Final day of the Big-East men’s basketball season.
Which means that the only really important sporting event on earth will take place this week, in the Garden.
Hoyas square-off in Milwaukee this afternoon. Do I care that it’s Marquette “Senior Day?” Let them weep through it.
This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.
Saints Peter, James, and John heard these words spoken from heaven. Listen to Him. Do what He says and avoid what He prohibits. Nonetheless—even though God Himself, in no uncertain terms, told them to listen to Christ—the Apostles had a hard time obeying Him.
Is it any wonder, then, that we have a hard time bringing ourselves to obey the Son of God?
After all, it would be one thing if Christ said, “Love your friends and let your enemies go to the dogs.”
Or if He said, “Don’t worry about Judgment Day. My Father doesn’t really care how you treat other people, especially the people you don’t like.”
We might listen to Him more eagerly if He said, “Blessed are the likable, good-looking people. Blessed are those with nice cars. Blessed are you when you finally make it, and vest your retirement plan, and get nice, big, fat bank statements in the mail. Rejoice and be glad, because heaven belongs to the people with 70-inch flatscreens.”
BUT: To listen to the Son of God, Who says, “The meek will inherit the earth.”
And “The rich cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without passing through the eye of a needle.”
And “Even the pagans pray for their family and friends. You must love and pray for the people who curse you and hate you.”
To listen to this Teacher…Let’s put it this way: We do not come into the world able to do it.
Even though we believe what the gospels recount; even though we can practically see with our own eyes the scene on the mountain; even though we know that divine light poured out of the body of Jesus for a moment. The fact remains: Our ears are not, on their own, equipped to listen to Him.
Yes, we have been equipped, more or less, to listen to reason. We know that things should make sense. We know that we should make sense. We don’t always actually make sense, but we know we should.
We also know that God should and must make sense. By definition, God makes sense.
And we know that God’s standards make sense. Justice. Honesty. Prudent care for what we do. Discipline. Courage in the face of difficulties. Sure.
But: He must be right, and yet He tells me to give my shirt to the man who asks for my cloak. He tells me to give my money away with my right hand and not let my left hand know about it. He tells me to take up an instrument of torture and ignominious death every day so as to become the disciple of a condemned blasphemer.
Our natural point-of-view: Eat. Drink. Feather the nest. Survive. Befriend my allies; fight my enemies. Settle down. Live happily ever after.
Someday, all of it will end, I know. But dwelling on death makes for a morbid, party-pooping mood.
Our natural point-of-view. Live well; retire well.
But Christ has had the temerity to tell us that we must adopt an altogether more sublime perspective, the perspective of God the Father Himself.
The world abounds with struggling children of God. Everything that I have rests in my power for one reason: to help the strugglers. I cannot really lay claim to anything that a court of law might declare to be “mine.” In all honesty and justice, I have to acknowledge that Someone greater than me made me and gave me everything I have. I do not have the foggiest idea, really, how He did it. When it comes to how everything will turn out, He must have something magnificent in mind. But I don’t really know. All I know is that right now I have the duty to obey Him in everything.
The divine point-of-view. Terrifying. Liberating. Humbling. Exhilarating.
How in the world will we learn to listen to the voice of God, learn His ways, make friends with Him, gradually adopt His point-of-view, and get ready to share His life forever?
He asked His beloved friend Abraham to lay Isaac, his son, on the altar of sacrifice. “Abraham, sacrifice your only son to Me.” In the end, the angel stayed Abraham’s hand. Instead of Abraham’s son Isaac, God substituted His Son for the sacrifice.
He asks us to lay ourselves on the altar, along with absolutely everything we have. Everything, especially the things most precious to us, that we least want to lose. All of it belongs to Him. We cannot honestly deny that. We have to let go of it.
But then He substitutes His Son as the sacrifice.
Then He hands everything back to us, including Himself!
Take it all, my child, He says. My gift. My gift of love. Take it all, with my love along with it. What’s Mine is yours. It is neither Mine nor yours; it is OURS.