Lk 10:21-24 A Shoot From A Stump

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
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Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will…” 

I have never been a big fan of Kirsten Powers, a well known liberal contributor to USA Today and columnist for The Daily Beast and a Democratic commentator at Fox News.  Her political leanings are often contrary to mine.  Nonetheless,I have always held her in high esteem, and for obvious reasons:  she never loses her cool with hostile hosts and guests.  She is respectful of other peoples opinions.  In my humble estimation she is one very intelligent and classy journalist.

So in a certain sense, her conversion to Evangelical Christianity seven years ago did not surprise me.  What did surprise me was her attitude towards Christians prior to her conversion.  She was negative, arrogant, obnoxious and downright judgmental.  She wrote:

When I began dating a man who was into Jesus, I was not looking for God. In fact, the week before I met him, a friend had asked me if I had any deal breakers in dating. My response: “Just nobody who is religious.”

A few months into our relationship, my boyfriend called to say he had something important to talk to me about. I remember exactly where I was sitting in my West Village apartment when he said, “Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?” My stomach sank. I started to panic. Oh no, was my first thought. He’s crazy. 
So the deal breaker was religion, and believing in Jesus was crazy.  So much for “open-mindedness.”
But something happened.  She came to realize her very own hypocrisy and ignorance.  
He said the magic words for a liberal: “Do you think you could keep an open mind about it?” Well, of course. “I’m very open-minded!” Even though I wasn’t at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world. I had found this man’s church attendance an oddity to overlook, not a point in his favor.
As he talked, I grew conflicted. On the one hand, I was creeped out. On the other hand, I had enormous respect for him. He is smart, educated, and intellectually curious. I remember thinking, What if this is true, and I’m not even willing to consider it? 
When will atheists come to grips with the fact that many believers are smart, educated and intellectually curious individuals?  Apparently, this simple epiphany was all it took to unlock the double-bolted doors that sealed Kirsten’s faith.  
In the end, the boyfriend broke up with her but the Lord did not.  By now, He was romantically involved with her.  His magic, His charm, His wit and life swept her off her feet. 
Like Jesse’s tree (cf. Is. 11:1-10), a shoot had grown from a stump. 
At first, these new sensations frightened her.  As she rightly points out,
I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don’t know what you don’t know. How could I have missed something I didn’t think existed?
I could not agree with her more.  Atheists have it made.  I would even dare say they have it better than believers do!  How awesome it must feel to not have to have a care in the world.  This is definitely the new opium for the masses. 
“Enjoy life now.  There is no afterlife” (Freedom From Religion Foundation).  That’s right, Enjoy.  Enjoy.  Enjoy.  Do whatever you want or don’t do anything at all.  There are no eternal judgments, just those deliberated by humans who wield authority and power across your face. 
You don’t have to feed the poor.  You don’t have to turn the other cheek.  You don’t have to show mercy or compassion.  You don’t have to forgive anyone or anything at all.
Wow!  What a drug.  What liberation!
And yet this sounds very creepy to me.  It is as “liberating” as refusing marriage vows and children.  Sure, I may end up having more time to enjoy myself and my whims, but it is not as rewarding as carrying the crosses that come from commitment, sacrifice, generosity and duty. 
And by the way, why in the world is “doing something rewarding” so important to me? 

Advent is all about allowing a seed of faith to fall to the ground and do it’s magic:  produce a shoot from a stump like me. (63)

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Fr. Alfonse (599 Posts)

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