Aloha Friday Message – April 5, 2019 – The Perfect Looser

1914AFC040519 – The Perfect Looser

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    Philippians 3:8 … I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ Jesus my Lord.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! Today we go back to the readings in Year C for Lent. Today’s Key Verse is from Sunday’s second reading. This is one of those passages that sounds very familiar; it is also a passage we usually reckon as unattainable. We may recall hearing this quote attributed to Dr. Albert Schweitzer: “If you own something you cannot give away, then you don’t own it, it owns you.” Another version says, “Whatever things you can relinquish are your possessions. Whatever things you cannot relinquish possess you.” When I think of what the Apostle Paul is saying in that way, my mind and heart say, “Well, it looks like I’m going to fall far short of the mark.” Honestly, I’m not a good loser. Truth be told, probably none of us like to lose. Being a loser in this society is a very undesirable designation. General George Patton one proclaimed,Americans love a winner. America will not tolerate a loser.” That attitude is mirrored by Coach Vince Lombardi: “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.” Many of us know of the TV program “Biggest Looser” where a handful of seemingly borderline personality disordered fitness trainers work with obese persons to help them reduce their girth. In this case, being a looser is interpreted as being a winner; but that’s not always the case.

    “What a loser!” That’s a powerful insult. When that epithet is thrown at us, it hurts (despite that old “sticks and stones” adage). It is devaluing. It is derogatory. It is even dehumanizing. Jesus told us that when we say to someone “You fool!” we are “in danger of hell fire.” (See Matthew 5:22-24)* That’s a pretty alarming statement, and it should be sobering; but, we usually just slide right past it and secretly believe it belongs to “all those other sinners – like the Pharisee who ostentatiously prayed thanking God he was not like that Tax Collector. (See Luke 18:9-14) If I live as Jesus warns (and don’t we all), then perhaps 100 times a day I am in danger of hell fire because I name so many people losers. I can just as surely know that I gain that title just as often from others. We hate being losers, and that is exceptionally dangerous because Christ expects us to be perfect losers. He asks us, ironically enough, “What have you got to lose?”

That’s a tough one. What do we have to lose? Perhaps our smug attitude would be a good place to start. Like all weeds, it has deep roots and crowds out other, more valuable things in our lives. We usually postpone that for “another time;” there’s that verse 6 in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 A time to search, and a time to give something up as lost; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; [1] But we hate to lose anything – a game, a sock, an old watch, a friend, a tile from Scrabble. Jesus expects us to lose all of those and more. Remember? Matthew 16:25-26 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? (You can find the same intention in Matthew 10:39, Matthew 16:25-26, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:24, and John 12:24-26) Again, losing one’s life for the Gospel is something someone else does – those Saints, those missionaries in far-off lands, those martyrs in Nigeria, those innocent children in the Coliseum. We retch over the images we see that show us the direct effects of hatred, of human beings making everyone else a loser so that no one else is a winner; but unless we ourselves are prepared to give all for the Gospel, we are not all that different – and that’s terrifying.

The Apostle Paul gave us plenty of information about being losers. Philippians 1:21 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Philippians 3:7-8 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Jesus assures us that whatever we lose can be and will be restored immeasurably more – we can lose “houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields” and they will be restored a hundredfold now and later in our eternal life (See Mark 10:29-31). There’s a little pair of words in that passage we’d rather not hear. We’d rather focus on getting back everything we lose and more to boot, but there’s that pesky little prepositional phrase “with persecutions.” If there’s anything we’d like to lose, that’s probably at or near the top of the list. I suppose we’ll never know as imminent (and dear God, not “not if but when”) we have a chance to testify with our lives whether or not we truly can lose all for the sake of the Gospel. In our hearts our prayer might be, “Let the righteous and holy of the world handle the suffering; God has prepared them for that. As for me, I can live without it.”

Yes, we can live without it, and that means we cannot die for it. Jesus has some advice about that in Luke 14:27 27 Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. John 12:24-26 24 Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. Luke 9:24 24 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. One of our most vivid examples of this type of availability to the Gospel can be seen in Jim Elliot who said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Elliot was one of five missionaries killed in Ecuador in 1956. He lived – and died – by that biblical promise. Can I, can you, can we, who aspire to be Christian, do either – live or die – in the true spirit of that promise from Christ? When and how can our capacity to be perfect losers be the reality of our Christian duty and sacrifice? It will take some prayer, some Bible study, and some – no, make that a lot – of things we cannot relinquish being finally let go. Prayer can even become an iffy thing. I once read about someone describing his prayer life, “Sometimes I fall asleep. Sometimes it’s really dry. Sometimes nothing happens. If God wants me, he knows where I am going to be.” Yep, “Seek the Lord while he may be found.” (See Isaiah 55:6)

Our Catechism says in §2650 Prayer cannot be reduced to the spontaneous outpouring of interior impulse: in order to pray, one must have the will to pray. Nor is it enough to know what the Scriptures reveal about prayer: one must also learn how to pray. Through a living transmission (Sacred Tradition) within “the believing and praying Church,” the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God how to pray. In addition we have in §2653 The Church “forcefully and specially exhorts all the Christian faithful … to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 3:8) by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. . . . Let them remember, however, that prayer should accompany the reading of Sacred Scripture, so that a dialogue takes place between God and man. For ‘we speak to him when we pray; we listen to him when we read the divine oracles.”‘ We become like the saints we admire by doing what the saints do – living on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God whether revealed through prayer or Scripture. Everything we gain in this way helps us to lose all else that hinders our coming closer to God in Christ Jesus. Consider this: 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified. It is how we perfect our ability to be a real loser. You see, Jesus Loves The Loser. (↔ Music Link)

Together we might pray, “Dear Jesus, teach us and help us to be just and merciful, to live righteously, and to walk humbly before you wherever your Spirit guides us.  May our hearts and hands and mentality be emptied of everything contrary to your presence so that we may have only you living in us and thus we may become perfect losers.”

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever —

at your service, Belovéd!

Please pray with us here at Share-a-Prayer.

* Read the note here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mat+5%3A22-26&version=NABRE

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

[1] New English Translation (NET) NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

* Read the note here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mat+5%3A22-26&version=NABRE

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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