Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why do good things happen to bad people?

The Storms of Life
A Reflection on the Readings for June 28, 2016.  The Memorial of St. Irenaeus.

Amos 3:1-8; 4:11-12
Psalm 5
The Holy Gospel according to Saint Matthew 8:23-27

I used to hang out with this friend of mine after work.  We'd sit around having a few drinks.   He'd then bring out his drugs, consume them go on what he called a relaxing trip after work.  We'd then sit and talk about God.   Strange isn't it?  There we were doing things that He would find unpleasant, things which did not draw us closer to Him and yet our hearts still longed for Him.   My friend would talk about how rough his life was and ask why would God do that to him?  Why wasn't life a bed of roses?  Why did 'bad people' get good things, and good people get bad things>  Yet, there we were turning our backs on His grace and preventing Him from being a part of our life fully.   We were like a man drowning in the ocean, beating the hands and face of the Life Guard who tried to pull us out to safety.. and then complaining that no one was helping.

The readings today remind us that God has been sending the message of salvation since the beginning of time itself.   He has been showing us through Prophets, Judges, Kings, and Saints exactly the life we need to live to open those channels of grace.   The life we need to live to be restored to the image of God that we were created to be.  That doesn't mean a bed of roses.  In fact, Jesus gave us the ultimate example of living that life to it's fullest.. and it was far from comfort.   It was  a life filled with grace, a life that changed the world around it, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and sought God's will above all things.  We fall below that threshold so often don't we?   Too often we, like the Israelites, could be called a stiff necked people.  We continually do those things we know God has shown us to be bad for our spiritual health.

St. John Paul the II point out how this Psalm (Psalm 5) of supplication, like so may others in this book contrasts the person who prays with those who do evil.  Because of God's unwavering love and constant care and assistance, we can turn to him in confidence amid the turmoil, sin, and temptation that surround our daily lives.  United to God, the faithful are always secure; through prayer the people of God express their trust in his mercy.  It please God to shower his blessings upon his people and protect them with his unsurpassable goodness.  (Cf. St. John Paul II, General Audience, May 30, 2001) - Note from the Didache Bible (Pg 614, note 5)

When fear overwhelmed the disciples, they shouted out for Jesus to deliver them.   Jesus stood up and rebuked the waves and winds, and there was calm.   It's funny isn't it?   Jesus didn't take them out of the boat to dry land.   He didn't remove the water from the situation.   He didn't take them into the vacuum of space to where the wind itself could never move.   No, he instead brought calm to them.   They were still in the boat, still on the water, still at the mercy of the elements; their location had not changed.. but their peace was restored.  The storm was calmed around them, but everything that created the storm in the first place was still there.  Spiritually I think that's a powerful lesson for us... What God offers us is not necessarily a new location, or change of venue..... He offers to calm the storm... that doesn't mean that stress will miraculously disappear.. but if you let Him, His grace will give you the ability to be peaceful and filled with joy in the same location, the same situation.   That's what Jesus offers us every day.  Peace, joy and love with the grace of God.

The Israelites received an almost ominous threat.  That's because we read into it our human emotions, we anthropomorphize God to try and understand him further.   God said to them through Amos:

So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel!
and since I will deal thus with you,
prepare to meet your God, O Israel.

God was letting them know of His grace, to see His mercy and justice.  He did indeed deal with them in His own way... through the incarnation.  Just like the disciples we are coming face to face with God himself, in the person of Christ.  When we come to the altar for communion we again come face to face with Christ in the Eucharist and should be reminded that God is right there in front of us... and we should not be terrified... rather we should be bolstered by our faith.. because God has chosen to deal with us in His own way.. love and mercy itself!   Are you ready for Jesus to calm the storm around you?  To rest in His arms in communion?  To draw closer to Him in Reconciliation?  To find peace, joy, and happiness right where you are at this very moment?  He might not remove the bed of roses, but simply open your eyes to the beauty and grace present through the pleasure of their sight and smell.

We are members of the body of Christ, the Church is the boat that keeps us afloat.  As long as we keep Christ in the boat, it's smooth sailing.. we just need to have faith.  Again today the question is asked, "What manner of man is this?"  As you gaze upon the Eucharist, can you hear Him saying, "Who do you say that I AM?"

His servant and yours,

"He must increase, I must decrease."