January 30, 2012

The people were astonished at his teaching,

for he taught them as one having authority,

and not as the scribes…

the people were all so amazed that they asked each other,

“What is this?”

Mark 1.22, 27

Mark tells us that the people who encountered Jesus found him amazing and astonishing.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who was fully and completely God. He became man, and was fully and completely man.  And he lived his life fully and completely. He hungered and thirsted, he fasted and he feasted.  When he was celebrating with friends, he was really present for them and he had a good time. When people were sick or suffering, he responded with compassion and support. He knew what it was like to have people like and love him, and he knew what betrayal felt like too.  He leaned into conflict with those who attacked him; he rose to their challenges every time. He mourned and wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. He allows himself to enter into the moment of each and every moment, every time, every day.  He fully invested in what was truly worthwhile and fully engaged in what was really going on. He never rushed, he never checked out, he was never bored, he did not waste time.

Scripture has a name for this kind of living.  And over and over again it instructs us to live our life this way.  The Bible says:

Serve God with wholehearted devotion.

1 Chronicles 28.9

Jesus lived a life that was “wholehearted.” And that was what was so amazing and astonishing to people.  Even before he performed a single miracle, people are astonished at him…because he was living his life wholeheartedly…which is always amazing to see.

You’ve had the experience of being wholehearted. Perhaps it happens for you with music: playing music or listening to it. You can become absorbed in a good book or a great movie and the rest of the world just goes away.  Maybe for you it’s painting or cooking, golfing, skiing.

Whatever it is, it’s about being fully engaged and, to a certain extent, losing yourself, forgetting yourself in something other, something outside yourself, ideally something bigger than yourself.

This is an experience of being whole hearted. And there is probably no happier time in life.   And it suggests for us, it approximates, in a fleeting and faint way, the experience of heaven.

The opposite of this experience, of course, is hell.  When we’re doing something that we hate and time slows down. Maybe it’s your daily commute, or getting stuck in traffic, or getting stuck in a class you never wanted to take that you have to take.  Maybe its some chore at home you’ve got to do, because there is no one else to do it.  Perhaps it is a responsibility that comes with you place or position.

Those experiences are to be expected. But then there can be ways and seasons in which we start living our lives and spending all our time with that kind of attitude.  Our approach to the world becomes half-hearted.

  • Maybe that started for you at work.  You woke up one day and realized you don’t like your job. So, you stopped doing your job, you just collect a paycheck and watch the clock.
  • Maybe it started in your family, you are more and more checking out of family life.  You’re not really contributing anymore; you’re just a consumer.
  • Maybe it started in your marriage, what was a  partnership but has become a kind of cold war.
  • Maybe it was bad news from the doctor, or just feeling bad all the time; maybe it started with the loss of a loved one.

Those feelings or losses or choices introduced you into an attitude of apathy, where your approach to the world becomes half-hearted.

And do you know what inevitably happens when that happens?  You start wasting time, more and more of it.  I’m talking about aimless wondering around on the Internet, or mindless TV viewing, you’re not really watching anything, you’re not enjoying it, you’re just staring at it.  Or endless, pointless texting. Just time spent disconnected from reality.

This is not how God wants you to live your life. This is never going to lead to happiness. You’re time is your life, it’s what your life is made of and it is a fixed commodity, one day, sooner or later, it will be all used up and gone. Don’t waste a single day or hour. God is giving you your time, and he cares what you do with it. This week, honor God with your time. Use it in a wholehearted way.

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  1. My husband and I are in Maui for two weeks. I have just read your blog, Fr. White. I want you to know that we are living wholeheartedly right this very moment. Everything I see here is God’s gift to us…the sunsets, the mountains, the whales, the water, the foliage, the warmth of the sun….everything has been a gift and one I have thanked Him for each time I receive it. The peace and quiet, the time to gather thoughts, the connection with my husband. I have thanked God with every turn of my head on this vacation. When I see the sunset, I said to my husband…no one could have designed this. I hope when we get home that I still live as wholeheartedly as we are right now. I hope to appreciate all of the gifts God has given us, not just the ones I see right now.

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