Sunday, June 25, 2017

Proper 7 Year A- June 25, 2017

Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero,OHC
Proper 7 Year A- Sunday, June 25, 2017

Br. Josép R. Martínez-Cubero, OHC
The desert monastics tell the story of Abba John who prayed to God to take away his passions so that he could become free of inner turmoil. Abba John reported to his spiritual elder, “I now find myself in total peace.” His spiritual elder said to him, “Really? Well, in that case, go and beg God to stir up warfare within you again, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress.”

Today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew, calls us to spiritual warfare, to choose between what is our will for God and what is God’s will for us. Jesus invites us to hear the voice of God calling to us to make right choices in the midst of the confusion and the chaos in the world, and the chaos we manage to create in ourselves because of our blind self-interest. And the story we heard from Genesis, presents this blind self-interest so very clearly. There are big choices to be made, important choices. And Abraham, the one chosen by God to make them, says he is listening to God when he clearly can’t distinguish God’s voice from his own. And his wife Sarah’s motive is not to do the will of God, but to see that God does hers!

Abraham says he is listening to God, who tells him to listen to Sarah and “send Hagar out”, meaning out to die in the desert! Sarah’s jealousy and greed drive her to wield her power over Hagar. And one thing I know about God is that God does not entitle us to use our power against the powerless just because we can. God calls us to be strong in the Lord, and not in our own power and desires! And though the story tells us that Abraham is distressed about “sending Hagar out,” well, he does, regardless of her innocence, and regardless of the child. He gives in to a false sense of peace rather than facing the cowardice that stops him from making the choice that is just to both, Sarah and Hagar, let alone Ishmael and Isaac. Worse, he blames his choice on God.

Hagar becomes the one who has lost everything, the refugee, and the mother desperate to save her child. Her story is repeated over and over again with the millions of refugees, asylum-seekers, and internally displaced people around the world. Let us be clear, children like Ishmael perish on a daily basis, and parents mourn in their helplessness to protect them. And some wonder where is God? And God asks: “Where are you??” Hagar story is also repeated here in the United States through national laws and policies that have created groups of expendable people, many of them children and single parents, whose well-being seems to be of no concern when law and policy makers, representing us, make their decisions. This story may seem old and outdated at first, but it is, really as new as today’s paper.

This is not a story about holiness or listening to the voice of God. This is a story about sin and calling upon God to justify it. If one thing I’ve learned in the past three years here at the monastery is this: listening to God is one thing. Having the spiritual depth to discern the voice of God from all the other voices around me, and, most of all, within me, is another. It takes psychological development, emotional maturity, and a lot of spiritual effort to hear the voice of God! And it is, spiritual warfare!

Jesus’ call in today’s Gospel lesson is non-negotiable, and a challenging journey. “I have not come to bring peace,” Jesus says, “but a sword.” It is a call to fight for justice, and mercy, and compassion. It is a call to do, not what the world expects, but what God expects. It is a call to let go of our delusions, our false self, and to choose, instead, the Spirit of God. It is a call, as our Brother Joseph told us in his beautiful sermon yesterday, to be prophets of the Most High.

“Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered” says Jesus. It was Sarah and Abraham who wanted Hagar sent out. It was not God. God rescued Hagar and Ishmael from Abraham and Sarah’s selfish and sinful hand. I know this, because what I know about God is that God is not in favor of oppression, or violence or bigotry or sexism or homophobia or ecological devastation or disregard for the poor! God’s will is about love, and care, and mercy, and justice, and community, and compassion. That is the will of God! So Jesus calls us to make choices, to take sides, to take a stand for what is right, and to work hard to change what is wrong. And for those who don’t feel ready, I leave you with the words of Dr. Ronald Rolheiser:
“Not even Jesus found ‘the ready.’Jesus called Nathaniel… Nathaniel lacked openness. Nathaniel wasn’t ready.Jesus called Philip… Philip lacked simplicity. Philip wasn’t ready.Jesus called Simon, the Zealot… Simon lacked non-violence. Simon wasn’t ready.Jesus called Andrew…Andrew lacked a sense of risk. Andrew wasn’t ready.Jesus called Thomas…Thomas lacked vision. Thomas wasn’t ready. Jesus called Judas…Judas lacked spiritual maturity. Judas was definitely not ready.Jesus called Matthew…Matthew lacked a sense of social sin. Matthew wasn’t ready.Jesus called Thaddeus…Thaddeus lacked commitment. Thaddeus wasn’t ready.Jesus called James the Lesser…James lacked awareness. James wasn’t ready.Jesus called James and John, the sons of thunder… James and John lacked a sense of servanthood. James and John were not ready.Jesus called Peter, the Rock…Peter lacked courage. Peter was not ready.The point, you see, is that Jesus doesn’t call the ready. Jesus calls the willing.”

So, ready or not, let us take up the cross with willing hearts, and humbly follow after him. ~Que así sea. Amen.


  • John C. Holbert, Telling the Whole Story (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013)
  • Bruce Epperly, Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2011)
  • Ronald Rolheiser, Sacred Fire: A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity (Crown Publishing Group, 2014)
  • From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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