Sunday, February 10, 2013

Extreme Christianity

5th Sunday of Ordinary Time C
10 February 2013
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
Daily Readings

Record breaking.  You love it.  I love it.  We all love it!  When Felix Baumgartner jumped from his balloon in what looked like a spacesuit, from the very edge of our atmosphere, in order to set a record for the highest jump, and to break the speed of sound, the whole world was mesmerized.  Nothing gets attention like going where no one has gone before, and doing what heretofore seemed impossible.

Attempts to break records show us human nature in a new way.  They show us human calculation and genius - figuring out how to do things that have never been done.  It also shows the human heart.  Just because you can calculate the odds of breaking a record, doesn't mean you will have a volunteer with the courage to try it.  Record breakers often have a unique combination of genius talent and a fearless heart.  

I'll never forget what an impact the World Youth Days in Denver had on me.  In 1993, after my freshman year at KU, I was able to be on stage with the St. Lawrence choirs for the final Mass, which had just shy of a million people in attendance.  Talk about a catch of fish.  Talk about being a fisher of men.  It was true that there were so many people that the place was chaos, not unlike the tearing of the nets in today's Gospel.  Yet the Lord himself had set the stage and there was incredible unity and meaning in the scene as well.  The Mass forever changed what it meant for me to be a Catholic.  For me being Catholic was about being part of a record-breaking church, a record-breaking catch of fish.  Christianity became for me that day an extreme sport, a quest to build with Jesus the largest and most unified and most powerful family the world could ever know.

Saints are those heroes of our game, those record-breakers, who cooperate with the grace of Christ when he gets into their boat.  Most of us relativize what it means to be a Christian, always trying to manage how God might be a little bigger part of my life.  Saints instead lose their life within the mystery of God's life.  Saints allow the scene of today's Gospel to play out in their lives. They realize that Christianity can be about nothing else than taking Jesus at his word, than about allowing him to pick for you a bigger life than you could pick for yourself.  Sainthood is about putting out into the deep.  This is the only way that Christianity survives and thrives - the only way it was meant to exist in the world - as an extreme sport.  Saints understood this.  The saints of today understand it.

Jesus gets into the boat of our lives to show us what is really possible.  As was the case with Isaiah, the purges our sins so that we no longer make excuses with our lips, but we begin to proclaim the Gospel instead.  Jesus gets into our boat to activate those deeper parts of us that we would never have the courage to explore ourselves.  Jesus gets into our boat to take us to that line near death where life truly begins.  He gets into our boat to show us that self-abandonment is the key to self-discovery.

Christianity as an extreme sport is not always safe.  The martyrs show us that.  Yet what is really reckless and irresponsible is not that we have the courage to live our faith to the utmost, but that we relativize the one who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves.  

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