Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hot Sands

Julie giving birth

Around ten years ago I had an experience that completely changed my life.  It began though around nine months before that.  My wife and I embarked on a journey of learning, though she had quite a bit more knowledge than I at that time.  The three other ladies in the house had to learn how to prepare for this as well.  Things had to be cleaned, locks had to be installed (or reinstalled.)  Various damaging things that could harm the imminent birth of our child had to be moved, secured or disposed of.  Life was changing and we had to work hard and discipline ourselves to prepare for those changes.

My wife had to change her diet, so we changed with her.  Things we normally might have eaten would have to be given up so that the child would be nourished with the proper vitamins and nutrients.  We worked hard on making sure that things didn't happen that would injure her, including avoiding high stress activities and anything that might jossle or jar her stomach in a negative way.  For nine months we prepared for that birth, for nine months we had to think and ponder what it might be like.  I was supposed to be infertile.  The doctors had told me this for years.  My wife and I had resigned ourselves to God's will in this matter.  We had not given up hope, but we didn't have a great deal of confidence that anything would come of it.

Then one day she took a pregnancy test and our world was changed.  It was filled with worry and yet joy.  Would she be healthy?  Would she have special needs?  Would she make it?  Would it be a he or she?  All things we waited till birth to discover.  Then that November I got to experience second hand what childbirth is like.  I've heard it said that a kidney stone is worse than childbirth.  If my wife's ability to give birth to children is the norm?  Then I'd say a kidney stone is a LOT worse than childbirth.  She gives birth like most people walk across hot sand.  If you move your feet fast enough it doesn't hurt too much.  The doctor came in and said "Ok, it's time."  And then? It was over.  There was this child of mine staring at me with my own face in miniature.  I watched as the nurses cleaned her and gave her some shot to boost her immune system and as the drop of blood dripped from her thigh she began to cry in pain.  I wanted to protect her but I knew it was best for her, so I stood and waited for them to hand her to us.  I knew right then I would do anything for this child, anything, even if it meant my own death.

There it is for all of you who wonder why we bother with Lent as Catholics.  Lent is the pregnancy.  It is that time when you prepare, when you discipline yourself, for that life changing event.  You get rid of those things that are harmful in preparation to nourish your new life.  As the reading for this morning says, "For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."  In Baptism we die with Christ and rise again a new person, filled with the Holy Spirit and the grace of God to go forth and change our lives.  Easter is a chance to renew that, to rekindle that romance, to draw closer to God and be more like Him.  Lent prepares us for that.  Just like with the new baby coming, anything that can hinder the growth of our new life, anything that might 'kill' or harm that new life, must be removed.

The thing is, it can't end with Lent.  Lent is not about giving up something meaningless in order to go right back to it afterward.  Lent is about preparing for that delivery of New Life that we receive in the Eucharist!  Just like you don't just ignore the baby after it's born, you can't ignore your new self either.  You have to feed it the right things, discipline it so that it can know right from wrong, nourish it, cherish it, and help it to grow into something beautiful.  That's what Easter reminds us to do.  We still have to keep those things out of our lives that we learned to remove during Lent, and continue to do those things that make us grow spiritually.  First and foremost of those is the Sacraments, but second and like to them are the corporeal works of Mercy.   Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, comforting the sick and mourning, visiting those who cannot get out or are imprisoned... yes these things make our new life grow.  They nourish us and enhance us.

It's not something we can forget.   That's why we in the Catholic church consider Sunday a mini-Easter... it's a reminder every week that we have to continue to feed our spirit with the nourishment of Christ in the Eucharist, in Confession, in prayer and in works.  Here you are with this new life cradled in your arms, and for those of you who are parents?  You have other lives to nourish and guide that they too might grow in their faith.  It's our responsibility to guide, nourish and cherish those lives.  When you gaze at them, when you gaze at your own spiritual walk, when you gaze at the Eucharist.... ask yourself, "Would I do anything for them?"  That's what Christ asks of us.  The walk of a Christian is not an easy one, not a thing that we simply do at Church and forget about later.. it's about looking at the people we like the least, the ones we have the most hatred for.. and trying to see Christ in them... because once we do.. the world changes.. our lives change.. and with God's grace and help?  Hatred can become love.  Injury? Pardon.  Doubt? Faith.  Despair? Hope. Anything is possible.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."