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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: February 2, 2019
By Deacon Mike Cumnock
St. Mary Church, Batesville / St. Cecilia Church, Newport
When reading sacred Scripture, I am often amazed by the unexpected ways God finds to surprise us, call us and turn our expectations upside down. This has been true throughout our history as his people. Sometimes the surprises come in the form of unlikely people; in other instances, he chooses unexpected events or objects to accomplish his purposes. Obviously, our ways are not God’s ways, and the Kingdom of God depends on our following God’s ways.
Author Max Lucado uses the term “sacred delight” to refer to the good news that sneaks in through the back door of our hearts. Many of God’s surprises come as sacred delights. “It is sacred because only God can grant it. It is a delight because it thrills. It can’t be stolen. It can’t be predicted. It is God’s sacred delight,” Lucado said.
God often does the unexpected, and we are reminded to be watchful. Sometimes we read about the thrill that came to a biblical character. Sometimes we experience it ourselves through him or her. Exciting challenges and opportunities are often wrapped in the same package. As circumstances are turned upside down, we are taught to look for unexpected ways to further the kingdom.
Jesus’ description of the kingdom surprises his disciples, disappoints those who wanted the overthrow of the Romans, but delighted the lowly.
We are constantly surprised by God’s ways: Abram and Sarah being told they would have a child in their old age produced a laugh from them and gives us insight into the Creator. Moses was told, by a burning bush, that he will be the one who will set God’s people free. The widow of Zarephath has an encounter with Elijah, and her life changes forever. Youngest sons are chosen where we expect the opposite.
We recently celebrated the most famous of these sacred delights. Can you imagine the surprise Mary experienced when the Angel asked her to accept a call to be the Mother of God?
With her help, the Messiah would come into the world as a helpless baby. The Lord came with the cry of a small infant instead of trumpets. A king born into a poor family in an out-of-the-way small village. However, as a result, Jesus had the opportunity to grow up out of the limelight and to experience human life much like those around him. He was blessed with loving parents and the gift of family.
When the time came for his public ministry, Jesus chose storytelling to introduce the Kingdom of God to the world. One of his biggest challenges was that Jesus had to gather followers while telling them that what they were expecting was wrong and the result of human thinking — not that of God. Jesus’ description of the kingdom surprises his disciples, disappoints those who wanted the overthrow of the Romans, but delighted the lowly.
This week we hear in Luke’s Gospel the Sermon on the Plain. By this point in the Gospel, Jesus is drawing large crowds, and he steps down to a level place, looks up to heaven and begins to teach. In the kingdom of heaven, the poor are blessed, as are the hungry, and those who weep. He tells them, if you are hated because of him, fear not and leap for joy. This reading ends with a warning and an invitation. Woe to you who choose not to do what you can to further the kingdom.
Every day I encounter Christians who use their time, talents and treasure to care for those in need. One of the joys of being a Catholic is understanding that we have the opportunity to gather as Church, celebrate the Eucharist and be encouraged and supported by those who answered the call. The kingdom is truly at hand.