Sunday, January 28, 2018
Sunday Reflection: To go with the Divine flow
What follows is my homily this Sunday for the Emmaus Inclusive Catholic Community, which continues to meet monthly even though we lost our Roman Catholic Woman Priest, Ruthie, last Easter. Tune in for more about the Emmaus Community next Sunday.
The Sunday scriptures both last week and this week have spoken about what it takes to be a prophet – last week we heard about Jonah, the prophet who didn’t want to go to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-5,10) but finally did (after taking a detour through a fish’s belly), and this week we hear about Moses (Deut. 18:15-20) begging God to appoint a new prophet to the Israelites. It seems that hearing God’s voice and seeing God’s fire got to be too much for Moses, and he was afraid he’d die if it kept on happening. Moses and Jonah found that hearing and responding to what God wants can pretty challenging. Does that resonate with you at all?
And then there’s Jesus, the Son of God, the most connected prophet of them all. In today’s reading (Mark 1:21-28) the people are enthralled by him, saying, “He speaks with authority! Even the unclean spirits obey him!” And the excitement around him builds, and his fame spreads, at least until he starts challenging them to look at their own lives.
Being a prophet IS hard work, because you can’t be a really good prophet unless you’ve done the work that gets your own ego out of the way and unless you know who you’re talking about, like Jesus clearly did. Both Moses and Jonah weren’t quite up to the challenges God set for them, but Jesus managed to hear God’s voice and see God’s fire and speak God’s truth because he knew himself to be God’s child, God’s beloved, and he trusted God to take care of the rest. Moses and Jonah seem to have developed small “God complexes” thanks to their egos – saying to themselves, God wants this, but maybe it would be better if I did it my way – and they got steered off course a few times.
I’m guessing that’s because it’s just too easy to second-guess God. When things are moving along smoothly and life is going according to our plans, prayers of thanksgiving and praise flow naturally. But when God asks for things that seem chaotic and beyond our control, our egos spring into action to try to fix things. Maybe we harden our hearts a little. We make excuses, we come up with alternate plans, and we forget how to listen to what God really wants and do it God's way. For me, prayer usually goes out the window when I jump into fix-it-myself mode.
But Jesus spent a lot of time listening to God. He prayed so that he could go with the Divine Flow instead of what his ego told him. The only thing he ever said that sounded like second-guessing God was when he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But I think what he was really doing was showing us that it’s okay to be human, to have doubts and fears, as long as you leave everything in God’s loving hands. That’s the ultimate challenge. Which he accepted and fulfilled, on that cross.
I’ll admit to having second-guessed God many times in my life, never with good results. The most recent is in dealing with my youngest child, who came out recently as a non-binary, asexual teenager. Jay has gone through a legal name change now so that their legal identity fits who they feel that they are, neither a boy nor a girl, but somewhere in between. Jay is Jay.
Unfortunately, through it all, my "God complex", my ego, kept insisting that Jay was just passing through a phase, or attention-seeking, or going through teenage self-esteem issues and insecurities, and that they’d get over it, given enough time. In the meantime, I took on a lot of guilt and self-blame for Jay’s “being this way.” I was second-guessing God, not believing that God could make my child different gender-wise, and feeling that it was my fault somehow. How is a person who was raised with a bible that announces in its first few pages, “male and female God created them,” supposed to get their mind around gender identities outside of those two boxes?
Short answer: by putting aside my own ego, and a bible written by humans who don’t really understand the huge heart of God, and by not second-guessing God. By understanding that God has a much wider view of humanity than most humans ever will. God made Jay, and Jay’s experience of being non-binary isn’t my experience or the experience of most people I know, but does that make it impossible? With God, all things are possible.
Jay is a young adult who is coming to know themself and their way of being in the world, a really wonderful kid with a huge heart, a creative spirit, and a marvelous sense of humour. So getting my ego, my education, my background and my religious upbringing out of the way and accepting Jay as God made them is what I believe God has been asking of me for quite a while already. It just took me some time to get the message because I was scared, like Jonah and Moses. I wasn’t entrusting the situation into God’s loving hands because I was afraid that God was asking too much of Jay, and of me.
And don’t get me wrong – God is asking a lot. I worry for Jay. I know that our world operates out of those female and male boxes, and that there are many people who are afraid of the kind of diversity that God is giving us through people like Jay. I’m afraid of the backlash from those fearful people. But Jay is brave, and is teaching me to be brave, to set my ego aside and trust our Creator who made Jay as they are. Just as Jesus trusted God with his life.
I started by talking about prophets and their struggles. And I guess my point here is that we are all prophets in one way or another. God calls all of us to set aside our biases and egos and let God work through us rather than in spite of us. That’s what Jesus did. We may not think of ourselves as prophets if we aren’t out there challenging the world. But if prophets are those who bring messages from God to people, isn’t that what we are all doing by living the gospel? We are called to trust, to set our egos aside and to let God work through us, even in ways like the one I've just shared with you.
So where is God asking you to set your ego aside and trust -- so that God’s will, that Divine flow, can be revealed to others through you?