Sunday, February 3, 2013

Everyone Wants to Know the Plan

Everyone is looking for the plan.  Especially when we encounter suffering, we want to understand the plan.  There's got to be a plan.  We feel that very deeply within ourselves.  And there are certain things that we know are just not part of the plan.  A child suffering, a tragic death, a disaster, a marriage that falls apart . . . these things can't be part of the plan.  Young people especially want to understand the plan.  "What am I supposed to do with my life?  Why am I here?"  We have a sense that there is a plan, but it doesn't always feel like the plan is happening. 
The People Rejecting Jesus and Attempting to Throw Him Off the Hill
In fact, some people get so frustrated with how much the plan seems to be thwarted, that they give up on living like there is a plan.  They look around and see how much evil and suffering there is and they say, "There can't possible be a plan.  Everything is just random."  They try to suppress within themselves that hunger for order, for a plan.

The Hebrew people knew there was a plan.  And, they knew that the plan seemed to be way off track.  They were waiting for someone who would arrive and put the plan back into motion.  Isaiah the prophet had prophesied that someone was coming who would save the plan.  The spirit of the Lord would be upon him.  He would bring justice where there was no justice.  He would bring good news to the poor and set captives free.  The savior was coming.

In the Fourth Chapter of the Gospel of Luke--which we heard today at Mass--something really striking happens.  Jesus gets up and reads the prophecy about somebody coming who would save the plan.  Somebody was coming to put things back into order.  After he reads the words from Isaiah, he looks around at the people and he says, "I'm the one.  What you have been waiting for?  I'm the one."  The whole plan not only depends upon Jesus Christ, but HE IS THE WHOLE PLAN.

Now, if any of us were God, we'd probably send our savior wearing a cape and maybe some sort of mask.  Instead, God makes the entire plan center on a poor man, raised as a carpenter's son, in a nothing town called Nazareth.  Now, at the beginning of today's Gospel, people were really impressed by Jesus' words and they apparently were impressed by some of the miracles that rumor said he had performed elsewhere.  But fairly quickly, they begin putting up objections.  "Wait a minute.  We've been waiting for a savior and this is what we got?  A carpenter's son?  Impossible." 

This is what it comes down to: Faith is to say that the whole plan is the person of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes when we Catholics talk about faith, we really are just talking about peripheral stuff.  We are very comfortable talking about this issue or that issue.  Or, we are comfortable talking about Mass schedules, what color the pastor painted the foyer, or what priest is going to what assignment.  But, we get nervous talking about Jesus Christ.  But this is the whole heart of the plan!  Jesus is the plan!

Sometimes, people say to me, "You know, a lot of people would come back to the Church if the Church would just ordain women, or change its teaching on birth control, or abortion etc."  No they wouldn't!  There will always be objections.  In Jesus' Day, the issue was "If only he wasn't from Nazareth" or "If only he wasn't a carpenter's son."  Faith is about totally adhering to Jesus Christ.  If I can believe that the carpenter's son from Nazareth is the whole plan, then nothing is going to stop me from being part of his Church.

When I read today's Gospel, something really shocked me.  As the people begin to move from an initial interest in Jesus to an enraged fury with him, Jesus doesn't really debate them.  When they basically say, "You're not the messiah," he doesn't respond, "I am too the messiah."  Instead, something really powerful happens.  St. Luke tells us that he passed through the midst of them and went away.  Wow.  He stood before them and announced to them, "I am the plan."  Or, as St. John tells us, "I am the way the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father (no one gets to the end of the plan) except through me."  But, he doesn't stay there arguing with them. 

I think we all need to live our life constantly in that moment.  We always have to be in front of Christ and be ready to respond to his claim to be Lord and Savior.  In this moment, we must also recognize that Christ may not stay in front of us and debate us and try to satisfy our every objection.  He's not on trial in this moment.  We are.  When he makes this claim to be Lord and Savior, we are the ones who are on trial.  Are we going to be his disciples or not?  We have to live this question with an awareness that if we are obstinate and hard hearted, he may well pass through our midst and go away.  We ought not to waste our lives making petty arguments.  The claim that Jesus Christ makes is that he is the one who saves us for the plan.  He is the one who brings order back to disorder.  He is the one who restores all things.

Today--and every day--Jesus stands before us and announces himself to be the eternal plan of the Father.  Faith is to stake my whole life on that alone.  We constantly stand at this threshold.  Jesus is about to be on the move.  The question for all of us is, "Am I going to follow him?"

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