Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Difficulty of Discipleship

“If you build it, he will come.”

Remember that line? – From the movie “Field of Dreams”? In it, Ray Kinsella hears a voice whispering to him on his Iowa farm, “If you build it, he will come.” Ray, following the insistent voice, begins to cut a baseball field into his cornfield – eventually creating an entire stadium. He continues to follow the promptings of that voice, which lead him out to involve other people – all the while, he encounters resistance, rejection and mockery for his pursuit. The more he continues to follow the voice, the tougher Ray’s life gets.

He’s not that different from the poor man in the gospel today. Jesus encounters him as he is presented as an example of sin’s effects on a person. “Who sinned,” Jesus is asked, “this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus rejects that attitude and lets his hearers know that this man has been chosen, in fact, to reveal the works of God.

That encounter, however, changes the blind man – turns him “Inside-Out” – and life becomes very different for him – and not all in a good way. Certainly, he now has the ability to see, and he also wants to know the Man who gave him that ability; but the reaction of the crowds around him is less than positive. His neighbors first deny that he is even himself, then they begin to question him about the One who allowed him to see. The poor man seems overwhelmed by the inquiry.

Then, the questions become more belligerent, as the Pharisees enter in and demand to know how he is able to see. After his response, the questions soon turn to Jesus and His identity – whether Christ is a “sinful man,” as they believe, or “a prophet,” as the once-blind man testifies. They even involve the man’s parents, making life treacherous for them with their questions.

All this, because the man had an encounter with Jesus.

He is turned from inward darkness of blindness to outward light of sight and then testimony to Jesus. This is a true “inside-out” experience that reflects for us the life of the disciple. We first have our encounter with Jesus, and that encounter should change us. However, this is not simply a change that takes all difficulty and stress away. The life of a disciple is also a life of persecution and suffering, because that is the life of Christ. We cannot come here to church and expect it to be like Disney World, where all our problems go away. No. This is real life and real discipleship. When we are turned inside-out, it will be a tough experience for us at times. However, just as for the blind man, when we persevere in our discipleship, we grow in our understanding of the One who changed our life.

First, the man shares that “the man called Jesus” is the one who healed him. Later, he testifies that “He is a prophet.” Finally, when he has been thrown out of the Temple area and he is alone with Jesus, his eyes are completely opened.

“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”

Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.”

He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. 

The formerly blind man, who had been trapped in the darkness, now stands in the presence of the Light of the world, and he recognizes Him for Who He truly is: “Lord.” And he worships. That is discipleship.

During this Lent, we are led by the voice of Jesus, who calls to us. It is a call of discipleship; an invitation to encounter Him – like the woman at the well last week and the blind man this week. If we heed that voice, there may be resistance, rejection and mockery – that’s what happens when we are turned inside-out and bear our true selves. However, Jesus promises that this transformation carries with it the glory of heaven, and a sharing in His life.

We get a taste of this life in the Eucharist that we share. Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, allows us to bring our real problems, our sufferings, our persecutions, and to united them with His own – making them perfect. They don’t go away (if you want that, go to Disney World); rather, they become perfect offerings to the God who loves us beyond measure and sheds His holy light on us all.

No comments: