Don’t Give Up!
This raises the question, “Is God just as present in absence as in presence?” Or to put it another way, “Is the divine intervention always there supporting us whether we think it is present or not?”
The answer of the parables is emphatically yes. The kingdom of God is active in failure, ordinariness, everydayness. If we wait for a miraculous rescue, a vindictive triumph or some idealized lifestyle to appear, we are looking for the wrong kingdom, certainly not the one that Jesus is revealing.
There is no place to go to the find the kingdom because it is always close at hand. We do not need to look for success because the kingdom is equally present in failure. What is disconcerting for the hearers of the parables is that the kingdom is not only present and active in failure and in ordinariness, but it is at work in the unclean, in the prostitutes and tax collectors to whom Jesus extends table fellowship.
According to Jesus, God is in total solidarity with ordinary daily life with its poignant failures in the spiritual journey as well as in everything else. Thus God’s mercy invites us to show compassion and solidarity with all the other sinners in the world, including public sinners and street people, who in the parable of the great dinner, are the only ones who finally got in (Luke 14:16-24).
The kingdom is present not in grandiose accomplishments, but in showing practical love in humble ways, day after day, and in refusing to allow our failures and disappointments to hide God’s love from us. God invites us to share the divine emptiness. The divine emptiness might also be described as total vulnerability: the willingness to be hurt over and over again without loving less but more. That means never giving up on anyone, not even ourselves. Of such is the kingdom of God.”
— Thomas Keating in The Kingdom of God Is Like . . .
There was a sign in my high school football coach’s office. It said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” When we struggle through life, darkness can set in and completely debilitate us. That is when we must “spit in Satan’s eye” and move out of our self-pity. The best way I know how to do that is to help someone else in need. It takes the focus off of me and onto others. If you’re down. If you’re depressed. If you lack motivation. Get tough. Get up and work through those feelings. Once you do, you’ll find that the darkness you were in has been diminished…maybe it has even disappeared. Self-talk yourself in those times by saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going…and that’s me!”
Love in Christ,
The writings of Fr. Thomas Keating are taken from Spirituality and Practice. The reflections are my own.
M.Rev. Ed Jansen is the Bishop of the Diocese of St. Benedict and Rev. Dr. Trish Gaffney is its Vicar General
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