Jesus gives freedom to be a 'failure'

Maria Kozakiewicz

WORD MADE FLESH

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 26, 2016
1 Kings 19.16, 19-21 | Psalm 16 | Galatians 5.1, 13-18 | Luke 9.51-62
June 13, 2016

Most of us fear poverty, especially in old age. Western Civilization is rooted in comfort of possessions and we instinctively strive to achieve it. Success in life is measured by what we own, not by what we are, because few people know what it means simply "to be."

The standard minimum is a house with nice backyard, a good car, decent food and a vacation once in a while, preferably abroad. Not much - yet these things create our comfort zone. We tend to believe that this is what life owes us.

We may be more idealistic about "gathering riches" when we are young or after we have just immigrated into Canada. It is easier to dream about evangelical poverty when we are actually poor - and with a well-sounding excuse for it.

Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence. - Galatians 5.13

'Do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence.'

Galatians 5.13

As we move towards our fifties, still poor - well, that is another matter. Poverty is seen as, well, a kind of failure. We hate the word "failure."

If ownership of a house, vehicle or any permanent goods were to be a measure of his success, Jesus was a complete failure. He, the God, creator and owner of all that exists and ever existed, owned nothing, save the robe which his mother had woven.

Even this was taken from him before his death. When he was to ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he had to borrow a donkey. This animal was a poor man's steed, yet Jesus did not own even this type of a modest "vehicle," which we could compare to a bike.

Can you imagine a world leader who would not have even a bike? Yet Jesus was the king of all kings.

When Jesus died, he was buried in a donated tomb and wrapped in a donated shroud. He rose from the dead, leaving even those possessions behind.

To the man who wanted to follow him, Jesus says in the way of warning: "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."

I have always read these words with great relief. They do not sound bitter. They are liberating.

To the man to whom they were spoken, these words were advice not to burden himself with possessions if he really wanted to become a special follower of Jesus.

To the rest of us, they mean we do not have to join the exhausting race for symbols of material status. It is absolutely fine to be poor, live in an old folks' home and own nothing.

Someone far, far greater than we are or ever will be - our king and Lord, our friend and love - showed us the way to be free. Wonderfully free.