Thursday, June 25, 2009

Not Everyone Who Says, "Lord, Lord" Will Enter The Kingdom Of Heaven

Often, it seems, God chooses people who make wrong choices, and bad consequences follow. The story of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar is an example. The facts seem unconventional, to say the least. Sarai, the wife of Abram, has become impatient waiting for God’s promise that she would be the mother of Abram’s child to be fulfilled. So, she devised a plan that involved Abram sleeping with Hagar. For some reason, Abram went along with his wife’s plan, and soon Hagar is with child.

At that point envy enters the story, soon to be followed by anger and bitterness; and the blame game begins. Just as Adam blamed God for the trouble he and Eve had in the garden, Sarai now blames Abram for the fine mess that followed when he cooperated with the plan she had initiated. Making matters worse, Abram does not seem to stand up for what is right, but instead takes the path of least resisting, turning his back when Sarai does as she pleases to Hagar.

It is not difficult to understand why Hagar wanted to escape from the abuse and mistreatment foisted upon her and her son. But God intervened through a messenger, whose words, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her”, is followed by the promise of a reward for her obedience, “Your descendants will be too numerous to count.” The message, surprisingly enough, elicits an affirmative response: her obedience to God’s will. In this, her response echoes that of Mary to the words of the same messenger, the Archangel Gabriel: “I am the Lord’s maidservant; let it be done to me as you say.”

The words of Jesus in today’s segment of Mark’s gospel, “Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” tale pm new meaning when joined with today’s story from Genesis. Sometimes we may think of ourselves as “the chosen”, entitled to God’s favor by reason of our familiarity with “the things of God”. We behave ourselves (most of the time); we go to church (when it is not too inconvenient); we say our prayers (if we remember, and especially when we need something); we give to charitable causes (and we make sure the IRS and the corresponding state office are made aware of our deductable contributions).

Today’s gospel reminds us that even working wonders in the name of Jesus falls short. It is obedience to the will of the heavenly Father that is required to Jesus’ followers. That means getting to know Jesus, and the Father who sent him.

At many points in our lives, we are not unlike Sarai and Abram in this story. When patience wears thin, trust tends to weaken. Dr. Edward Morse, of the Law Faculty at Creighton University, who is one of my sources, has this to say, “To love someone is to learn the song that is in their heart, and to sing it to them when they forget.” We tend to forget the song of love God put into our hearts, but, by his loving mercy, He often sings it back to us.

Lord, open my ears to hear your song; the patience to wait for His voice, and the faith to respond with faith, hope, love and joy.

1 comment:

mary said...

Thanks for your insightful words here. I particularly appreciated the reference to the parallel between Hagar's obedience and Mary's, though I have always found it troubling that this passage is often (mis)used to send women back into abusive relationships. If you ever feel a need to edit this homily, you probably want to refer the "Lord, Lord" passage to the evangelist Matthew (or its parallel in Luke) rather than to Mark.