5 Sun OT Yr A (2017)
Ss. Peter & Paul/Danville
“Father, make me a crisis man. Bring those I contact to decision. Make me a fork in the road, that men must turn one way or another in facing Christ in me.”
In 1952 a man in his early twenties arrived in Ecuador with a heart to be a missionary of the Gospel. He felt called to witness to a tribe of warrior peoples who had never heard the Gospel, and began to fly a small aircraft near their village to communicate with them. After a couple of months, he and some friends made camp just a short distance from their village.
On January 5, 1956, after finally making some face to face contact, the missionaries sat down to prepare a small lunch. As they prepared their meal, ten of the warriors ambushed them and speared them to death – a difficult, painful, violent death. Death for the sake of the Gospel…
Jim Elliot was his name – just days before his death he wrote those words in his journal. He and his friends understood that the life of a Christian is lived most especially for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel in the world. In season, and out of season, our job as Christians is to be salt and light in the world. Jim Elliot and his friends lived their lives doing that; they literally gave their lives to be salt and light in the world.
What would it be like to live life the way Jim and his friends did? Whether we venture into the untouched jungles of the world, or into the jungles of our schools and workplaces, the jungles of our neighborhoods or the jungles of the political and social debates of our times – what would it be like to live life trying to be salt and light for a dark and bland world? I’ll tell you what it would be like – it would be like living life as a Great Adventure – exactly what it is meant to be!
That’s what Jesus did – isn’t it? Jesus was a crisis man; He brought those He encountered to a moment of decision – He was a fork in the road to all He met. The woman caught in adultery. The rich young ruler. The woman at the well. Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Mary Magdalene. Pilot and Herod. Pharisees and Sadducees and Scribes and the Sanhedrin. Tax collectors. Zacchaeus. Jesus was a crisis man – He brought those He came in contact with to a point of decision. “Do you have faith? Will you repent and believe in the Good News of this Gospel, that God loves you – that you are made for more than this? Will you follow me. Go and do likewise. Come and see.”
An encounter with Jesus was – and is – a turning point. Jesus was a crisis man; He brought those He encountered to a moment of decision. But it is also important to notice how He did that. The moment of crisis He created – the moment of decision – always left open the possibility of relationship and conversion. He didn’t call the rich young ruler an idiot. He didn’t demonize anyone around Him except for the demons, whether they agreed with Him or not. Some He called a brood of vipers; but then He invited them to conversion. He always left open the possibility of relationship, dialogue, and conversion. And He spoke with love – even in His anger, He spoke with love.
We’ve forgotten how to be women and men of crisis – at least the way Jesus was. Friends – we’re called to be salt and light in the world. But we’ll never accomplish that if our real goal is to be right, instead of witnessing to the truth in a way that actually invites a new way of seeing things. No – we can’t lose our flavor. But – we must do this together as a community of faith, embracing one another across our disagreements, guided by Truth that isn’t a rational construct, but rather a person – Love Himself.
I have a confession. I’ve never shared this from the ambo before. I hope it doesn’t make you uncomfortable. Are you ready? Here goes: I love mashed potatoes. LOVE THEM! But I can’t stand them without some salt. No salt – yuck. Too much salt, though – too much salt poured on without any regard for how much is needed at the moment – that can just ruin some good mashed potatoes. And too much light shone directly in the eyes at midnight will blind rather than illumine.
We’ve been entrusted with the task of being salt and light in the world – it is worth giving our lives to that Great Adventure. But we have to let Love Himself guide how much and when, or we’ll spoil it all – for ourselves and those we’re called to play a part in saving.
Our calling is not an easy one – but God is faithful to His promise. If we share our bread with the hungry, if we shelter the oppressed and homeless, if we clothe the naked, if we refuse to turn our backs on our own – no matter who they voted for – then our light will break forth like the dawn, and the darkness of the world will be overcome. If we remove oppression, false accusation and malicious speech from our efforts to be salt and light in this world, the gloom of this world will give way to the bright light of Truth and Love as radiant as the noonday sun. I’m willing to bet there isn’t a single one of us here today who doesn’t need to adjust their approach based on this.
Be salt and light – be crisis women and men – do it like Jesus did – and start with the plank in your own eye…and see, just see, where Jesus takes us.