December 6, 2020
The Second Sunday of Advent
(Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Mark 1:1-8)
As we light the candle of Peace on our Advent Wreath, we continue our passage through a time of reflecting. We have much to reflect in our lives. We’ve had a year of life that has been challenging, to say the least. Although, we each have our own issues to reconcile for, some of those issues may very well have been our treatment of others. Some taking their cue from someone in high office.
We might pause at this time and wonder if this is where karma comes into play. Well, to be clear, Christianity is not based on this Eastern religion teaching, but it has its similarities in Jesus’ teaching that has become known as the “Golden Rule.” Jesus Himself taking it from the Leviticus. However, the Bible is filled with similar maxims. I like to think of this as Christian Karma.
However, as I try to stay away from my obnoxiousness of that, some have asked if we should be concerned with “karma.” Certainly we should be concerned with it, but not so much as it is taught in the Eastern religions and that which leads to reincarnation – traditionally a non-Christian teaching.
Of course, one does not want to return in another life as a cockroach (I am being obnoxious again, but some groups do actually teach this possibility, but fortunately not all). We do not want to have punishment that we probably deserve, especially a punishment that seems a bit much for the crime.
So, just what do we Liberal Catholics think?
Obviously, we are Catholic and Christian, but we are also open minded. Our branch of Catholicism allows for the belief in reincarnation and “karma,”, but we do not formally teach it. That is something our more theosophical brothers and sisters tend to teach.
However, let us briefly explore a Christian “karma” of sorts. Christ was clear that He had mansions waiting for us in heaven. This implies that we will not return as that dad-blasted cockroach, but that our sins – our bad “karma” - has been forgiven and thus we are not destined to repeat our wretched process over a few dozen times. Let’s face it, I would probably not be any better in another life than the one I am currently in. One could say that is pessimistic, where as I call it honesty of my sinfulness as a human being.
When Christ brought up the commandments, especially the two greatest, He wasn’t saying that if we are good we all will become trillionaires, nor if we were bad that life would be horrible. He was trying to express what our Father in heaven expected of us. Let’s face it, we have struggled with the way we treat others since we were created. God has attempted to lift us up, as any good parent, but we sometimes are simply spoiled brats.
So, in comes God’s Son as one of us, and attempts another approach with His children. He wants us all to enjoy paradise with Him. He wants us to know, that when our time on earth is over, we have an opportunity to enter a most glorious place. A place so wonderful, that no human being can possibly describe it, because finite minds cannot grasp it.
Additionally, many will remark that they are attempting to be as good of a person as they can, yet their life seems to be plagued with horrible events and continuous unhappiness. So, either karma is affecting them for their life previously, or God is working in a mysterious way and we await our reward in heaven for suffering here on earth. We cannot understand the workings of God, and sometimes we cannot explain why bad things happen to good people. No theology has resolved this dilemma.
However, Jesus joins Himself to our suffering. Not all our suffering is due to anything we have done, now, or in a “past life.” In fact, we read in the Gospel of John, “Jesus saw a man who had been blind since birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" ... Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-12) Here we see that “karma” wasn’t involved. But, indeed, God was trying to teach others! I am sure this was not comforting to the blind man, however, I am confident he was greatly rewarded in heaven.
And so, as we continue our passage through Advent. Let’s think a little bit about this Christian karma. Whether we come back or go to heaven, is just the point. We want to go to heaven or come back in a new self that is so wonderful it would beyond dreams. And so, we must put to work on our better selves and prepare for the light of Christ. The great star over Bethlehem.
We are given this time of self-examination prior to our Savior’s birth so that we can greet the Prince of Peace. We are to use this time to create some of our own peace. Can we take time to live out the “karma” and treat others as we indeed wish to be treated? Black or white, American or Russian, rich or poor, educated or not so much, liberal or conservative, young or old, woman, man or transgendered, LGBTQ or heterosexual, clergy or layman? Can we? Ultimately “karma” and the Golden Rule requires us to do just that!
Can we resolve to spend this Advent reflecting, not only on our sins of general, but especially in how we treat others? We should all want our next life, in whatever form you feel drawn, to be one that is better than the one we have now. We should all act as though there is “karma.” As Catholic Christians, we should act as though there is heaven. My faith in Christ and His teachings makes me feel great remorse that He suffered so much for my failures. But, my heart overflows with great joy that because of His suffering, I have gained entry into heaven.
This should not make me stop wanting to live out the Golden Rule or worry of Christian Karma simply because I think I have already obtained entry, but because our Lord commands it, but also so that we do not have returned evil for our evil. Not all things we do come back to us, but should we live as though it didn’t matter? No, we should live as it does indeed matter! It is not remotely a gamble I wish to take!
Join me in making an Advent journey to try to live the Golden Rule, or “karma” if you prefer, and wrestle from our hearts all ill-will and be the joy in someone else’s life if even only a moment!
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor -St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA
We are beggars – As the epidemic continues (and even increases again) we continue to need your help. The virus keeps people away and thus donations are down, and bills pile up and insurances are being canceled! Please help, if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++