Friday, September 28, 2012
The good news today continues in Matthew 8:18-22.
When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side. A scribe approached and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Another of [his] disciples said to him, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But Jesus answered him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.”
What strikes me today about this passage is that Jesus had nowhere to rest his head. I take that to mean that he was forging his own way with the guidance of his Father, so that he was no longer at home in the faith in which he grew up, in the traditions and rituals and legalisms that structured his Jewish culture. He was a spiritual nomad.
That’s the way I am feeling right now. I heard on the news yesterday that Archbishop John Myers of Newark announced to Catholics that they should not receive communion if they supported same-sex unions. That’s disturbing. Communion is just that, being in union with Jesus by receiving his body and blood. Why was he sent to us? To bring the message of his Father’s great love for us, His acceptance and His forgiveness, His desire for us to establish His kingdom on earth, and His promise of salvation for the life to come. Jesus gave us the great commandment to love God, to love ourselves, and to love one another.
Jesus lived that commandment; he gave us a model for living our lives. His frustration, anger, and rebukes were addressed to the scribes, the Pharisees, the elders and temple officials — those who placed man’s rules and legalisms above God’s compassion and justice. As The New Catechism states, “[O]ur Lord is present in the sacrament. Here we note above all that it is to a meal that we are invited, where Christ is not only the giver of the meal, but the food itself….Jesus intended the Eucharist to be, as he said, taken and eaten. One must not be too ready to think that one is not worthy enough to receive Christ. We are never worthy, but still he invites us.”
None of us are worthy, but still he invites us. One of the most difficult tasks in life, it seems to me, is to accept ourselves as we are, as God created us. As St. Augustine wrote, “God loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love.” Hard as it is to accept and love ourselves as we are, it is a cruelty when others particularly family or religious leaders tell us that we are not good enough, not good enough because of who we are, the one God has created and loves. Not good enough to receive Jesus, to receive his compassion and justice. John Sanford writes in The Kingdom Within, “Becoming an individual is painful, but it brings treasure. Being directly in contact with the inner world and in person-to-person relationship with others, we now realize the spiritual heritage of those who enter the kingdom. WIth this comes the stunning realization of the unique value that our life holds in God’s eyes.”
These beliefs resonate with me; they feel true. Yet Archbishop Myers tells me that I should not partake of communion because I believe in the value and purpose of each life that God has created. So, I feel like Jesus. I feel like I have nowhere to rest my head. I am being rejected and separated from the body of Christ, his church. I realize that Archbishop Myers is only one cleric, but it seems to me that he represents an increasingly vocal and visible force in the Church — a force that wants to push me out. Maybe it should make me angry, but it makes me sad.