Little Easter 4

Radical

Earlier this week a friend shared some concerns with me that I might be viewed as a bit too radical for this part of the world.  So I struggled with this notion of being “too radical”.  For several hours I was feeling quite sullen and deeply conflicted.  Was I doing more harm than good?  Was I really too radical?  If so, what could I do to right the ship?  So many thoughts were going through my mind, and my heart was troubled.  And then some things happened that renewed my mind and transformed my spirit.

First, let me set the stage just a bit further.  There is some concern that my Lenten discipline might ruffle some feathers of the local legal community, perhaps giving them the wrong impression of myself and/or produce a slightly negative reputation.  The friend had fine intentions, wanting us to think through the long-term effects of my “personal convictions”.  I can understand this sentiment.  I have had to discern on several occasions whether I should wear the orange uniform, participate in some event, or go public at a certain place.  All of this discernment is necessary so that I do consider in a non-legalistic way the effects my personal spiritual discipline will have, not just now but in the coming months and years.  These concerns from and about the legal community really got to me.

So now dispirited, I received a phone call from a good friend later that afternoon.  He was calling for something totally unrelated to all of this, but little did he know how timely his call would be for me.  So after he unexpectedly got an earful from me, he quite wisely stated, “But Kent, you will never hear these concerns or statements from those who actually suffer.  The poor and oppressed aren’t concerned about you being too radical.”  Amen, brother, amen.

So I began again at that moment to remember that I am not doing this for the powers that be.  I am wearing the orange prison uniform for the powerless and voiceless.  On their behalf, I am using what power I have to speak truth to power, in love and grace, with a call for our collective confession and repentance and transformation.  The cries of the powerless matter more to me than the concerns of the powerful. For I trust in God’s unfailing love, and my heart rejoices in our Lord’s salvation (Psalm 13:5).

And then the Spirit of Life didn’t stop there.  The next morning I got a call from the front desk of Mission Waco’s Meyer Center for Urban Ministries, where I work, that said a woman and her son insisted on seeing me.  They were waiting in our all-purpose area.  So I drudgingly walked across the building and down the stairs, all the while thinking, “I hope this doesn’t take too long and isn’t too difficult; I am tired and have too much to do today!”  And then I turned the corner and saw the faces of this mother and her son light up with smiles that warmed me to my core.  “I saw you on TV, sitting on those courthouse steps”, exclaimed the mother [I couldn’t tell her it was just the steps of our building, ha]. “I just had to meet you and bring my son to talk with you.  This is as exciting to me as if I was meeting President Obama!”

Whoa, hold up a second.  President Obama.  I doubt that.  It’s just me, Kent McKeever, lawyer for the poor, minister to youth, father, husband, stumbling and bumbling sinner.  It’s just me.  But in these moments together and as I reflected on the experience, I began to allow this meeting of spirits to remind me of what matters most.  I don’t share this story with you to assert or suggest that I am as important as President Obama!  But maybe I was to this woman and her son.  You see, this mother’s son had just been released from prison.  He had been sentenced to 30 years for aggravated robbery.  The weapon that “aggravated” the robbery was a belt.  A BELT!  But now he was free and turning his life around after years in bondage to addiction and injustice.

Maybe my radical expression of God’s Grace and Love — the Hope of a different way of living, a faith that is willing to be “too radical”, a vision and act that confronts the culture of death we live in with the Way, the Truth, and the Life we know through Jesus and the Spirit of Life — maybe this radical expression was just radical enough.  Especially for the poor and oppressed.

God’s love is radical.  God’s grace is radical.  The hope we have in Jesus and the Life of the Spirit is radical.  My journey is not about me or my radical personal convictions.  This journey is about how I might understand and express this radical God through a radical faith in a radical confrontation with the powers of death in our world with the radical truth that Life and Love win. Why wouldn’t I want to be a radical messenger of Hope and healing to a mother and a son needing to hear a word of Grace?!  Why wouldn’t I be radical if I truly believe God loves me and you and God’s whole beautiful broken world?!

Yet in the same breath, why is my journey considered so extreme, so different, so disconcerting to some, and yet hope-filling to others?  It pains me that in living out our faith as followers of Jesus, my acts are not just considered the norm.  We come from a long line of radical mothers and fathers of our faith.  Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, Isaiah, Amos, Peter, Nathanael, Mary, John, Paul, Timothy, Lydia, Francis, Catherine, Gustavo, Martin, Theresa, Oscar, Dorothy, William, Bryan, Gary, and on and on and on.  Why is living out a radical faith in Life and Love so gosh darn strange?  Why are Christians sometimes the first and often the loudest in efforts to discredit, quiet, and counter a radical faith in Hope and Grace?  Can we truly say these words and mean them if we are not willing to be “too radical” — “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel; it is the power of God for salvation…”?!

Ultimately, my prayer is that acts such as my own will be the norm for followers of Jesus. I do not want to be “too radical”.  I want “too radical” to be the way we all live as faithful followers of Jesus.  In this way, maybe each one of us will find the one person we will excite with Hope and fill with Love so that we will truly be more exciting to them than meeting President Obama [_______________].  [I fully realize that President Obama may be the last person some of you may want to meet, so feel free to insert your own “celebrity” into the blank.  Ha]

Everyone felt a sense of awe because the apostles were doing many signs and wonders among them. There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust. They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts. The new disciples praised God, and they enjoyed the goodwill of all the people of the city. Day after day the Lord added to their number everyone who was experiencing liberation.  Acts 2:43-47, The Voice

RADICAL IS OUR WAY OF LIFE.  SO TOGETHER LET’S LIVE RADICALLY IN GRACE, WITH HOPE, FAITH, AND MOST OF ALL, LOVE.  

