Posted by: matt25 | August 29, 2011

What Is Your Quest?

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A:  Lectionary: 124, Reading 1 Jer 20:7-9[i], Responsorial Psalm Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-9[ii], Reading 2 Rom 12:1-2[iii], Gospel Mt 16:21-27[iv]

Have you have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

In scene 35, Arthur and his knights come face to face with the keeper of the Bridge of death and they must correctly answer his questions or be cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.  Lancelot is the first of the knights to approach the Bridge keeper.

KEEPER:  Stop!  Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ‘ere the other side he see.

LANCELOT:  Ask me the questions, bridge-keeper.  I’m not afraid.

KEEPER:  What is your name?

LANCELOT:  My name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot.

KEEPER:  What is your quest?

LANCELOT:  To seek the Holy Grail.

KEEPER:  What is your favorite color?

LANCELOT:  Blue.

KEEPER:  Right.  Off you go.

Some of the other knights and even the Bridge keeper himself do not fare so well.

Of course, this is a modern comedy based upon “The great Grail legends first appeared in Europe around the year 1180.  They became popular at the same time that the gospel was either not being preached, or fading in importance.  The Grail stories, which emerged in Germany, France, and England, became a way for the laity to describe and understand the spiritual path in a non-academic way.”[v]

They were an expression of the basic human need to have a purpose, and to find meaning in life. This “need” expresses itself in all kinds of ways.

On our continent, “In the classic Native American vision quest, a young man would head out to the wilderness, find a solitary place, and then wait.  He did not return home until he received his destiny, and the Great Spirit gave him his true name.  That name told the young man who he was and what his life’s purpose would be.[vi]

I’ve experienced it in the world of business. In fact, this month we have been working on a vision statement as well as a mission statement for the insurance agency. Why would we do that?   Why do so many businesses, organizations, and churches work to come up with vision statements?[vii]

Because when we know how we want things to be… and where we want to end up in the future… it helps us to get there!  Your vision, your quest, the purpose and the meaning of your life, is the compass that keeps you moving toward your destination.

If I were to ask you to write your vision for the purpose and meaning of your life on a post card, would you be able to do it?

Jesus could.  His vision was to reconcile us to God.  He knew that he had to accept his death on the cross for that to happen.  He knew what his mission was and he would not let Peter or anyone else turn him aside from the tough choices he had to make.  Jesus knew that he did not belong to himself, but to the Father and to others.

“To live for God and for others”, isn’t this central to the Christian vision?

Certainly, the apostle Paul recognized that and came to that place where he was willing to live for God’s will rather than his own.  “In the letter to the Romans for 11 chapters, he established, at length and in detail, the great redemptive gift of God as it was revealed in the course of human history.

Then, and only then, as the 12th Chapter begins, Paul answers the question that might well be in the hearts of those who were contemplating what he had shared,

“What will I do in the face of such awesome love?

How will I respond?[viii]

Now that I know, what Jesus has done for me, what is my quest?

Paul tells the Romans, and us, that it is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God.  To live knowing that all that we are and all that we have belongs to God.  To let that knowledge transform the things that we do every day into activities that are good and pleasing to God, and to us, because we know in our hearts and in our souls that it is right.  It is in keeping with the reason that we were created, it is in keeping with our quest!

Jesus did not flinch even as he approached his “Bridge of Death” and he tells us what we must unflinchingly do.

“Deny the self, take up the cross, follow Christ.  Only in losing one’s life (the primary meaning of apollymi is to destroy) may one save it.

At this moment, we are hearing Matthew’s distinctive voice:  salvation comes not to those who call Jesus “Lord,” but to those who do what he says (7:21-29).  The Great Commission involves teaching people “to obey everything that I have commanded you” (28:20).  Disciples are to follow their quest every day, no matter what the cost.

In hearing this, we must face the chasm between Jesus’ call to discipleship and our own response as part-time volunteers for the gospel.  Few Christians abandon everything for the gospel’s sake.  Most of us simply fit our Christianity into the open spots on our calendars.  But in this Gospel passage Jesus links the life of discipleship with the complete self-giving of his own path.[ix]

Right about now, you may be wondering if there is a way, perhaps some sort of litmus test, to tell you how your life lines up with the Christian vision.  Just how far off or how close to the mark are we each day?

Maybe this will help.  When I attended a Cursillo retreat over 25 years ago, I learned something that stays with me to this day.  I remember a simple way to take a read on how my life is tracking with my ideal path.  All I have to do is answer, with honesty, a couple of questions.

How do I spend my money, and how do I spend my time?

This gives me a quick read on whether I am living a life focused on building the kingdom, or if I have turned away from the Christian vision toward a more self-indulgent lifestyle.

We can learn about our call to discipleship on Retreats, and I highly recommend them, but is there help even closer at hand?  Of course there is.  It is at the mass.  There we find richness beyond measure that you can take into every moment of your lives.  Prayer, Eucharist, reflection, community, the sacred Word, and so much more are found in the celebration of Mass not just once a week but every day.

But, perhaps we are too close to it, and it is too routine for us to see the depth and beauty of this treasure of our faith.   I invite you to pay close attention over the next couple of months as we enter in and take a closer look at what it is that we do at each of the different parts of our sacred celebration.  Please consider joining us for our Journey program starting September 18th.  This is where we will begin our exploration, which will continue on our website, in our bulletins, during the mass itself, and even on Facebook.

In all of this, we will be following an ancient understanding of the early church, Lex orandi, lex credendi.

The law of prayer is the law of faith: the Church believes as she prays.

Join us as we gain a better understanding of what we pray, so that we will also gain a better understanding of what we believe.   Allow yourselves to be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

In other words, what is your quest?


[i] You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.  All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.   Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the LORD has brought me derision and reproach all the day.   I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more.  But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

[ii] R. (2b) My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.

R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Thus have I gazed toward you in the sanctuary to see your power and your glory, For your kindness is a greater good than life; my lips shall glorify you.

R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

Thus will I bless you while I live; lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.  As with the riches of a banquet shall my soul be satisfied, and with exultant lips my mouth shall praise you.

R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

You are my help, and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.  My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me.

R. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.

[iii] I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

[iv] Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.

Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”

He turned and said to Peter,”Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life” Or what can one give in exchange for his life?

For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

[v] Richard Rohr, “on the Threshold of Transformation”, Loyola Press, Day three, the great quest. Pp5

[vi] Ibid, Day Five, Pp7

[vii] Mission Statement: St. Joseph Parish is a Roman Catholic faith community formed by the Gospel and living as faithful disciples of Christ. We are dedicated to the worship of God and the serving of all God’s people.  –St Joseph Church, Fredonia, NY

[viii] Preaching Resources, August 2011, 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

[ix] http://www.odysseynetworks.org/ON-Scripture-Matthew-16-21-28

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