A Thief and a Robber

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Christ is risen!

Always looking for a shortcut! He was a dear friend. He was a pal and I loved the man, but he was notorious for always looking for an angle, a shortcut, a way to get preferential treatment. Sometimes it was great, but most of the time he just came across as a self-centered jerk!

And what was really bad was he simply didn’t get why his behavior embarrassed those around him. I simply stopped going to dinner with the guy because it was embarrassing watching him constantly “work” his magic trying to get a free meal! He thought he was being clever, but all of us cringed when we were in social settings with him!

There’s nothing wrong with trying to get the best deal or finding a quicker way to do something, but there comes a time when you become a person that assumes everybody is trying to cheat you, so you justify cheating them before they can cheat you! You know “Do unto other BEFORE they do it unto you!” Somehow, I don’t think that the right quote!

The challenge becomes when we try to take “shortcuts” in our spiritual growth. We don’t see the need or the value in the measured, hard work, of a faithful life. “Why can’t I just go to God myself” and “me and Jesus have our own thing going!” It would be fine if it actually worked, but it doesn’t. The end results are always some shallow spiritual life more about using God as just another drug to make me “feel better.” And that always leads to a perpetuation of self centeredness, the very opposite of a truly mature Christian life!

Look at our Gospel Lesson today in John 9:39-10:9:

The Lord said to the Jews who came to him, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard this, and they said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens; the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them. I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Jesus confronts these religious people with the true root of their spiritual problem: They claim to “see” but actually they are blind! And here is the source of most of our problems; it isn’t that we don’t know where we are weak, where we sin; it’s that we justify our weakness and insist we’re fine! We are not fine! And this chosen blindness is a true blindness indeed. It keeps us from the only true spiritual sight we can ever have.

All this stems from our prideful insistence that we be able to “shortcircuit” the hard and measures spiritual disciplines of a faithful life. “Is all this necessary?” “Do I really need to go to church so much?” “Is all this ‘pageantry’ really necessary?” “Shouldn’t we sell all this fancy stuff and give it to the poor?” So many excuses and so much resistance to humbly embracing the timeless wisdom that makes men saints.

The path to spiritual maturity, to finally breaking out of the chosen blindness of a “have it your way” religion, lies in our embrace of the “only” Way into the flock of God: through Jesus Christ. The only consistent path to true freedom is in embracing the “slavery” of obedience to the wisdom of the Church and how this wisdom shapes a man into his truest self. The resetting of our priorities that reflect our valuing the Faith above everything else in our lives means that we set as first place in our lives the truth that the Holy Spirit really does guard and guide His Church to be the safest place for our souls; the truest spiritual “school” to train our lives; and the most effective way to actually reorient our everyday life toward an eternal perspective.

Today, what shortcuts are you trying to take in your spiritual life? How are you trying to “not make this so hard” and avoid the confrontations necessary to finally break into those parts of your life that seem to be constantly tripping you up in your Christian walk? As we are getting closer and closer to Pentecost, the Church is inviting us to a confrontation that leads to freedom, not condemnation or shame. And our willingness to abandon the reluctance we have in just simply embracing this spiritual calling is key to finally allowing the power of God to truly make us who we really are!

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