Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tear Down the Wall

When I was fresh out of college money was pretty hard to come by.  To try to make ends meet five of us moved into this one trailer and pooled our monies to make things happen.  It was an interesting thing.  On the surface one would have called us a community.   All of us professed to be Christians and attended church a few times a year.  We even talked from time to time about the Bible and listened to religious radio on lunch breaks when we could.  The thing was, we shared a home.. but you wouldn't say we were sharing much else.  One of us even had a shelf that contained their stuff.  I remember once when the brother of one of the guys living there drank something off the 'shelf'.   All of us gasped!  That's the 'shelf'!  You're in trouble!  Sure enough, when that roommate came home the first thing out of their mouth was, "Where is my stuff!"

That's a far cry from the ideal isn't it?  In the first reading for today's daily Mass we can see what the early Christians considered the ideal community.  Everything they had was in common!  They shared it all.  There were no shelves, no 'hey that's my shirt', everyone sold any money they had and the community leaders distributed it evenly so that none were lacking in need.  It's easy for me to look back at that living arrangement and pick it apart and say hey, we didn't meet that ideal at all did we?  Yet, if I'm honest, looking at any household today we can often find similar situations.  Someone upset because someone else wore their shirt.   Someone mad because their phone is dead because someone was playing on it when it was supposed to be charging... someone upset because the last thing of ice cream is gone and they didn't get any.   Pretty standard for any family isn't it?

The interesting thing about this reading from the history of the early church is that it's talking about an example for them to look up to.  Barnabas, the son of encouragement, lived in such a way that they felt we should all learn from him.  He sold what he had and brought it to the Apostles to distribute as they saw a need.  As a man who greatly admires Saint Francis of Assisi this truly touches my heart.  How many of us are willing to do that?  We complain every time we turn on the radio and someone is asking for money.  You can see the eyes roll and hear the sighs at times when a priest gets up during the year for the Diocesan Stewardship Appeal.  "There they are asking for money again."   "Why is it everytime I come to church they want more cash?"  "Don't they have enough?" Or better yet, "Why don't they sell everything in the Vatican and give it away to the poor!"  (Ask me about this last one sometime, my answer may shock you.)

Imagine though, another situation... if every one of us who professed to be Christian... gave like we should?  If we opened up our bank accounts and gave 1%, 2%, 10%... 100%?  What if instead of trying to pretend we own the money we earn.. we rather acknowledge that it was all a gift from God?  Then we put our money, our time, our talent, all of it... where our mouths were.   If every person in our Parish gave 10%?  I imagine we'd never have to ask for money.   Rather, we'd see a need and meet it.   This year we saw a need, $6,700 dollars... and we met it.   It took some time, but through some sacrificial fasting, prayer and almsgiving we are going to be able to build a well.  That's beautiful!  That's marvelous!  That's the way it should be!

Yet, there is something more that must be faced.  Lent is not a time to simply change for a season, and go back to who you were before.. No Lent is a time of metanoia, transformation, changing from bad habits to good... Lent is over, but the giving should just be starting!  That's why we as a Parish are looking at raising even more money, giving throughout the year and not just during the penitential season leading up to Lent.  Maybe we'll build a house?  Feed a village?  We are still discussing this as a pastoral council.

The Gospel reading talks about the wind.   The word there for Spirit and Wind is the same word! The breath.... the wind... the Spirit... the word has the connotation of presence.. of life.   When someone is unconscious you put a mirror under their nose to see if they are breathing.. with breath is life.  That's a powerful thought.  Jesus is there in the tabernacle.. breathing.. waiting for you.  Where he is.. life is.   Where he goes.. life goes... Where he is rejected? Life is rejected.  In the Eucharist is all of the life force in the universe.. the ultimate wind.. the ultimate Spirit... God himself. So you are given that gift.. that life.   You receive into you the breath of God.. something that cannot be contained but is greater than yourself.   Are you going out into the world with it?  Are you breathing life?

Some people have told me that when they enter the Catholic church they feel a presence.. like someone is there.. even when the Sanctuary is empty as far as they know.   That's Him.  That's the breath, the wind.. the Spirit..  That is Christ's presence in the tabernacle.. it is tangible, you know he's there.. I have never experienced that in any other church.  Yes, I've found beautiful prayer spaces.  I've enjoyed uplifting concerts.  I've prayed with men and women of many faiths and denominations.... I've never been in any of those churches empty and felt the presence I feel when being before the Eucharist.  That brings me to one other thought... When people meet you, when they pray with you, when they visit you or you visit them... when you converse, when you share, when you break bread together... do they feel His presence in you?  Are people aware of the breath of Christ, the Holy Spirit, in your life?  When you go from Mass at the end, when you are dismissed by the priest or Deacon.. they say "The Mass is ended, go forth glorifying the Lord with your lives."   That's not a dismissal to go back to your old way of life.. it's a challenge to go forth into the world as a living tabernacle, a temple of God... when people are in your presence they should know He is there too... it should change you... and they should know by your actions, words and deeds that you are a Catholic and a disciple of Christ.

So, the question becomes: "If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."