Psalm 70, 71; 1 Kings 22:29-45; 1 Cor. 2:14-3:15; Matt. 5:1-10
I often think that St Francis of Assisi is so admired because, having seen how hard his example is, most of us (including me) have simply chosen not to try following that path. Same with Mother Theresa. We admire, but we don’t imitate.
Same goes with Jesus, if we’re honest. Jesus is hard, hard, hard, friends. Far easier to domesticate Him into a talisman, embracing His cross but refusing to pick up ours, relying on His forgiveness while paying lip-service to His demands. Matthew’s watered down Beatitudes, which soften Luke’s far harsher ‘blessed are you when you’re poor…hungry…weeping…despised’ into things like ‘poor in spirit’ and ‘hungry for righteousness’: even watered down they’re so hard that I prefer to admire from a distance rather than attempt to imitate in the messiness of my daily life. I don’t want to be meek: I want to be effective. I don’t want to mourn: I want to throw a party to celebrate our shared happiness! I don’t want mercy for others: I want justice, and I want it now! And I don’t want to be persecuted, not even for righteousness’ sake: I want to be admired and applauded. So thank You, Jesus, for showing me a more excellent way…and thank You for forgiving me when I choose, over and over again, not to pursue it.
This is a confession, and it’s not something I’m proud of. But it is honest. The Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ immense love for the people nailing Him onto the cross, His refusal to fight in His own defense: these are hard models for life that I usually avoid noticing even as I call upon His name. They cut against everything–every last thing–we’re told will make us successful and fulfilled and happy. And I’m not a saint: I’m striving to be, but nowhere close. All the things the world has sold us, all the guaranteed paths to be successful and fulfilled and happy, the same things we’ve been sold for thousands of years now, have they ever delivered on their promise? And yet still, I keep striving to harmonize their easy answers with Jesus’ hard path to life. Jesus says we need, desperately, to change our perspective and reorient our lives in a totally different direction. To choose the path less traveled and trust that it will make all the difference.
And I really admire Him for saying that. I do. I just wish He’d given me, well, easier instructions for life…