Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Life Saver

For me, Holy Week is really more of a goal, rather than a name. As a priest, I think it is sometimes more difficult to really get into the spirit of the week, since we have so many different liturgies to plan and celebrate. And the hectic schedule means that there is even less time than normal for reflection. But despite this, I think it is important that I make the time to contemplate the truths behind what we are celebrating during this week. I need to let go of my need to have everything just so, and embrace the "chaos" of what the week represents. Certainly nothing went according to anyone's plan during that last week of the Lord's life, so why should I expect that mine will? It is probably more the norm that when a person makes a great sacrifice, it is not something planned out ahead of time but rather a response to the situation of the moment. The Lord certainly could have said "Wait a minute, let's take our time here". After all, He always had those "legions of angels" that could come at any moment. But He chose not to call them, not to use His divinity in order to save his human life. Putting aside His own comfort and control, He allowed Himself to become a pawn of others. And He did it for us. That is the thing I must never forget. He died for me. Wow. Think about that statement - one which we all can make. Jesus died for me. Imagine if I said that about, for example, a firefighter. How would I feel if a firefighter died in order to save me from a burning building? Sit with that for a minute. A man rushes into a burning building, saves you and then dies as a result. Well, that is exactly what Jesus did. And it was not just a burning building, but "the fires of hell" from which I was rescued. And, just as any emergency responder would say when asked "why?", the Lord also says "because that is what I do." Wow, indeed! This meditation is what I need to make this a Holy Week. And I pray it will be that for you also.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

In today's Gospel (John 8:31-42), the Lord points out that sometimes people use words to identify themselves but those words do not correspond with reality. In this case, he was speaking to people who identified themselves as children of Abraham - children of God. But their actions betray them, since they do not accept Jesus and live the way they should. It is a good meditation for me and for everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ. We are quick to identify ourselves as a Christian, Catholic, or with other words that imply we follow the example of Christ. But often our words betray us, since our actions show a very different identity. I know that I am guilty of this, and it challenges me. When I look at others who do or say things that bother me, or fail to live up to my expectations, I do not treat them as Jesus would but rather with impatience and annoyance. My face, I am told, reflects this and I am ashamed to say that it has hurt people. If I am to be authentic, I need to work on this, and try harder to continue to treat people with love, even when I am upset. It certainly is not something that comes easily to me, but as a true follower of Christ I have to respond as He would. I have to work on allowing the love I really feel in my heart for people to shine through, especially when they do not live up to my expectations. And in doing so, I will then be reflecting by my actions more clearly that which I give voice to with my words. Jesus loves us all immensely, and I need to be that presence of love for those whom the Lord sends into my life. Certainly a big challenge for me in these final days of Lent, and, I am sure, a work that will take a lifetime to perfect. But together, with the help of God and those He sends into my life, I am convinced that I can make improvements each day so that my actions will speak louder than my words.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Help Wanted

Today's Gospel (John 5:1-16) is in some ways very sad. It tells of a man who has been sick for 38 years, and is desperate to be healed. He sits by the one pool that is said to have miraculous powers to heal people, but only when the waters are stirred up by an angel. Unfortunately, he has no one to help him get into the pool in time, so he never makes the small window of opportunity. Then Jesus comes along and cures him. It is so sad that he had no friends, no family members who were there to help him. And then I reflected on the fact that the normal way God performs miracles is by using other people. Miracles of healing are accomplished every day by those whom God uses in the medical profession by giving them the skill and knowledge needed to help people. Miracles of feeding the hungry require those who offer not just from their surplus, but from their own need. Miracles of shelter come about when those with comfortable homes support shelters for the homeless. Miracles of peace take place when someone takes time to listen to the hurts and sorrows of a friend or a stranger. You and I are the ones that God uses to perform miracles, just as he uses people in our lives to perform miracles for us. The tricky part is that we have a choice. We can decide whether or not to do what Jesus did - to love the people who come into our lives, whether for a moment or for a lifetime. Had just one person helped that man at Bethesda, things in his life might have turned out quite differently. Now you may think "Yeah, but he did have Jesus Himself heal him, which is pretty wonderful". But I think he would have traded that experience if he had been able to live the previous 38 years as a healthy, productive man. The point of this Gospel for us, I think, is that you and I will be given opportunities today (and every day) to help God perform miracles. And without our cooperation, they may never happen. Someone's pain and suffering may never go away if we do not take the time and love them enough to nurse, feed, shelter or listen to them. We may be the only person that God asks to assist Him in making sure the miracle happens. Our help is wanted by God, my friends. The question is: Will I take the time today to respond to His request?