Love Extravagantly!

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Love Extravagtantly

God Sees Behind Appearances

“10-13 Jesus went on to make these comments:

If you’re honest in small things,
    you’ll be honest in big things;
If you’re a crook in small things,
    you’ll be a crook in big things.
If you’re not honest in small jobs,
    who will put you in charge of the store?
No worker can serve two bosses:
    He’ll either hate the first and love the second
Or adore the first and despise the second.
    You can’t serve both God and the Bank.”

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     On a rainy, dark night, the phone rang and Donnie called. He was really sobbing and needed help. Donnie was young, 19, and struggling with his sexuality. In the weeks before he had been hanging out with a bunch of “fundie” Christians, was “saved”, and Donnie was now “straight”.

    That night he had “acted out”, in fact, he had been “acting out” with other men making money, and his new “friends” begged him to pray and pointed to Scripture which suggested one should “cut off” the member that had sinned. Donnie tried to cut off his penis. He had cut deep into his testicles.

    When I arrived, blood was everywhere, and the young “Christians” were praying, had their hands on his head, and on his hands holding his injury.

    As I helped him up to take him to the hospital one of the young girls commented, “Let him stay so we can pray the “sin out of him,” and my response is not quotable.

    Donnie was bandaged, healed, and spent the next five years of his life really struggling, and one night he walked out into traffic, both his legs were cut off and spent the rest of his life in a care facility where he died of an infection.

    In our gospel we see Jesus praising a dishonest man, or was he not praising his ingenuity?

    The renowned intellectual Bernard Lonergan once shared that he liked this text because “it is the one place in scripture where human intelligence and ingenuity are praised.”  The question one might raise is “Why would Jesus use an example of dishonesty to do this?”

    Because what Jesus is praising here is not dishonestly but ingenuity–ingenuity as the antithesis of complaint, whining, and despair. Jesus points out that those who are outside our religious circles tend to be more ingenious in times of trouble than we committed believers who often give ourselves over to grumbling and inaction.

    Our religious circles and our social circles are made up of people we feel comfortable with, usually of the same economic, and racial makeup. They are made up of the same religious, and political beliefs. To cross those boundaries makes us uncomfortable, and so we complain, groan, and act out against anyone who differs from us.

    I am with Lonergan in his takeaway from this story: Ingenuity is the opposite of complaint and despair. I live in the grey areas, there is no black or white.

    Our fears, complaints, and whining come from a fear of death, death in all aspects–loss of social status, friends, and life. Henri Nouwen tells us to “Befriend Death

Our first task is to befriend death. I like the expression “to befriend.” I first heard it used by Jungian analyst James Hillman when he attended a seminar I taught on Christian Spirituality at Yale Divinity School. He emphasized the importance of “befriending”: befriending your dreams, befriending your shadow, befriending your unconscious. He made it convincingly clear that in order to become full human beings, we have to claim the totality of our experience; we come to maturity by integrating not only the light but also the dark side of our story into our selfhood. That made a lot of sense to me, since I am quite familiar with my own inclination, and that of others, to avoid, deny, or suppress the painful side of life, a tendency that always leads to physical, mental, or spiritual disaster. . . .   I have a deep sense, hard to articulate, that if we could really befriend death we would be free people. So many of our doubts, hesitations, ambivalences, and insecurities are bound up with our deep-seated fear of death that our lives would be significantly different if we could relate to death as a familiar guest instead of a threatening stranger.” When we befriend death, we learn that ultimately all that matters are the words of the Apostle Paul who sums up the message of Jesus with these words from I Corinthians 13: “For right now until that completeness (the final end of our lives) we have three things to do to lead us to our final consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of these is love.”     Every act we do is a cry for love. Our acts are all seeking a place to belong, and we hurt a lot of people.     My young Christian friends really, and honestly believed they were loving Donnie, but that love destroyed him.     To love is to give our lives away, not expecting anything in return, not to make a judgment on anyone! To risk crucifixion like Jesus!  In so doing we find ourselves and the needs of all will be fulfilled! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God! —————— Fr. River Damian Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T. P.O. Box 642656 San Francisco, CA 94164 www.temenos.org 415-305-2124

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