Saturday, October 12, 2013

Power: Real and Imagined; Self and God (Sunday homily)

Of all the things we might see in these readings, 
I’d like to suggest we think about power; 
and the contrast between the power we want, and the power we have.

Naaman is a powerful official with the King of Aram. 
But he has leprosy, and he can’t cure it.

If you read the larger story, you’ll see he traveled a long way, 
expecting the prophet to come out and pray over him. 
Instead, Elisha sent a message: go bathe in the Jordan River. 

Naaman was angry. 
He was a big-shot, and he expected to be treated that way.
Had Naaman not let go of his pride and anger,
He’d have gone home empty handed.

A lot of people wonder why they get angry.
Listen, and I’ll tell you a big reason why.

We get angry because we expect to have power in a situation, 
And we are frustrated when we do not.

A baby is crawling toward a hot stove.
Mom picks up baby; baby howls with fury.

Later, mom is driving up 75—in the fast lane. 
Behind a slow driver!
Mom howls with fury.

Or, we’re watching the news on TV. 
An elected official comes on. We don’t like him!
Now we howl: you’re wrecking the country! 

It’s all the same: I expect my way. I didn’t get my way. Fury!

Now: look at the second reading.
When Paul talks about the glory and power of God, 
What does he point to? 
Jesus—God—our King—nailed to the cross!

Why didn’t Jesus get angry?

For the same reason Naaman didn’t turn around go back home.

My way? Or God’s way?
Ego? Or surrender?
Now, my point is not to be passive in the face of wrong.
Naaman was not passive. 
He did what was within his power to do.

So, with the politicians, we can speak out, we can get involved, we can vote. 
We get a very thin slice of power, and we can and must use it for good.

But beyond that? Isn’t that God’s problem?

We’ve been talking about stewardship lately. 
A steward isn’t the boss—but he exercise power given him by his boss.
Part of that is material resources. 
So we’ve been talking about the financial support we give to the parish.
And, in the bulletin this weekend, we have a parish financial report.

But a good steward does a careful inventory.
And we have a lot of gifts that are not material. 
In my visits with parishioners, 
I keep hearing you say how much you value each other!
That’s part of the inventory—along with all the talents each of us has.

I said we get angry because we don’t have the power we want.
The flip side is we fail to appreciate the power we actually do have.

And I mentioned one, which is prayer. Real, intense, focused, sustained prayer.
And the power of prayer is precisely the power of God.
And the change it brings includes changing us—bending us and our will to His.
And I’ll always remember what a priest said once, 
in promoting adoration of the Holy Eucharist (which we’ll have after the 8 am Mass):
He said, the truth we won’t admit is, we don’t like to pray!
And he’s right!

Yelling at the politicians indulges my fantasy of being powerful.
While prayer demands the one thing I hate: 
It bends my ego right down to the ground!

In taking this inventory of power we actually do have,
There remains the awesome power of my own, individual choice. 
I can’t make the world change; I can’t make you change.
But I can choose to change myself! That’s my little kingdom. 
It’s not very big, but in the kingdom of my life, and my soul, 
God has put me in charge. 

Here, at last, we come to the paradox. 
I’m king of my life; and yet I am powerless 
over my own sins and failures,
my ego and pride and lust and greed.
Yet when I bow down before my Savior, nailed to the Cross.
When I let my ego be nailed there with him.
Then I have his power. That is freedom! That is Life!
That is yours! That is mine!


Maryrose said...

Yes, anger definitely flares up when we have our "expectations" our "wants" at the top of our agenda, instead of listening to the Lord, and doing what "HE wants" of us. We call it "flexing" around our family. Flex, flex, flex, and die to "my" wants. I am talking about the 95% of life that is made up of trivialities.

Jennifer said...

Yes, there is real spiritual danger in expectations. I often think of the concept of stewardship in regard to my children. I love them so much! I know that I only have stewardship of them...which means that I must do what I can to influence them to come to Christ. This is hard--it requires really praying a lot, making sacrifices, and being emotionally present in each moment. The latter is hard as I am a bit of a