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Let yourself fall in love with God, and anything could happen


“Many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut in the fields. Then those who went ahead and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!”

-- Mark 11:1-10

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!” Twenty or so years ago, in the days of the “Jesus Movement,” you’d see this phrase everywhere: on bumper stickers, in store windows, even on doormats. Everyone, it seemed, was ready to welcome Jesus. Remember “Jesus freaks?” They just couldn’t wait for Jesus to get here. I’m sure some of the people crying “Hosanna” by the side of the road as Jesus entered Jerusalem felt the same way. Others, I imagine, were there out of curiosity and not much else; perhaps others considered his appearance to be a bad omen.

Most of us, I suppose, are pretty sure that we’d welcome Jesus if he showed up at the front door. After all, we’re pretty sure that we know him, and we’re even reasonably confident that a meeting with Jesus would hold few surprises. But what if I were mistaken? What if getting tangled up with God had implications that I’d not considered? Up to now I’ve been content to make a number of comparatively minor changes in my life -- an adjustment here, an adjustment there -- and call myself a Christian. It’s easy to talk about living the Christian life when the Christian life doesn’t demand big changes in the way that we live.

The author Annie Dillard says that if we Christians really understood the power we routinely invoke during Sunday worship we’d all be wearing crash helmets in church. What if those of us who wish to be known as Christians were called to make huge and systemic changes in society? We’re taught to give freely and generously to the poor, and many of us do. What if welcoming Christ into our lives meant putting an end to poverty altogether? What if being Christian meant developing an economic system that did not favor the wealthy and punish the poor? According to Acts, the early Christians shared everything in common. Sounds like socialism -- any takers? What if Christians were called to give up their houses in the suburbs and move back into our stricken cities? That’s right: Abandon the house, ditch the SUV, pack up whatever you can and head downtown. What if white American Christians were called to relinquish, once and for all, the privileges that come with their skins: the freedom from abuse, harassment, name-calling, raised eyebrows and sideways glances; the ability to live where you want to without someone burning a cross in front of your house; the ability to go into a restaurant and be served; the ability to hire a cab; never having to wonder when your children will have the n-word used against them; the expectation that the system will work for you and not against you? What if all those in positions of authority -- big or little -- in the Catholic church were called to turn in their union cards, go sit in the pews and let somebody else have a go at running things?

I can be a Christian if being a Christian is easy: if it means not rocking the boat or maybe rocking it just a little; if it means not taking unpopular positions; if it means not ever risking friendships; or if it means not changing the way I look at the world. I can be a Christian if it means letting God into my life just a little bit.

Here’s a thought: What if the enemies of Christ grasped the implications of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem in a way that those who were calling “Hosanna” did not? What if those who were not in the mood to welcome Jesus into their lives knew what would happen to them if they did? After all, falling in love with a human being is bad enough, disruptive enough. Let yourself be overwhelmed by the love of God, and anything can happen.

I’m happy to allow Christianity to be less than I bargained for. How ready am I to allow it to be more than I bargained for? Good question, and one that bears thinking about. While I’m pondering, I think I’ll go put on my crash helmet.

Jesuit Fr. Dirk Dunfee is minister to the Jesuit community at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Mo.

National Catholic Reporter, April 14, 2000