reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

I grew up with a version of the Prosperity Gospel. Not a pure version, mind you. Because we were not wealthy. We were pretty healthy though, despite everything. Maybe we couldn’t manifest money, but in lieu of health insurance, we certainly saw more than our share of divine healing. I say that without an ounce of irony. I am grateful for that to my core.

But, this Prosperity Gospel—the notion that you can, in a way, experience heaven on earth, is insidious and a distortion of the actual Gospel Jesus preached. The slogan that emerged post-Jesus People Movement with the rise of the televangelist taught people to name it and claim it. We were taught to set our faith, to believe that we would receive, that we have not because we ask not—as if that was carte blanche to ask for things we have no business even desiring.

Although the mass appeal of the televangelist is dying away, what has arisen to take his place is the social media influencer. This person doesn’t tell you to name and claim it—merely how to grow your following. This person may not actually buy a rolex and flaunt it. Instead they don designer apparel they have been comped in order to show you how great it looks under the two filters and photoshop.

They don’t talk about ”Prosperity” rather they talk about ”Manifesting.” If you want something, you can have it. Simply manipulate the laws of attraction and get you a piece of that action. I read last night on an Instagram post (by an account with more than 20K followers, from a fella claiming to “elevate the spiritual intelligence of the planet”) “There’s a secret in this life: you can have whatever you want. If you don’t believe that, it’s because you believe in lack or the powers against you more than you believe in the One who is for you. This is true poverty.”

Just sit with that for a minute and then weigh it against Jesus’ message to Peter—his friend, disciple, the one to whom he handed the keys of the kingdom. Peter who saw Jesus heal the multitudes, multiply the loaves and fishes, take coins out of the mouths of fish to pay the bills, cast out demons, transfigured in all his glory on the mountain—he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt who Jesus was and what he was capable of. He even walked on water with him. Did Peter believe in lack or the powers against him? Or was his faith in Christ? Because after walking with Jesus for years and being his righthand man, Jesus promises him this: “‘Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’”

Do you want to glorify God? It is more likely to be through your suffering than through your prosperity. It will more than likely not come through your manifesting but rather through your surrender.

We see this most pronounced in Mary’s Fiat. Her complete surrender to the divine will. “In the humble fiat of her answer to the angel lies the mystery of redemption in so far as it depends upon the creature. For his redemption, man has nothing to contribute to God other than the readiness of unconditional surrender. The passive acceptance inherent in woman, which ancient philosophy regarded as part of negative, appears in the Christian order of Grace has a positive factor.” (Gertrud von le Fort in The Eterntal Woman)

There is suffering in this world. And saying you don’t want it or don’t accept it doesn’t actually make it go away. As the saints have taught us, Jesus did not suffer so that we wouldn’t have to, but to show us how it is done. St. Pope John Paul II said in his encyclical on the dignity of life, “Your sufferings, accepted and borne with unshakeable faith, when joined to those of Christ take on extraordinary value for the life of the Church and the good of humanity.” He went on to say at the first World Day For the Sick, “In the light of Christ’s death and resurrection, illness no longer appears as an exclusively negative event, rather it is seen as…an opportunity to release love…to transform the whole of human civilization into a civilization of love.”

The Church has long seen this kind of surrender as home in the Feminine. Even when displayed by a man, this is a divinely feminine trait—that sadly is lacking in this world, because we don’t understand our feminine genius. In an attempt to find this illusive and loosely defined “equality” we have lost what makes us truly great—“of womanliness, as a mystery, its religious rank, its archetype, and its ultimate image of God.” (Gertrud von le Fort)

In the most practical terms, this repackaged prosperity Gospel is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, displayed most perfectly in the Blessed Mother. May we not come to God with a list of demands, but rather open our hearts up to him and say, “Please, take what you want, leave me what you want me to have, and in return I will be grateful.” Or you could simply say, as the Virgin did, “Let it be done unto me according to Thy will.”

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