 

 

 

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2 comments

  1. I’m still enjoying your posts. When I read this from Pope Francis, I thought of you and what you posted about today; about those of us on the outside behind blind to what is going on in our system.

    Again thank you for being a voice for those who don’t have one.

    Debbie Leal Amarillo, Texas

    *On Coming to the Light*

    *”We must repent, we must stop acting in these ways so we can set out decisively on the road of sanctity”*

    VATICAN CITY, March 30, 2014 (Zenit.org) – Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address before and after the recitation of the Angelus today to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

    * * *

    Dear brothers and sisters, hello,

    Today’s Gospel presents us with the episode of the man born blind to whom Jesus gives sight. The long narrative opens with a blind man who begins to see and closes – this is curious – with those who presumably see and who continue to be blind in their soul. John tells of the miracle in just 6 verses because he wants to draw attention not to the miracle but to what happens afterward, that is, to the discussions that the miracle causes. He also wants to draw attention to the gossip. Often a good work, a charitable work causes gossip and discussion, because there are some who do not wish to see the truth. The evangelist John wants to draw attention to this, which also happens today when a good work is done. The blind man who is healed is first interrogated by the astonished crowd – they saw the miracle and they interrogate him. Then he is interrogated by the doctors of the law; and they also interrogate his parents. In the end, the blind man who is healed arrives at faith, and this is greatest grace that Jesus bestows upon him: not only to see him but to know him, to see him as “the light of the world” (John 9:5).

    While the blind man comes gradually closer to the light, the doctors of the law on the contrary sink ever further into their interior blindness. Shut up in their presumptions, they think they have the light; because of this they do not open to Jesus’ truth. They do everything they can to deny the evidence. They question the reliability of the man who is healed; then they deny the action of God in the healing, saying that God does not heal on the Sabbath; then, finally, they doubt that the man was even born blind. Their closure to the light becomes aggressive and leads to the expulsion of the man who is healed from the Temple.

    The path of the blind man instead is a gradual process that begins with knowing Jesus’ name. He does not know anything else about him. In fact, he says: “The man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes” (9:11). In response to the pressing questions of the doctors of the law he first says that Jesus is a prophet (9:17) and then a man close to God (9:31). After he is thrown out of the Temple, excluded from society, Jesus finds him again and “opens his eyes” a second time, revealing to him is true identity: “I am the Messiah,” he tells him. At this point, the man who was blind exclaims: “I believe, Lord!” (9:38), and prostrates himself before Jesus. This is a passage of the Gospel that gives us a glimpse of the drama of the interior blindness of many people. And we glimpse our own interior blindness too because we sometimes have moments of such blindness.

    Our life is sometimes similar to that of the blind man who is open to the light, who is open to God, who is open to his grace. Sometimes, unfortunately, our life is a little like that of the doctors of the law: from the height of our pride we judge others, and, in the end, the Lord! Today we are invited to open ourselves up to the light of Christ to bear fruit in our life, to eliminate non-Christian ways of acting; we are all Christians, but all of us, all of us, at times act in ways that are not Christian, we act in ways that are sinful. We must repent, we must stop acting in these ways so we can set out decisively on the road of sanctity. This road has its beginning in Baptism. We too are “enlightened” by Christ in Baptism, so that, as St. Paul notes, we can walk as “children of light” (Ephesians 5:8), with humility, patience, mercy. These doctors of the law did not have humility, patience or mercy!

    I would like to suggest to you today, when you return home, to open the Gospel of John and read this passage of chapter 9. It will do you well, because in this way you will see this road from blindness to light and the other, wicked road toward deeper blindness. Let us ask ourselves about the state of our heart. Do I have an open heart or a closed one? Open or closed to God? Open or closed to my neighbor? We always have some closure in us born of sin, of mistakes, of errors. We must not be afraid! Let us open ourselves up to the Lord. He awaits us always to help us see better, to give us light, to forgive us. Let us not forget this! To the Virgin Mary we entrust the Lenten journey, so that we too, like the blind man who was healed, can with the grace of Christ “come to the light,” make progress toward the light and be reborn to a new life.

    [Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father again addressed those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.]

    I cordially greet the families, parish groups, associations and individual faithful from Italy and from many other countries, in particular those from Ponferrada and Valladolid; the students and professors from the Murcia, Castelfranco de Cordoba and Langanés, the students of the colleges of Paris and the Portuguese émigrés of London.

    I greet the Lasallian Youth Movement, the “Youth, art and faith of St. Paola Frassinetti” group, the university group from Venice.

    I offer a special greeting to the members of the Italian military who have made a pilgrimage on foot from Loreto to Rome, praying for the peaceful and just resolution of conflicts. And this is very beautiful: in the Beatitudes Jesus says blessed are they who work for peace.

    A thought goes out to faithful from Potenza, Atella, Sulmona, Lomagna, Conegliano, Locara, Naples, Afragola, Ercolano and Torre del Greco; to the young confirmandi from Gardone Valtrompia, Ostia, Reggio Emilia, Fane, Serramazzoni and Parma; to thei students from Massa Carrara and Genova-Pegli.

    Finally, I greet the choir from Brembo, the Polisportiva Laurentino of Rome, the motorcyclists of Terni-Narni; the representatives of the World Wildlife Fund of Italy, encouraging them in their efforts on behalf of the environment.

    Don’t forget today – when you get home, open the Gospel of John, chapter 9, and read this story of the blind man who was given sight and of the people who were thought to have sight who sank deeper into their blindness.

    I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye!

    [Translation by Joseph Trabbic]

    Debbie Leal

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