Thursday, April 27, 2017

Union Strikes and flat tires.

Growing up my father was a non-union coal mining boss during all of the strikes in the mid-80s.   It got so bad at one point that he had to carry full sets of tires in the bed of his truck in order to be able to get home at night.   People would throw nails and glass into the roads to prevent those who did not strike from getting to and from work.   I remember at one point driving home from the hospital where my mother worked and the rear tire came off.   Turned out someone had taken off three of the lug nuts while we were in the hospital.  That left a bitter taste for dad I'm sure.  So much so that I was forbidden to play at one of my friend's houses because their dad was a union man.  

One day I was supposed to be going to another friends house and saw Travis outside playing basketball with his cousins.   There were three of them and they needed another.  I found out that the person I was going to see wasn't home so I just joined in the basketball game.   What would it hurt?  About halfway through I jumped up to shoot and landed in a pothole in the road.   My ankle bent sideways so far that I'm sure it tapped the ground.  I tried to play for a few minutes longer and even though they were poking fun at me, I limped away heading home.   When I got home I found out I had broken it.  A few hours later we were back from the hospital and I had a cast on.

My biggest fear wasn't the pain of the ankle.  It was my dad.  I had seen him angry.   I knew he had told me not to go to that house and here I had broken my foot there.  I was so scared that I wrote my will!  I was going to give my books to this friend, my toys to that one, my other stuff to my brother.  When dad got home he came up to my room to see me.   I'll never forget.   He wasn't angry.  He was sad.  He was disappointed.  He didn't have to say it.  It was written on his face in a way that was completely obvious.  My dad had asked me to do something simple, something that meant a lot to him.   He had literally risked his life to put food on the table for us while other men tried to hurt him.  I had betrayed that.

The Apostles did the opposite of that.  They who before the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost hid behind lock doors in fear now were willing to stand up in public and go to prison before denying Christ.  They didn't give in anymore to the whims of their own self.   What would have been easy was to run back home, to travel the road to Emmaus again and go back to being fishermen.  Instead, they stand up to the authorities of their time, the men with the power to eject them from the temple.   In our world of Church shopping, this doesn't seem like a big deal.  So what?  Kick me out here I'll find another community.  That wasn't how it worked for the Jews.  Being kicked out of the temple meant losing all of one's identity.  Family, friends, the ability to shop, to work.   It means no longer being able to have access to God.    The Temple was where God dwelt!

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. "Since "without faith it is impossible to please [God]" and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'"

The Apostles, though, had come to realize something that was so powerful, so beyond anything, anyone could threaten.  They realized that Jesus was God.  That no one could separate them from him, not even if they took away everything they had.  They were willing, like my dad, to put everything they had on the line... even their own lives.   "We must obey God, rather than men."   Nicodemus had asked a few questions that allowed Jesus to give us such a simple response, but one that echoes throughout time.  "Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life."   Our faith requires us simply to be obedient.   The revelation of the Incarnation teaches us how to live.   It's not that God is up there angry, stamping around, indignant that you dare to question his authority.   No, much like my father was with me as a child, He knows what is best for us and has revealed that through His Church that we might have life.   Not just after this life is over, but also now.

504 Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: "The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven." From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God "gives him the Spirit without measure." From "his fullness" as the head of redeemed humanity "we have all received, grace upon grace."

That's what all these rules are about.   They aren't some arbitrary made-up system by men to control us.  They are the answer to the question that Nicodemus was so perplexed by.  "How can we be born again?"  They reveal to us what it means to be fully human, to be made in the image of God.   How to be in a relationship with God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  How to be in a relationship with each other, and to show dignity and respect to all living people.  They show us how to love.   That's what the Sacraments are all about.   Some call the Eucharist the Sacrament of Love, and how powerfully true that statement is.  Are we ready to stand up for that?  Are we willing to spread our faith no matter what the cost? Jesus is the fullness of God, He has the entirety of the Holy Spirit in Him.  He is our visible image of what mankind was supposed to be.   The New Adam, who gives a complete yes to God, and protects the Garden even if it means his death, death on a cross.   Are we ready to follow Him?  Even if it means taking up our own crosses?

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Thursday of the Second Week of Easter: April 27, 2017.