Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We'd like to pick one

You can't miss the apparently conflicting messages in the two readings today. In the gospel today Jesus gives us the kind of words we love to hear. In fact they are the words we hear every time we attend mass.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.

So what's the catch? It's in the first reading. Leave it to Paul to smack us in the face with the harsh truth.

It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God Acts 14:22

It's not exactly a verse we want to memorize. We'd probably like to ignore it. We prefer the Beatles theology "All you need is love." Accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Love God and love your neighbor, and you're done. Even those two commandments we reduce to simply, be nice. But that's not the whole story.

Being a good person does not make you a disciple. Being nice does not guarantee enteral life. Nor does it guarantee a life free from hardship.

The key word Paul uses is dia, through. The images is that we have to pass through many hardships. We can't go around, or just sit and pray for God to take them away. The only path is through.

The good news is that these two reading do fit together. If we are true disciples we can simultaneously pass through the troubles, the pain, the pressures of life, and be at peace. Why? Because we know what is on the other side, and we know that it's worth it. We know that if we hold on tightly to Christ, and surrounded by his body, the Church, there is no hardship that can knock us down. We may get jostled around, banged up a bit, bruised. But at the end of that tunnel is the Kingdom of God.

So if today you find yourself getting banged around by life, remind yourself that, no matter how small the hardship, if you unite it with the suffering of Christ you are one step closer to the kingdom.