LENT: Monday of the Third Week in Lent, by Henri J. M. Nouwen

From Show Me The Way

In truth, I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took  him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff, but he passed straight through the crowd and walked away. (Luke 4:24, 28-30)

He became a human being among a small, oppressed people, under very difficult circumstances.  He was held in contempt by the rulers of his country and was put to a shameful death between two criminals.

There was nothing spectacular about Jesus’s life.  Far from it!  Even when you look at Jesus’s miracles, you find that he did not heal or revive people in order to get publicity.  He frequently forbade them even to talk about it.  His resurrection too was a hidden event.  Only his disciples and a few of the women and men who had known him intimately before his death saw him as the risen Lord.

Now that Christianity has become one of the major world religions and millions of people utter the name of Jesus every day, it’s hard for us to believe that Jesus revealed God in hiddenness.  But neither Jesus’s life nor his death nor his resurrection were intended to astound us with the great power of God.  God became a lowly, hidden, almost invisible God.

That’s a mystery which is difficult to grasp in an age that attaches so much value to publicity.  We tend to think that the more people know and talk about something, the more important it must be.  That’s understandable, considering the fact that great notoriety often means big money, and big money often means a large degree of power, and power easily creates the illusion of importance.  In our society, it’s often statistics that determine what’s important: the best-selling LP, the most popular book, the richest man, the highest tower-block, the most expensive car.

*****

It strikes me again and again that, in our publicity-seeking world, a lot of discussions about God take it as their starting point that even God has to justify himself.  People often say, “If that God of yours really exists, then why doesn’t he make his omnipotence more visible in this chaotic world of ours?”  God is called to account, as it were, and mockingly invited to prove, just for once, that he really does exist.  Again, you often hear someone say, “I’ve no need whatever for God.  I can perfectly well look after myself.  As a matter of fact, I’ve yet to receive any help from God with my problems!”  The bitterness and sarcasm evident in remarks of this sort show what’s expected: that God should at least be concerned about his own popularity.  People often talk as though God has as great a need for recognition as we do.

Now look at Jesus, who came to reveal God to us, and you see that popularity in any form is the very thing he avoids.  He is constantly pointing out that God reveals himself in secrecy.  It sounds very paradoxical, but accepting and, I would venture to say, entering into that paradox sets you on the road of the spiritual life.

Prayer

Lord, I pray for all who witness for you in this world:
ministers, priests, and bishops,
men and women who have dedicated their lives to you,
and all those who try to bring the light of the Gospel
into the darkness of this age.
Give them courage, strength, perseverance, and hope;
fill their hearts and minds
with the knowledge of your presence,
and let them experience your name
as their refuge from all dangers.
Most of all, give them the joy of of your Spirit,
so that wherever they go and whomever they meet
they will remove the veil
of depression, fatalism, and defeatism
and will bring new life to the many
who live in constant fear of death.
Lord, be with all who bring the Good News.
Amen.

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