We all are familiar with the stereotype of men refusing to ask for directions. The stereotype holds that men prefer to rely on themselves and that to ask for directions is a sign of weakness, being less of a man. The problem is that by not asking for directions the man only gets more lost. It helps to have a map, but what if the person looking at the map is not familiar with the territory or doesn’t even know which direction is north in order to orient the map? What if the map is out of date? He’s still lost. It helps to have a person with the driver who knows the territory, knows what roads are not under repair, knows the best way to get somewhere.
Humanity can act like the stubborn man who insists he knows the way trusting his “sense of direction” that gets lost. Humanity, in its arrogance can insist that it knows the way to a fuller life and it proceeds to get itself more and more lost. In humanity’s focusing on self fulfillment, self-improvement, what’s best for me humanity is lost.
We do have a traveling companion on the journey of life that knows the territory of being human, that knows the best way to get where we’re going. That person is Jesus! Not only does he travel with us, having become incarnate, but we are part of his body through the fact of our baptism. He carries us, he is the driver of our life if we let him have the wheel.
What direction does Jesus give us? He tells us turn around! Repent! You, O humanity, are on the wrong road, a road that only leads to destruction! Follow your sense of direction at your peril. Let me show you the way! The Kingdom of God is near!
What does Jesus mean, “The Kingdom of God is near!”? God’s way to life is present IN JESUS. When he says the Kingdom of God is at hand he is talking about himself. And where is Jesus? In the midst of the baptized.
The Kingdom is not a set of rules. It is not a territorial geo-political entity. The Kingdom is not a system of doctrines or moral regulations. It is living in Christ, taking on his life in the midst of this world until the kingdom is fulfilled in eternity.
The announcement of Christ that the Kingdom of God is near is an invitation to us to form a relationship with him. The key to salvation, being saved from the destruction of ourselves, is to be in a personal relationship with Jesus, by being a part of the church! Today’s gospel is an invitation to stop focusing on the self and the preservation and happiness of self, on our own abilities and establish a relationship, an identity IN JESUS. You and I, and all of humanity needs to make Jesus’ life our life. That is a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. We are to live for others, not ourselves. When Jesus calls the apostles in the Gospel he is inviting them to enter into an intimate relationship with him.
Yet it is not enough, though, for an apostle (or for us) to accept an invitation to relationship with the Savior. Apostle means “one who is sent.” Each man who was called to be apostle must have had some quality, some skill, that would be useful in announcing the nearness of the Kingdom, the Life of God so that the invitation to relationship with Jesus can be given to the whole world.
You and I, brothers and sisters, are members of an “apostolic church.” That doesn’t just mean that the church was founded by the apostles. It means that we are a church who’s purpose, whose identity is at the core a people who make Jesus present and invite people into relationship with him for the sake of the world, not for our own sake.
This weekend, there is a practical example of the Church being apostolic going on in our country, where we as the presence of Christ are extending the invitation of Christ to get on the right road and discover that real life is found in the way of life embodied by the Kingdom. Catholics and Christians are marching in Washington, like Jonah going through the large city of Nineveh, proclaiming “Nation! Leave the path of selfishness and self abortion that abortion ultimately exemplifies.” The March for Life happening in Washington D.C. is ultimately an invitation to repent, to recognize God’s life is among us in the unborn and the gift of children.
As individuals, as a nation, we can insist we know what we’re doing, that we know best and end up destroying the self. If we keep on that road it will be like we are blindly driving off an unfinished bridge and end up drowning in the water below trapped in our vehicles of selfishness. OR we can admit we need to change course and accept the invitation of Jesus to travel with him and he with us. Then we will be on the way to where God desires us to be, alive and existing as our best self, in the image of Christ.
© 2012, Rev. Joseph C. Rascher