Wednesday, May 25, 2016

I'll Meet You There

In the early nineties I did a science fair project that got a bit of recognition at the local and state level.   It wasn’t that great a project when I think back on it.  I wrote some software for a computer that generated images based on Fractal Geometry and Iterated Functions.  Basically creating pictures from math.   At one point I got several awards and qualified to be sent to not only the State Science Fair but the International one in Biloxi, Mississippi as well.  I was ecstatic and so were my friends and family.   My mom and dad gave me enough cash to take everyone out to eat pizza.  Since my little Dodge Daytona was full already my brother was going to be dropped off at Pizza Hut with us and we would all celebrate together.

We drove the thirty minute ride back to Clintwood from Wise, Virginia listening to music, chatting and laughing.  As we pulled into the Pizza Hut parking lot we noticed that not only was the parking lot full but there seemed to be a line out the door.  My friend Michael suggested we go to another pizza place down by the post office.  I had never been there and they assured me the pizza was better.  Twenty plus years later and I cannot even remember the name of the place.   What I do remember is that we were having a great time until my mom came marching through the door with that look on her face.  You know the one where you are in so much trouble that you know not only your middle name is going to come out, but your last one too?  My brother had been sitting at Pizza Hut for over an hour waiting for us to show up.  I had completely forgotten him.
In my exuberance of being able to take my friends out to eat and my pride at celebrating my winning project I had forgotten him.   I had made it all about me.  Myself.  I.   I still to this day think about that day.  How my brother had to sit waiting for us.  How I didn’t even think about him.   How that I was so self absorbed that all that mattered was impressing my friends and filling my own stomach.  It was all about “what is in it for me.”   

That’s the image I get from the Gospel for the Mass today.  James and John seemed to be asking Jesus that very question.  “Hey Jesus, what is in it for us?”  They aren’t worried about the other disciples at the moment, not worried about the people who are following along afraid.  Instead they want a reward in the kingdom to come.   Jesus shares with them what their reward is going to be:  You are going to die.   James and John had just heard Jesus declare that He was going into Jerusalem to die.  They declare they can drink the same cup He is going to drink.  That’s a hard cup to think about, but they declare like we often do “We can!”  It’s easy to say, but harder to do.   Yet, they did.  All of the Apostles but one were martyred for their faith.  They drank that cup.

In Peter’s epistle he reminds us that we are challenged to love one another intensely with a pure heart.  I didn’t love my brother back then the way I should have.   I was too worried about myself, about my own needs.  Jesus declares that we must drink of his cup.  That means to die.  Now here in America at the moment we don’t often have to worry about dying as a martyr for our faith.   The challenge though is a spiritual one.  Are you willing to die to yourself?   To your own needs?  To look outside of yourself to serve the other?  That’s our call as Christians.  To be servants, humble and meek of heart.   To serve the widow, the orphan, the poor, the refugee.  To worry less about our own reward and more about our brother sitting alone waiting for a meal and companionship.  We have no idea who will be here tomorrow, so we must live in the present.  So are you ready?  Oh how easy it is to say “We are!  We can!”  But Jesus is saying to each and everyone of us: “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”  Are you ready to put yourself aside and let Christ live through you for those less fortunate?  With man this can be impossible, but with God all things are possible.  

We are called though to realize that Christ is in every person we meet, every person we see. "Whatever we do for the least of these, you do for me." How many times have you walked by your brother as he sat desiring communion, desiring a meal, desiring just a moment of your time? This time when I say I will meet you there, I’m not going to forget.  One day I hope that my brothers and I can sit across from each other at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and share in that communion that is self giving, self sacrificing, and all encompassing.   

His servant and yours,

He must increase, I must decrease.