Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Joseph Wallace-Williams,n/OHC
Proper 18 Year C- Sunday, September 4, 2016There once was a young minister, who traveled with great difficulty to a faraway monastery because there was an old nun there who had a reputation for asking very piercing spiritual questions. "Mother," the minister said. "Give me a question that will renew my soul." "Ah, yes, then," the old nun said, "your question is what do they need?" The minister wrestled with the question for days but then, depressed, gave up and went back to the old nun in disgust. And said “ Mother ," "I came here because I'm tired and depressed and dry. I didn't come here to talk about my ministry. I came here to talk about my spiritual life. Please give me another question." Ah, well, of course. “Now I see," she said, "In that case, the right question for you is not 'what do they need?' The right question for you is “What do they really need?”
|Icon of Christ The Teacher|
Both the question and the answer are clear: What do they really need? They, we, need what was needed when the temple became more important than the Torah. We need what we needed when the faith was more a vision than an institution. We need what we have always needed: An authentic and dynamic relationship with the true and living God!
Christian discipleship is by nature a very dangerous thing. It has put every person who ever accepted it at risk. In the early church to be a Christian community meant to defy Roman imperialism. It was to stretch Judaism itself. It was to counter pagan values with Christian ones.
It took great courage. Unending fortitude and a willingness to step beyond the old ways of doing and being that were never life-giving to begin with. Real discipleship meant the rejection of real things:
- it meant the rejection of emperor worship,
- the inclusion of Gentiles,
- the elimination of dietary laws,
- the acceptance of women
- the supplanting of law with love,
- of nationalism to universalism,
- of a chosen people with a we a global people!
To follow Jesus, in other words, is to follow the one who turns the world upside down, even the religious world and our distorted way of seeing ourselves and the other. Real discipleship is a tipsy arrangement at the very least. Following Jesus is a circuitous route that leads always and everywhere to places where a 'nice' person would not go, and to moments of integrity we would so much rather do without.
Christian discipleship is the commitment to live a gospel life, a marginal life in this place, at this time at whatever the cost. Its about living in this world the way that Jesus the Christ lived in his – touching lepers, raising donkeys from ditches on Sabbath days, questioning the unquestionable and - consorting with the Other. Discipleship implies a commitment to leave nets and homes, positions and securities, and inheritance to be now - in our own world - what the Christ was for his.
If discipleship is what you're here for, be not fooled! The price is a high one and history has recorded it faithfully.
- Discipleship cost Oscar Romero,
- Martin Luther King,
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
- Sister Margaret Held and Sister Paula Merrill, in Mississippi their lives.
No doubt about it, the nature of discipleship is passion and risk.
But to understand the nature of discipleship is not enough. We must be marked by its mark. And what is the mark of true discipleship? True discipleship says the truth in hard times. The disciple not only preaches the gospel, but lives it, breathes it. Because to be a disciple means to be in deep relationship, with Christ Jesus in prayer and in action. And so because you and I have been called out, we share the responsibility for affecting the world with the effective love of God. Our partnership with the Spirit is based on being claimed by Christ for the world.
Here the words of our father Benedict: God calls out and says again: Is there anyone here who yearns for life and desires to see good days? If you hear this and your answer is "I do," God then directs these words to you: If you desire true and eternal life, come follow Jesus. The road will not be easy. At times it will seem to be a lonely road. But it is the road that leads to wholeness, love and the fullness of life.
The choice is ours to make.