Thursday, April 7, 2016

Can anything good come from Clintwood?

Fifteen years or so ago the company I worked for hired this electrician from Baltimore.  He was supposed to be "all that and a bag of chips."  The one thing I do know, this man could finish a job faster than any other foreman that worked there.   I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder at the time because I was a foreman too but they kept putting me on his jobs as one of his helpers.  I did my job though.  I got fast at what I did, and I helped bang them out.   It wasn't until I'd been working with him a year or so that things began to show up that were iffy.  A problem on this job, a receptacle over here, etc.   Call back time and again to jobs he had finished in weeks, little things that added up to weeks or months of time repairing or fixing whatever it was that was wrong.   In the long run, you can't make money doing that... we spent more time on his jobs, but it always showed up as service calls, etc.

Finally it all came to a head when he asked me to do something that was just wrong.  He wanted me to install a heater with the wire coming through a concrete wall with no pipe, no insulators, just bare wire.  I refused.  So he sent me to work on the roof while he had someone else do it.   Then he asked me to just "stick a ground wire down a pipe" for a ground.  If you know anything about electricity, that's dangerous business.  This on a 200 amp disconnect.  I refused again.  He sent me off the job.   Soon I wasn't allowed on his jobs.  I kept getting crap work from the boss, and this hotshot kept getting all the high paying, overtime things.  He got the company truck, the gas card, the new tools etc..  I got to drive my own car several hundred miles a week, provide my own tools, and so on.   At the time I even kicked myself a bit.. everyone kept telling me just do what he tells you and things will get better.. "Everyone else does it, don't worry about it."  "If you want to make money you're gonna have to learn to cut corners...."   "You're from Clintwood, Virginia.. you should just do what you're told.. who else is gonna hire you?"

Then one winter we were working on a Church and the owner of the company showed up.  You could tell by the look in his eyes that something was wrong.  It turned out that on the roof of that job that I had been told to push a bare wire down a pipe, someone had touched an AC unit and been killed.  I looked at the man before me, I gave him that look... he knew, because I had told him when I was sent off that job why I was sent off.   I had still been punished, but I had stood up for what I knew to be right.  That company changed quite a bit after that.   Short cuts weren't taken anymore and profit wasn't as important.  The owner was a good man.. I know that... but he had allowed things to happen in order to make more money.

That's kind of what I get from the Acts of the Apostles.  Here are these men who have been arrested, thrown in prison and freed by an angel in the night. These were the same men who before were hiding in a locked room so no one would find them.  The same men who had run on the night Jesus was arrested, who had deserted him in his time of need.   Here they are, standing up to the very authority that all their life they had been told was the one to listen to.  This was the Sanhedrin!  If you listened to anyone as a Jew, that's the group of people you should be hearing.   Yet, they stand up for Christ, regardless of the consequences.  "We must obey God rather than men."   It would have been much easier to run away when they were arrested and freed.  Instead they go right back out and begin to preach again.  Later in that chapter we find them being flogged and beaten for this very action, and what happens?   "They left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ."

What about you?  Are you willing to stand up for your faith?  Most of us are not called here in the affluence of America to be Martyrs.  The question is though, what is God calling you to?   Each of us receives a calling.  Each of us is being asked by God to do something.  For some is to be the best mother they can be.  For another the best accountant.  Another the best lawyer.   Our Catholicism doesn't end at the door of the Sanctuary... it is a part of us.   When we receive Christ in the Eucharist we are to go out into the world and be among the world, but not of it.   That means we are a Sacramental people.. we ourselves are a sacrament to the world.. we aren't just lawyers.. we are Catholic lawyers.   We aren't just teachers.  We are Catholic teachers.   We aren't just writers... we are Catholic writers.   Are you ready for that?  Bringing your Catholicism into the world even it means losing your friends?  Your family?  Your job?  The other question I must ask myself when I read this is, do I go forth rejoicing when I am dishonored for him?  Or do I go back to the upper room and lock myself inside spiritually?

We Catholics are given the greatest gift of any possible one.  Saint John says:

The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life

That's what we receive in the Eucharist.   How is it that we receive that which is above all, that which pours out God's grace with no limits into our soul, that Blessed Sacrament of the Altar which imparts eternal life and then go forth sour, angry and unchanged?   We cannot.  We must not.   When we receive Jesus into us we must be open to that grace which he pours out on us freely... allowing Him to change us.. to make us more like God... to make us people who speak of heavenly things.. to testify to what we have seen and heart.. like our brother and savior, Jesus Christ.

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."