Monday, September 29, 2008

Bishop Soto - Did Jesus Always Say "Yes"?

The following is a portion of Bishop Soto's presentation to National Association of Diocesan Gay and Lesbian Ministries in Long Beach, CA, September 18, 2008. You do not want to miss the rest of his presentation, so go here:
"When we meditate on the person of Jesus, we often call to mind the many ways that Jesus cared for people. In all the many instances in the gospel when people come to the Lord Jesus with their needs, he fed them, he healed them, he forgave them, and he saved them. This can oftentimes lead us to the conclusion that Jesus always said “yes.” He always gave people what they wanted. He was an agreeable person.

That is not always the case in the gospel. A couple of weeks ago, we heard in Sunday’s gospel the story of a difficult encounter between Jesus and Simon Peter. In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew chosen for the Twenty-second Sunday of the Year, Jesus begins to lay out for his disciples the pending passion and death that awaits him in Jerusalem. Simon Peter is a little put off by the subject of Jesus’ conversation concerning the suffering that awaits him. He tries to persuade the Lord that this is not a good idea for him or for his followers. What Jesus described was not the cruise for which Simon Peter had signed up. When Simon Peter first responded to the Lord’s invitation to come follow him, this was not on the itinerary.

Jesus says “no” to his friend, Simon Peter, in no uncertain terms, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” The words of Jesus to Peter must have shocked Peter. This is not the agreeable guy he had come to know and follow. He probably felt like prophet Jeremiah who in the first reading that same Sunday said quite bluntly, “You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped.”

Jesus says “no” to Peter’s request so that he can say “yes” to Peter and to us with his sacrifice on the cross. Jesus does not give in to the expectations of Peter or the expectations of others. He has firmly planted in his heart the expectations and desires of his Father in heaven. He says “no” to Peter and challenges Peter to take up a greater “yes”, to take up his cross and follow him.
Paul had the same thing in mind when in the Letter to the Romans he says, “Do not conform yourselves to this age.” Paul reminds us that we are not to conform ourselves to the fads and fancies of our society. We are to conform ourselves to Christ.

We can easily give in to the temptation to go along in order to get along. We can easily be duped by the popular ideas and trends that surround us. “Everybody does it” can become reason enough to think it or do it ourselves. Like Peter we can think that what Jesus teaches us is too unrealistic, too unreasonable. Like Peter we can convince ourselves that we know better than the Lord. We may even try to negotiate with Jesus, like Peter does, for easier terms.

We see this especially in the area of sexuality. So much of what we see and hear everyday can lead us to a distorted sense of our sexuality. Sexuality has been reduced to a matter of personal preference and personal pleasure without responsibility and with little respect for others. We can lose sight of the profound dignity of the human person who shares in God’s love and creative work through the chaste expression of one’s sexuality proper to one’s calling in life.

We are surrounded by a “contraceptive culture” that has reduced the procreative act to simple recreation absolved of any responsibility.

The deceptive language of “pro-choice” ignores the consequences of the choice for abortion that does violence to the most innocent and leaves traumatic scars on many young women."

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