They said, "He is out of his mind." (from Saturday's Gospel reading)
Reflection for Saturday: The scriptural cliff-hanger that's too funny to ignore
Saturday's Gospel reading is disturbingly too short. It makes me realize that there was a human side to the decision-making that went into setting up the lectionary.
Jesus entered into the house with his disciples. A crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard about this, they set out to seize him. They said, "He is out of his mind."
On second thought, perhaps stopping the story at this very disturbing point is exactly what the Holy Spirit wants. In any good joke, the last words are the punch-line. In a well-crafted article, the last words of a paragraph invite readers to continue. In a mystery story, the cliff-hanger keeps us coming back to see what happens next. This scripture is all three.
It's a good joke, and if we listen carefully, we can hear Jesus laughing. He's not insulted by the conclusion they jumped to. He knows Who he is, what his mission is, and how much more "in his right mind" he is than others are. In the confidence of knowing the truth, false conclusions seem downright funny.
It's certainly a well-crafted scripture. The Holy Spirit is inviting us to continue reading. We're not supposed to limit ourselves to what is given to us in the current day's readings. We're supposed to be mature enough and interested enough to pick up the Bible on our own and keep reading. (Spoiler alert: The story continues on Monday, and the next thing that happens is Jesus is accused of working for the devil. Well, that's worth a big laugh!)
It's a good mystery story, and the cliff-hanger is one that invites us to ponder over the weekend how Jesus handles false accusations. What clues is the Lord giving us about what he wants to teach us about it?
Remember when someone thought that you were out of your mind? I can't count how many times people have made wrong assumptions about me. I've lost friends, readers, board members, and family because of it. It hurts, and because we want to be humble, we question our own sanity, giving too much credence to false accusations, which leads to confusion, side-tracking us from doing what the Lord is calling us to do.
They said about Jesus, "He is out of his mind." What does he want you and me to learn from this? If we can realize how funny every false accusation really is, instead of being crushed by them, we will chuckle and turn them into opportunities, like Jesus did, to push the focus off of ourselves and onto the bigger picture, the more important issue, the truth that has been hidden from the eyes of our accusers, all the while seeking out those who are willing to hear and learn this truth.
When we've been freshly accused falsely, we're standing on the precipice of a cliff-hanger. The story of our situation is disturbingly short. To get through it with a chuckle instead of angst, we need to put our focus back on Jesus who is inviting us to move beyond the cliff. Here are a few WordBytes that can help; pick one (at least):
Bad news? It's an opportunity for the Good News! (Terry's two miracles)
God is amazing! Jesus is the Redeemer, which means that what was bad is changed into our salvation. It's a miracle! And today I have not one, but two miracles to share with you.
Over the past few weeks, we couldn't find enough financial support for Good News Ministries. Last Monday, I studied the numbers very closely in preparation for planning the budget. Before I share with you the wonderful blessing that I discovered, let me first say that, throughout the fund-raiser, as I looked at the gap between the goal and the incoming donations, the Holy Spirit kept me calm. Very calm. Supernaturally peaceful. It was truly amazing.
Within that peace, I knew that if he wanted me to lay off staff or reduce anyone's hours, he would already be preparing for them a new job that was at least as good for them as working for GNM is. It was the sign I was to watch for while discerning his will. And no such jobs began opening up for anyone, not even the hint of one (one staff member has been actively looking).
Within that peace, I examined every possible way to move the office to my home or to a smaller, cheaper space that's big enough for our most basic needs. I will give up office expenses before I reduce people expenses. That is how the Lord works. Father God has a plan and it always blesses everyone. He does not lay off his workers unless there is a greater good that he's leading them to. But no office change -- nothing do-able -- came to light. And still God's supernatural peace rested on me like a warm security blanket.
Last week, I began to discover why.
When the Lord is involved, every moment is a teaching moment. Even fund-raisers! Even bad news! Jesus wanted me to notice something that has been steadily growing in Good News Ministries: community. There's a real sense of community despite being unable to see you face to face. Many told me how the Lord has ministered to them through GNM, while reassuring me that it is God's will for Good News Ministries to continue. God spoke to me through these wonderful people.
"Thank you, Terry, for asking me to help make a video for GNM. Good News Ministries has truly been a blessing in my life. Because of distance and other factors, I'm not as active in my parish as I wish I could be. But I feel a sense of spiritual community with you and the Good News Ministries family of readers and donors and volunteers. I hope that these two videos will draw others into this vibrant community. All glory and praise to God!!!"
Last Monday, I analyzed GNM's financial situation. (Pay attention! Here comes a miracle!) Over the course of 2017, there's been an increase in the number of monthly supporters, and it's these people who will carry GNM safely into the future. In January of 2017, there were 120 monthly supporters. Now there are 173 (21 of whom became monthly supporters during the fund-raiser). Considering the huge number of people who are served by GNM, this number is tiny, but the increase in total amount donated, plus the fund-raiser's $35,000, is more than sufficient for us to proceed without cutting office or staff hours, (assuming that the usual amount of non-monthly gifts will continue to come in as normal). Praise the Lord!
But that's not all the Lord is doing to turn bad news into the Good News. Here comes the story of my second miracle.
A few weeks ago, I shared with the GNM community that I had sprained my hand while caregiving for my mom after her knee replacement surgery. It turns out that it wasn't a sprain. Since it did not totally heal, my doctor ran some blood tests last week. On Monday, she diagnosed me with a high level of rheumatoid arthritis. This is bad news. For 40 years, I've watched my mother suffer from it.
That night, when the pain in my hand and my thoughts kept me awake, I prayed, "Come Holy Spirit, renew me. Come Holy Spirit, fill me. Come Holy Spirit, heal me. Come Holy Spirit, teach me what You want me to learn." I repeated this until I fell asleep.
The next morning, my hand hurt less and my spirit was inexplicably filled with joy. On the way to Mass, it occurred to me that now I have something more to give to the Lord. The journey of whatever is going to happen with rheumatoid arthritis is an adventure. It's an opportunity for the Lord to be glorified. This disease is no longer named "rheumatoid"; its name is "opportunity". In scripture, giving something or someone a name, or calling him/her by name, is to exert authority over it. Remember why Adam was told to name the animals and why Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter.
I am victorious over rheumatoid by turning it into an opportunity to give more of myself to Jesus, the Redeemer, who turns bad news into the Good News.
Ever since the pain in my hand began in early November, I've been offering it up for the prayer requests that come in to Good News Ministries. What more does the Lord wants me to do with it? I see a journey ahead that will accomplish more good for the Lord than what would have occurred otherwise.
You may be wondering how rheumatoid arthritis in my hand will affect Good News Ministries, since I spend all day every day using a computer keyboard. Well, the good news is that GNM is not my ministry; it is the Lord's. He has already been protecting my ability to do the work he calls me to do. For example, usually when rheumatoid arthritis affects one hand, it affects both hands, but my right hand has been completely free of it, praise the Lord! And my left hand has improved much since entrusting it to the Lord.
Let me wrap up this story with a word to others who are suffering from this and worse hardships. My pain is very small compared to what you might be experiencing. I hope you know the tremendous value that God has given to your sufferings -- the very important opportunity to serve him more profoundly. Unite your pains to Jesus on the Cross and the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in thanksgiving for God's goodness to you, in reparation for your sins, and as prayer support for Good News Ministries.
What name will you give to your disease or painful problem?