In the Gospel readings for September, Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven through parables and in conversations with his disciples. The kingdom of heaven is where perfect justice flows. It’s a place rich in mercy and forgiveness. It’s a place of radical generosity. It’s a place of privilege for the most marginalized in society. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?
As I write, we continue to grapple with a global pandemic that’s drastically changed life as we know it. The future is uncertain. Our nation burns, both literally and figuratively, with the sin of racism and the abuse of power. All this compounds the personal trials each of us faces.
We could use a good dose of heaven on earth right now, for life to return to normal or, at least, for it to feel more comfortable. But the kingdom of heaven Jesus describes is hardly the utopia for which most of us long. This notion of a heaven where we reside in comfort doesn’t help us live as Christ’s disciples in our world as it is.
Now is not the time to turn away from the suffering, fear or sinful white supremacy that plagues our nation. We’re called to face it—that is what it means to be Christian.
Resilience is often defined as “bouncing back” from adversity. In my ministry context—the armed forces—resilience is also the ability to adapt to adversity. We sometimes think of resilience as “embracing discomfort.” Adversity, and the discomfort that comes with it, is simply a reality of military life. Rather than avoiding or becoming paralyzed by it, people in my context view adversity as an opportunity to grow and even thrive. In other words, being uncomfortable leads to growth and redemption. It reveals our character and defines our purpose and mission.
If we truly want to experience heaven in the world today, Jesus tells us, we need to embrace discomfort. Now is not the time to turn away from the suffering, fear or sinful white supremacy that plagues our nation. We’re called to face it—that is what it means to be Christian. May we be inspired by the words of this Franciscan blessing:
“May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts. May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace. May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
“And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done, to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.
That’s my idea of heaven—one worth living for.