Thursday, December 1, 2011

Admitting Allegiances: Thursday, First Week of Advent

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” – Mt 7:21

Richard Rohr remarked poignantly that we cannot genuinely pray “Thy Kingdom come” (as in the Our Father) out of one side of our mouths without saying “my kingdom go” out of the other side of our mouths. Moreover, we cannot serve two masters; we will always love one while ignoring the other (Mt 6:24). We often trust our own political parties, military, banks, credit cards, financial resources, families, cultural or religious groupings, significant others, or our own education or strengths more than God’s goodness and promise. When this happens, we are really saying with our actions, that we don’t genuinely want God’s kingdom to come.

Consecrated religious like me live by three vows: obedience, chastity, poverty. Of the three, I struggle the most with the third. More often than not, when I do not embrace actual or spiritual poverty, I will soon falter in the other two vows. Embracing poverty means placing greater trust in God’s Providential care and less on my own abilities, the financial stability of the Jesuits, or the goodness of people to provide. These are not mutual exclusive things, to rely on others’ goodness or in God’s. However, when I overly worry for a friend who suffers or another who cannot find a job, or overwork to get things done the way I’d like, or overcome by fears, or have my day “made”  by one person’s praise or “ruined” by another’s critique, am I just saying “Thy Kingdom come” but not letting other kingdoms go. This is a sobering realization.

While it is difficult, painful, humbling to admit that I really trust that other thing, myself, or person more than God in my present choices, it is also freeing. Some days, I may have to acknowledge to God, “Lord, I’m doing it again, do you still love me?” some 50-100 times. Yet, gradually, a shift is made, whether I am aware of it or not. A focus away from myself and from my other allegiances. A greater reliance on God.

Maybe this is what Jesus means later in today’s Gospel when he challenges us to build houses on solid rock foundations rather than on sand.

What “kingdoms” do you and I need to let go to make room for the Kingdom of God? It can begin with an open-eyed stance and acknowledgment, “Lord, I’m doing it again, do you love me?” or “Lord, I’m doing it again, please help/heal me.”

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