Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Marching toward Calvary....

Life can be confusing at times.  We are on our own journey towards our own calvary.  At funerals, we are often reminded of that simple truth.  That this is all going to end at some point.  The events along the way can seem like they are worthless.  They can make us wonder if God is even watching, is He even out there?  The death of a loved one, pain and suffering, isolation and anger.   All of these can draw us away from or propel us toward God.   Isaiah speaks of the Suffering Servant today as we approach Good Friday.   He laments though that he had had his own doubts.   At times he thought he toiled in vain.  That all of his efforts were spent in the futile struggle of man versus environment.

We all have our role to play.  Sometimes it seems like God isn't in control anymore, but He is.  The Gospel story reminds us of that simple fact.   Everyone had a role to play.  Peter initiated the encounter with Christ.  He motioned to John to get him to ask Jesus what was going on.   John reclined on Jesus' breast and rested with Him, then proceeded to ask Him for clarification, for guidance.   Judas, poor Judas, had probably the most reviled role of all time.    Still, God used Judas to further good in the world.  Too many see God in control of every event as if He wills evil.   There is a difference in His perfect will and His permissive will.  His perfect will wanted us to live in Eden, walking face to face with God in a place of peace and sublimity.  His permissive will is what allows us to have free will.

713 The Messiah's characteristics are revealed above all in the "Servant songs." These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus' Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our "form as slave." Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life.

Just as God did not will us to eat of the fruit and fall from grace, He did not will Judas to do evil.  He saw what Judas was going to do though and brought salvation out of betrayal, life out of death, communion out of discord.  He doesn't will for evil to befall us either.   When I had my back surgery in 2007 I became quite depressed and despondent.  Here I was trying to be a better man.   I was reading my bible.   I went to Church with my family.  I witnessed to anyone who would listen.   Then I was disabled.   Unable to work, unable to feed my family, as far as many were concerned I was no longer a "man."   I hated what my life had become.  Dependent.  I didn't want that.  I had always seen independence as the mark of manhood.   Now I didn't even have that.   I had to be helped from bed.   I couldn't go to the bathroom on my own.  I often just sat looking out the window with no thoughts in my mind at all.

Looking back though it's so easy to see God's hand in all of this.   I got to be present to my wife when she came home from work every day, eventually being able to prepare meals for her and eat them with her, even if it was in a hurry.   My daughter took her first steps with me right there watching.  I listened to her say her first words and got to spend time with my step-daughters that I would never have had a chance to otherwise.  I began to attend daily Mass, to study and read with a thirst for all things about God.  Eventually, that lead to my conversion in 2012 and my discernment of a call to the diaconate.  All of this good came out of something unpleasant.  It's not that God wanted me to suffer in surgery, or to go through a long, painful recovery.   He knows my role though because He isn't limited to a vision of my life that is only in the now but can see all of it at once.

1851 It is precisely in the Passion, when the mercy of Christ is about to vanquish it, that sin most clearly manifests its violence and its many forms: unbelief, murderous hatred, shunning and mockery by the leaders and the people, Pilate's cowardice and the cruelty of the soldiers, Judas' betrayal - so bitter to Jesus, Peter's denial and the disciples' flight. However, at the very hour of darkness, the hour of the prince of this world, the sacrifice of Christ secretly becomes the source from which the forgiveness of our sins will pour forth inexhaustibly.

There are too many that spend their time looking for the end of time.  I used to be one of those.  Every time something happened in the news I'd try to align it with events in the book of Revelation.   I'd try to figure out who the characters were and when the bad things were coming.  That isn't the purpose of Apocalyptic literature.   It is to bring hope!  That even with all those strange and disturbing images we can trust that God is in control.  "I've seen the back of the book and we win!"  It's trusting that even when we make the wrong mistake, God's perfect will is still that we receive good.. but we have to be open to that.   He won't even force that on us!   That's why Holy Week is so important to us every year.  It's a reminder to look back on the last year and look for God's hand in our lives.   To take the steps with Jesus toward our own Calvary, to journey toward our own Easter, where we too will be raised again to eternal life... if we hold out till the end, if we run the race without stopping.   It doesn't mean we won't fall and scrape our knees.  It doesn't mean we won't find blisters from our shoes or splinters in our hands... It does mean that all of these are nothing compared to the beatific vision we will experience if we hold tight to Jesus Christ and the faith of our fathers.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Tuesday of Holy Week: April 11, 2017.