Those who admit they are in need!
– by Bishop Marty Shanahan –
Good evening everyone.
I hope and pray that your Thanksgiving celebrations – however that was for you – I hope it held a few moments of gratitude and grace.
What we just finished hearing is probably one of the most famous parables of the Gospel tradition, Parables are a literary style, used by orators and, especially in the time of Christ, by Jewish Theologians – Rabbis – for teaching. Parables get us to think deeper about the truth they are trying to illustrate. Maybe that is why Jesus so often used them – to get the disciples to think beyond their experience?
Parables also allow us to insert ourselves into the story – to let us take a place in the story. So if that is true then let’s try it as well.
There are sheep – the ones who are saved.
There are goats – the ones who will be cast to eternal punishment
Now if we are to be honest with each other, I think we could say we could find entry points into both groups throughout our lives, right? Sometimes we have given selflessly of time, talents, money, and surplus, and occasionally, we have even given out of our need.
Other times we have been selfish and ignored the needs of others, or failed to pay attention, because we are too busy, to preoccupied, and we just can’t be bothered for whatever reason.
Isn’t it interesting that both groups ask the same question? When did we?
You see my friends, there is a third grouping in this parable. A grouping which I daresay few, if any, ever really identify.
There are those who help – the sheep.
There are those who don’t help – the goats.
And there are those who needed help – the poor, the homeless, the stranger, the naked, the imprisoned, and it is with this group that Jesus identifies. When you did it for…you did it to me!!
Those who stand in need – that is where Jesus resides.
You see my friends, we live in a time and place that can be very dangerous to the Spiritual Life. We live in a world that seems to be lifting up the ideology of self-reliance and self-actualization as if we do not need God. And in all honesty – we don’t.
But, if we go back to the parable, I would venture to conclude that those who don’t find that they have any need in their lives or the lives of others, probably will not be finding much comfort in eternal life.
Some of you know that I have been dedicating some time to trying to figure out the “millennial” generation.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with a young man who is in a graduate class at the University of Minnesota – in Bio Medical Ethics! I love that subject and have an MA in it myself. But, as I was listening to him, I found his comments, and the comments of the others around him, were quite revealing.
The millennial generation is not without faith – they just find that in their world, or at least in this particular subject, the Church has fallen into a lack of relevancy. The church has nothing to say where science is advancing leaps and bounds.
So I asked myself why, because most institutions of higher learning were founded by major religious orders and today almost all those institutions are not run by priests, sisters, or brothers. They are dying off, and in today’s world, theologians are not paid enough to live, or to maintain the relevancy that was characteristic of our world before. That is a challenge for us and for our Church. How do we maintain relevancy in our world.?
Please do not get me wrong. I am not laying a guilt trip on anyone, for anything. What I am trying to point out is that in this parable, Jesus makes it very clear that if we seek the God who was revealed in Jesus the Christ, we will find that God in our admitting that we stand in need of God.
On Jan 30, 1994 on a dusty street in Mazatlan Mexico, I stood in morning sun and finally admitted that I needed God.
I am powerless over alcohol – and I have to say – I learned much in that moment.
I learned what Jesus meant by this parable. I learned that I am not God, and that ultimately, I stand in need of God’s loving embrace. I learned in that moment, and in many moments since, that God’s grace can only become active in our lives when we allow it to be. That is the basis for free will, which God will never violate.
I have also learned that we can tap into the Divine Energy and Mystery of this universe, only if we let go of our ego, long enough to let God transform us.
Ego – I understand it as an acronym not as a word.
In my life it stands for Edging God Out – and I bet you and I are a lot alike – I would venture to believe that we want God in our lives, not out of them, or we would most likely not be wasting our time here.
Thank you for revealing the face of God every time you walk through those doors.
– Bishop Marty