Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ever touch an electric fence?

The pleasures of child hood
A Reflection on the readings for Daily Mass, June 30, 2016.

Amos 7:10-17
Psalm 19:8-11
The Holy Gospel According to Matthew 9:1-8

When I was younger my grandfather kept telling me not to go down around his garden.   He had this electric fence that he had put in.  He told us not to grab hold of it or it would 'bite' us.   The funny thing was we kind of enjoyed it.  The thrill of doing something dangerous, something we shouldn't be doing... and even better, holding on to someone else who didn't know we were going to touch the fence.  For years I goofed around with that and even found myself as an electrician not being super careful around low voltage.  People warned me that it could be dangerous, the books warned me, my mind warned me, but I didn't care.  I kind of liked it, it made my arthritis pain go away.   Then one day I was wiring a light in a school in Kingsport, Tennessee when my arm brushed the aluminum ceiling grid. It wasn't a hundred and twenty volts, but rather two seventy seven.   I found a new level of pain, one I did not enjoy.. one that left me aching.. one that made me hear clearly in my head the sixty hertz cycle of the transformer.   I thought I was screaming, I was trying to throw it away... but I couldn't move.. I couldn't speak... I was paralyzed.  Eventually it let me go, but I had learned my lesson the hard way.

Amos has been warning Israel of the consequences of their actions.  In the first reading he tells them this is what is going to happen if you keep on the path you are on.  Like me and my little dalliance with electricity eventually it's going to catch you.  As a man whose dad was electrocuted when I was only five years old, you'd think I'd have had more respect for it.   I wanted it though, I enjoyed it.   Just like the society of that time, and even our society today, they are doing things that feel good.   They want them.  They don't realize how dangerous it is.  How much it hurts! Sin and it's glamour tends to draw us in, to paralyze us, to addict us.   We find ourselves falling into the same trap that St. Paul speaks about when he says: "Those things I want to do, I do not.. those things I know not to do, that I do."  It traps us in a cycle where we find ourselves coming back to the Sacrament of Reconciliation time and again for the same sin, the same old temptation.. almost unable to help ourselves.

Just as an animal becomes a stronger beast of burden and more beautiful to behold the more often and better it is fed, so too confession - the more often it is used and the more carefully it is made as to both lesser and greater sins - conveys the soul increasingly forward and is so pleasing to God that it leads the soul to God's very heart.
--Revelations of St. Bridget

That's the key isn't it?  We are unable to help ourselves.  It's only through Christ that we can be cured.  The Gospel reminds us today that when we are paralyzed and unable to move, that's when those around us must pick us up and carry us to Christ.  When we are trapped in sin and unable to get out, that's when we need the Sacraments the most.   We as Catholics have to help those who need God: society, our friends, our neighbors, our kids.    It starts though with a different person: our self.  All of us have some sort of pet sin, something that we haven't let go of.   It's that pesky beam in our own eye that keeps us from being able to see clearly enough to help someone else with a speck or a splinter.  We like touching that electric fence too much to stop.. even though we know it's going to hurt, even though we have tried time and again.  What we've got to do is sit at the feet of Jesus... and let Him say to us, "Your sins are forgiven. Go forth and sin no more."  Then to trust in that... we have to pick up our mat and walk.  

"In failing to confess, Lord, I would only hide You from myself, not myself from You."--Saint Augustine

Are you ready for that?  As a Catholic that's what Reconciliation (Confession/Penance) is all about.  It's about allowing the Church to carry us in on our mats, to place us at the feet of Jesus and when He sees the faith of the body of Christ he says "Go forth, your sins are forgiven."   That's the greatest miracle of all time.  That God has given us a way to not only move away from the electric fence, but to live knowing that any permanent damage isn't done.   If you need someone to carry you on your mat, call me.  I'll drive you.  I'll wait in line with you and hold the door for you when you walk in.  Then I'll get in line too, because I keep falling back on my mat as well.

His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."