Sunday's readings mesh perfectly into last week's readings. Both the first and third passages reinforce what we heard about the importance of prophecy. But, they lead us more deeply into how we're expected to participate in this essential ministry.

In a recent workshop, Jim Gilsinan, a St. Louis University professor, mentioned that most of us are affected by a "Clark Kent syndrome." Though outwardly we resemble that mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet, we're convinced that, under our harmless facade, lurks a super-person who at any moment could throw off that disguise and do something to change the world around us.

Our only problem is that we can't find just the right phone booth to make our world-saving transformation.

Phone booths

If, for instance, we're a secretary working in a dysfunctional office, convinced we know what to do to change this harmful environment, we'll probably decide to bide our time and wait until we're promoted to office manager. Then we'll make our move.

But, once we become manager, we'll no doubt decide to postpone our step into the phone booth until we're a district manager. No matter the position we're in, it never seems to offer the right set of circumstances to change into our super personality.

Both the author of II Kings and Matthew tell us that even the smallest phone booth provides us with enough room to become someone who can bring about the changes in the world that God wants and has gifted us to make.

Matthew (Mt 10: 37-42) goes directly to the Clark Kent problem by having Jesus assure His community, "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and whoever receives someone who is righteous because he is righteous will receive a righteous person's reward. And those who give only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he or she is a disciple - amen, I say to you, they will surely not lose their reward."

The first reading (II Kings 4: 8-11, 14-16) shows that Jesus didn't invent such an "equalizing" concept of faith. By simply showing hospitality to the prophet Elisha, an unnamed woman of Shunem has her most treasured wish granted by Yahweh: a baby son.

Equal faith

Faith, and the actions and rewards that flow from it aren't restricted to special individuals working at special times and in special situations. Everyone of faith participates equally in faith.

In his well-known passage (Rom 6: 3-4, 8-11), Paul gives us the Christian background for this radical belief. "Are you not aware," he writes, "that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Through baptism into His death, we were buried with Him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we, too, might live a new life. If we have died with Christ, we believe that we are also to live with Him."

If we're committed to being "other Christs," we're also committed to dying and rising with Jesus. There are no exceptions. The only difference among us revolves around how we enter into that death and resurrection. No two Christians do it exactly the same.

Presuming Gilsinan is correct, the only thing stopping us from daily transforming into "other Christs" is the heresy that somewhere, somehow there's a perfect set of circumstances in which we can pull off that change.

I'm grateful the historical Jesus overcame that syndrome to transform the world.

(6/23/05)