I have been thinking so much of the Jesus of contradictions. Not that what he says contradicts himself, but how his teachings contradict the material of our world. Poverty is wealth, humility is strength, serving is leading. I wrote an allocutio on the topic; I have many more thoughts on this and may expand on them in the future, but for the little time I will have tomorrow to speak on them, this is where my thoughts begin:
Ch. 32: Objections Which May be Made Here; Part 10: “I fear possible indiscretions on the part of the members.”
“The harvest at stake is souls.” These are serious words from our founder, Frank Duff. This particular passage from the handbook is heavy with imagery that drives home how strongly he felt that potential “indiscretions” are indeed a flimsy cause for staying away from the Legion or not opening a praesidium. He asks: why throw out an entire harvest at the prospect of a few bad ears of corn?
To me, the most striking image is that of Jesus desiring his house to be filled with the blind and lame. “The harvest at stake is souls: souls, poor and feeble and blind and lame: in such need, in such numbers that there is a danger that one may accept the situation as irremediable. Yet it is for such that the Lord bids search to be made in the streets and lanes and highways and hedges, so that his house may be filled with them.” This references Luke 14:21-23, the parable wherein the wealthy man, finding no one “respectable” wants to come to his banquet, orders his servant to bring in undesirable people from near and far to partake, instead:
“Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.’” The owner of the house is of course representative of Jesus, who welcomes all, especially the poor, lame, or otherwise unwanted, to his house, with a special place of honor. It is not even enough that the poor come from nearby, but he asks the servant to leave, get out of his comfort zone, and really seek out those who are lost and by themselves at the outer edges of their world.
Can you imagine anyone you know – particularly yourself – doing this? Can you imagine anyone in real life (except for maybe Pope Francis) inviting the sick and feeble into their home for dinner, to take the place of honor?
During this Lent, we have been reading Matthew Kelly’s book, “Rediscover Jesus” and have been trying to understand how radical Jesus was. There is no one and no thing quite like him. He takes everything we know to be normal or acceptable and turns it on its head. A great place to see this is in the beatitudes, particularly in those lines that draw a contrast between what we expect and what Jesus tells us, like that the meek shall inherit the earth. Not the wealthy, not the brave, not the loud or successful, but the meek. Just this past Sunday in the gospel we hear Jesus tells us, “Let the greatest among you be the youngest, and the leader as the servant.” It’s popular now in corporate leadership trainings to hear of the concept of the “servant-leader,” but before Jesus, no such thing existed. He is the ultimate servant-leader.
I bring all this up because I think if we really want to understand Jesus’s teachings and be close to him, this concept of opposites and the unexpected must be internalized. We have to ask ourselves – what is true wealth? What is true wisdom, true leadership, true success, to us? What, really, in life, is guaranteed, if what we think is necessary and valuable really is, in fact, meaningless? How often are we taking our comfort and safety for granted, and when they are gone, what do we do – how do we really respond? So underneath all of these questions is one big one, which is: how much do you really trust Jesus with your life? Can you truly say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” and place your life in his hands, no matter what you experience?
There are awful things happening in the world. This week we saw yet another terrorist attack in Europe. Even without that type of global uncertainty, no element of our day-to-day lives is guaranteed. We have just the amount of time God has given us, and no one knows how much that time is. Everything eventually passes away. As Lent draws to a close, now is the perfect time to take an internal check of where you are in your relationship with Jesus. Have you given everything to him? Have you accepted that walking with Jesus means embracing the unknown and relying fully on him when the unexpected occurs? Following Jesus means living in a manner radically different from that which the modern world tells us is right. This is fine! This is all good, because true wealth is not measured by the number of rich and famous people you invite to your table, but by the number of poor and outcast you call your friends. How blessed we are in the Legion to, week after week, meet these true friends of Jesus and take them into our hearts. It is as Frank Duff said – there are souls at stake. But it is not just the souls of those we meet, but our own souls, too.