I recently attended a meeting of faculty and staff here at Creighton, to talk about how each of us works towards the mission of the University. We talked for about an hour, after which one of the erudite Jesuits spoke up: “We have talked about the mission for an hour, but not once has anyone mentioned Jesus Christ.”
The room went silent. He was right.
Our mission statement explicitly mentions Jesus. Why didn’t we?
Even at Creighton University, where we work very hard to create an atmosphere where we can freely exhibit the Christian and Catholic nature of our University, I am often hesitant to mention the name of Jesus Christ in all but my most familiar circles. It’s not that I’m ashamed, or even afraid; it’s just that I don’t want to “scare anyone away” with “God talk.”
Could it be that discussing our love of Jesus Christ and the faithful providence of God’s love has become so rare that we categorize it as a special kind of discussion, much as we might describe “baby talk” or “money talk?” Do we fear that telltale rolling of the eyes when we interject a little bit of God Talk into an otherwise mundane discussion?
In today’s Gospel, the disciples are appointed and sent out ahead of Jesus. Jesus instructs them to “eat what is set before you,” to cure the sick, and to say “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.”
There it is. God Talk. Jesus was all about God Talk. He lived God Talk. He taught God Talk (remember the Lord’s Prayer?). I don’t recall any passage in the Gospels where Jesus tells His disciples to witness to the coming of the Kingdom of God, but to maybe soften the message a bit when talking to people who may not take the message the right way and to be careful not to “scare potential disciples away.”
St. Francis and his fellow Religious modeled their lives after this Gospel passage, proclaiming the Word of God to those who would hear it, eating the food that was offered, and sleeping in any house where they were invited. Most likely, they didn’t temper their message based upon the receptivity of their audiences; in fact, they were given specific instructions on how to deal with those who would not receive them: Pray for them.
Yet, I would be remiss here if I did not explore this charge a little further. In my heart of hearts, I do not believe that Jesus is calling us to blurt out passage and verse in the middle of board meetings and around the morning coffee cart. If not supported with a prayer life, words about Jesus Christ can be just as shallow and meaningless as words about that new BMW some of us might like to buy.
In musical theatre, I’ve learned that the very best musical productions are staged in a way that, when that big musical number comes up, the performers are so immersed in the flow of the performance that they can do nothing else but break into song.
Let us “stage” our prayer and our lives in such a way that, when the time comes to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God, we are so immersed in the flow of Jesus’ presence in our world that it is our most natural, authentic, response. Our “audiences” will recognize and share that moment with us, and our words will ring authentically in their ears.
Then the other things we share (like the “rich foods and sweet drinks” featured in the first reading) will be much more satisfying.
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