Adjusting Expectations

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home Depositphotos_15000387_m-2015.jpg

September 16, 2018 – 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 8:27-35

Do you always get exactly what you want? If you are married, did your spouse end up being exactly the one you had hoped for? What about your children? All parents have hopes and dreams for their kids. Did yours turn out in accord with those hopes and dreams? Look at your life as a whole. Most have some ideal life they hope for when young. Did yours end up realizing everything you had hoped to accomplish? If all your hopes and dreams were realized in full, you may be from another planet. I’ve never met anyone here whose high expectations were fully realized. As a saying goes, happiness is found not in getting what you hope for, but being satisfied with what you receive.

Today’s gospel describes a time when Jesus gave a lesson to his closest disciples in reshaping their hopes and expectations about God’s messiah. He wanted to make sure that when they looked for God’s anointed one (that’s the meaning of the word, Christ), they would not miss him because they were looking for someone else.

At the time of Jesus, two versions of Jewish messianic hope were popular. One comes from the Jewish scriptures where it says that “the Son of Man” would come on the clouds with an army of angels and wipe out God’s enemies with fiery swords. A very dramatic event to be sure. The second was more of a political view that had God’s Messiah coming as a militant political figure who would chase the Roman’s occupying army from the Promised Land and would restore Jewish leadership to their land. The messiah would be a mighty king. Both versions were acceptable and seemed to many as in accord with what they viewed as God’s way of doing things.

Jesus was God’s true messiah and he was not like either of those two versions of messiahship. Jesus was not going to come down with lighting bolts from the heavens nor was he to amass a revolutionary army. Instead he would head for Jerusalem where he would be condemned to a terrible and painful death on a cross. Not surprisingly, when his disciples learned of this, they were quite disappointed. What they also learned was that this was God’s plan. And if they were to follow God’s messiah, Christ Jesus, they too would have to carry a cross.

How does this apply to us? The message is clear. God’s way of love may not be the same as ours. Like Jesus, we will be assigned a life where we will most likely have to adjust our understanding of the perfect life. But there’s a wonderful positive side to this. In following God’s way, we will find our greatest joy and happiness.
©David M. Thomas, PhD