Saturday, January 23, 2016

If I could save time in a bottle....

In the first reading we see this very intriguing event.  Ezra has stood up in front of the people and read to them the Law of God.  As he read it to them they begin to weep and cry.  They were sad, scared.  They heard all the things they were supposed to be doing and realize they were so far from that.  Was there any hope?  Ezra comforts them and says get up, God is good! This is a day Holy to the Lord.  It's a feast. Go eat and enjoy!

Sometimes we have that reaction ourselves.  Jesus gave us the beatitudes to remind us that the ten commandments require detachment.  They require humility.  They require being more like Christ.  When we hear that.. when we are honest... sometimes we want to fall down on the ground and say.. I'm not worthy.  Who am I but a worm?  A sinful man, unworthy of your grace, unworthy of your love.  Satan helps with that doesn't he?   He whispers in your ear "remember that thing you did?  Remember those words you said?"  He wants you to think you aren't worthy.. he wants you not to accept God's mercy, God's love.

We have to be careful not to get to where God's mercy is never great enough.  We have to avoid simply having hellfire and brimstone preaching without the immense love and mercy of God.  God is not a hateful tyrant, stomping around upstairs just waiting for you to make a mistake.   He's not up there with an eraser, glaring in your direction like that teacher who hated you... just hoping he can erase your name from the Lamb's book of life.  No, he's a loving Father.  He has to chastise because he is just and true, but he takes no savor in doing so.  He does not hope you will fail.. he longs for you to soar with the eagles.

At the same time we have to avoid God becoming buddy Jesus.  We cannot see God as only love without justice, only mercy without righteousness.  He is both and, not either or.  He offers the grace, but if we do not accept it, he is bound by who he is, by his own very nature, to have no choice but to punish us.  We choose that, you know?  God never chooses bad for us, but how often do we out of our own sinful ignorance and concupiscence choose that which is not for our own good? Too often.

That's why Jesus came to die for us.  To make us part of the Body of Christ.  Each of us is entirely and utterly unique.  No one can do anything like you can do it.  No one has the same skillset, same thought patterns, same exact life... only you are you.. and God loves you entirely.  So much so that he wants you to be a part of His body, a part of Him.  He wants us to work together to form one working organism... with millions of unique jobs to be done.  He's calling you to be a part of that..  To be a part of His Church, because it needs you.  Somewhere there is a job to be done... whether in the church itself through Holy Orders, in the service at the mass, or out in the world witnessing with your work ethic and joyful attitude. 

How do we get there though? On our own we have trouble always being joyful, don't we?  We are supposed to be bringing life into the world.. but too often we bring the opposite.  We tear down.  We yell.  We get angry.  The Key is in the responsorial Psalm.  You're words, Lord, are spirit and life.  There it is.. the key.. The Word of God is life itself... It is in receiving that Word, in internalizing it, in allowing it to change us.. that we become more like God.. we become life givers, not takers. We become lights, not darkness.  That doesn't mean you lose your uniqueness.  God doesn't make you into another clone, another zombie... he says to you, You are my unique child and I love you.  I don't expect you to do things the same as everyone else.. but I long for you to share my life giving love with others in your own unique way. 

He has given us the beatitudes to follow.  To show us how to be that life giving person.  These call us to detachment.  They call us to righteousness.  They call us to love.. But more importantly they call us to Christ.  They describe perfectly the man of Christ.   They describe Christ on the cross.   A man who was happy.  A man who was detached.  A man who cared for others, despite his own circumstances.   A man fully given to God's will and mission, while still being completely unique.  They very Son of God.

It is in receiving Him, Christ, that we can even hope to have the grace of taking up our own unique crosses.  We as Catholics believe that the Eucharist is that person.  It's not a thing. Not an it.  Not just bread.  Rather, it is truly the substance of Christ, Body, Soul and Divinity.  When we go to Mass we are truly receiving the Living Word of God.  We get fed from the table of the Sacred Scriptures and the table of the Sacrifice of the Mass.  Two liturgies, one table.  Two different bites, one single dish.  Heaven kisses earth and we are lifted up to be with God, with the Angels and Saints in Heaven.  We come into God's presence, we are brought face to face with Christ on Calvary. 

I imagine for some that's as shocking as what Jesus did in the gospel when he proclaimed to the people that He was who Isaiah spoke of 400 years ago.. the Christ.. the Messiah.. the one to liberate the people.   Then, he backed it up. He performed all those things which he read about. 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

That promise was not just to them... but to you and I.  He comes to us today in the Eucharist and says to you:  Are you poor?  Is your spirit lacking?  Is there something you need in our relationship?  Let me fulfill you.   Are you captive to some sin?  Is there something in your life holding you back from giving yourself to me 100%?  Let me free you.   Are you blind to my love for you?  To my presence in your life?  Is it too hard for you to see my hand at work in your life?  Believe in me and I will open your eyes.  Are you oppressed?   Is there something pushing you down?  Is your own ego or addiction a tyrant keeping you from accepting my mercy? My child let me be your salvation.

Today is the Sabbath, the daily Holy to the Lord.   I challenge though that all days, all moments, every second.. is Holy to the Lord.   God himself entered time in the person of Christ and through his presence has sanctified to God every thing.  Every moment was created for you.   Every second of your life a gift.  Christ came to proclaim to you a lifetime of forgiveness.  A lifetime of freedom.   A lifetime of joy and gladness.  Are you ready to accept it?  Are you ready to be filled with joy?  Start with the Eucharist today.  Live the beatitudes.   They will draw you closer to Christ and Christ will show you that indeed, "Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."

It's almost as if Christ is singing to you that Old Jim Croce song:

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

How about you?  If you could save every moment of your life in a bottle.. and relive them... would you relive them for God?  The Bible is our love story.. Christ is our lover.. we are the beloved... Is he enough for us?  Every time we choose something else... well, we have become spiritually poor.  We have become blind.  We have become oppressed.  We have become idolaters.  Even then.. even when we have fallen once more... like a concern parent he reaches out to us and tries to help us up... and he calls out.. and says.. I still love you.. come back to me.  I am right here.. I have come to bring liberty, freedom, and joy... let me free you and love you.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."