I read an interesting and funny little blog in The Christian Century magazine about the passage from Luke’s Gospel, which starts with a question asking Jesus to intervene in a family dispute. Garret Keizer wrote,
What if we were given only the first part of this story and were required to supply the ending? We might imagine Jesus going to the greedy brother and exhorting him to share. At the very least we might imagine Jesus telling his petitioner that in the age to come “the last shall be first.” Instead, he is quite uncooperative and not a little curt. “Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?”
Can’t you picture the man, some years hence, recounting what has become a cherished and much-rehearsed story about the hardhearted Rabbi Jesus? “I used to go to synagogue all the time, but then one day I went to this Rabbi Jesus with a problem, and he was so incredibly uncaring that it shook my faith, it really did, and that’s why when it comes to organized religion . . .” — Oh, and can’t you also imagine the response of his ordained interlocutor? —“It’s people like that Rabbi Jesus who give religion such a bad name. One thing I can assure you, my wounded friend: There is no one even remotely resembling the Rabbi Jesus in this house of worship!”
Keizer goes on to speak of Jesus’ humility in saying what he said. Keizer wrote that Jesus was, in effect saying, “I AM WHO I AM. I am not what I am not. I am not an estate settler.” Jesus then goes on to tell the story of the person building bigger and better barns with little consideration of others, an example of a lack of humility.
What do we learn from this little story? We are called to live with humility, to share our resources, not hoard them away. This sharing is wrapped in kindness, a kindness that depends on hope and compassion, which means that we live the uncompromising integrity of love
One of the best examples of this movement of humility and kindness wrapped in integrity has been the ministry of Jean Vanier. Vanier died this past Spring at the age of 90. He started the L’Arche communities in 1964 as he became aware of people who’d been institutionalized because of developmental disabilities; he began by inviting two men to live with him in France. To commemorate his 90th birthday last September, Vanier released a YouTube video in which he presented his 10 rules for living life and talked about being human. That was one his greatest gifts, that of being human and inviting us to live our own humanity fully and with uncompromising integrity. Here’s the list:
- Accept the reality of your body.
- Talk about your emotions and difficulties. “Being human is to love and we must learn to speak about our emotions.”
- Don’t be afraid of not being successful. “You have to discover you are beautiful as you are regardless of whether or not you are successful.”
- In a relationship, take the time to ask, “How are you?” Take time to hear what people need and listen.
- Stop looking at your phone. Be present! Listen to people.
- Ask people, “What is your story?” Back to listening.
- Be aware of your own story. “You are precious.”
- Stop prejudice: meet people. Meet people who are different and discover the beauty in the other.
- Listen to your deepest desire and follow it.
- Remember that you’ll die one day. We’re not rulers of the world, nor are we God. We are passengers on the train: we get on the train. We get off the train. The train goes on.
Almost his last words in the video were about becoming more human. Isn’t that the point? Vanier lived Jesus’ humility and kindness and calls us all—the Church, society, politicians, everyone—to become more human, fragile, vulnerable, compassionate, and loving individuals.
There’s currently a world-wide movement that presents an alternative way of being in the world to arrogance, an exclusivist view, and a domineering character. The Church is a part of this movement of love. That’s the movement that we need more than ever in the world today, in our local politics and discussions and in international and geopolitical arrangements. The Church can lead this movement of humility, kindness, humanity and love alongside others striving for a better future for the planet.
So maybe Jesus wasn’t a great pastor. But, full of humility, he called on us all to live more out of kindness and our humanity, which then forces us all to work together and make decisions of integrity and hope. Amen.
To watch the whole video, go to: https://youtu.be/wtyX_nXbTx4