer than expected, to accomplish less than we hoped. The prize belongs to those who do not then give up. Jesus warned about the cost of discipleship a number of times, and in Luke 14:25-33 He warns about family, possessions and even one’s life. He asks, “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself onlookers should laugh at him…(vv.28-29).” We must even be ready to work all our lives for something that might not happen until after we are gone. Jesus said, “one sows, another reaps (John 4:37).” Consider those who started the women’s suffrage movement at Seneca Falls in 1848. How many of them did not live to see the passage of the 19th amendment in 1920? And yet, they did not give up. We Christians are called to think in terms of eternity, so the deeper our faith, the more we can outlast the forces of the world.Third, however great the evil we are fighting, we must not use that as license to become evil ourselves. St. Paul encourages “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked generation, among whom you shine likelights in the world… (Phil 2:15).” A text I would encourage you to memorize is, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd [cunning] as serpents and simple [innocent] as doves (Matthew 10:16).”We cannot do this on our own strength. If we want to change the world, the first step is to fall more deeply in love with Jesus. Everything follows from that.

Blessings,

Fr. Jim

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