LENT: Friday of the Second Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

From Show Me The Way

I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:43)

Even though it may be realistic to admit that there is hardly any news in the sermon for most people, the core message of the Gospel nonetheless contains a Truth that no one has yet fully made true.  And real listening means nothing less than the constant willingness to confess that you have not yet realized what you profess to believe.  Who likes to hear, for example, that the last will be first, if he happens to be first?  And who wants to hear that those who are poor, who mourn, who are hungry, thirsty, and persecuted are called happy, when he is wealthy, self-content, well-fed, praised for his good wines, and admired by all his friends?  Who wants to hear that he has to love his enemies and pray for those who persecute him when he calls his boss an S.O.B., his own son a good-for-nothing tramp?

The message might be the same all through life and might be repeated over and over again in different words and styles, but he who will let it really come through allows himself, at the same time, the possibility of coming to an insight that might well have consequences for his style of life, which he is not eager to take.  The truth, after all, is radical: It goes to the roots of a man’s life in such a way that few are those who want it and the freedom it brings with it.  There is, in fact, such an outright fear to face the Truth in all its directness and simplicity that irritation and anger seem to be a more common human response than a humble confession that one also belongs to the group Jesus criticized.


For a Christian is only a Christian when he unceasingly asks critical questions of the society in which he lives and continuously stresses the necessity for conversion, not only of the individual but also of the world.  A Christian is only a Christian when he refuses to allow himself or anyone else to settle into a comfortable rest.  He remains dissatisfied with the status quo.  And he believes that he has an essential role to play in the realization of the new world to come — even if he cannot say how that world will come about.  A Christian is only a Christian when he keeps saying to everyone he meets that the good news of the kingdom has to be proclaimed to the whole world and witnessed to all nations. (Matthew 24:13)  As long as a Christian lives he keeps searching for a new order without divisions between people, for a new structure that allows every man to shake hands with every other man, and a new life in which there will be lasting unity and peace.  He will not allow his neighbor to stop moving, to lose courage, or to escape into small everyday pleasures to which he can cling.  He is irritated by satisfaction and self-content in himself as well as in others since he knows, with an unshakable certainty, that something great is coming of which he has already seen the first rays of light.  He believes that this world not only passes but has to pass in order to let the new world be born.  He believes that there will never be a moment in this life in which one can rest in the supposition that there is nothing left to do.  But he will not despair when he does not see the result he wanted to see.  For in the midst of all his work he keeps hearing the words of the One sitting on the throne: “I am making the whole of creation new.” (Revelation 21:5)

Prayer

God, you wish to reveal to us
how rich is the glory of your mystery
among the gentiles;
it is Christ among us, our hope of glory!
This is the Christ
we are proclaiming, admonishing, and instructing
everyone in all wisdom,
to make everyone perfect in Christ.
After Colossians 1:7-28

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