Heard a friend of mine, Fr. Thomas Woost, preach a mighty good homily from today’s Mass. Take a moment to read these discerning words.
Monday, Second Week of Easter
One of my favorite American authors is Annie Dillard. I was introduced to her in my seminary days. Her writing was a God send. She stepped into my life right when I needed her. Several of her stories resonated with me during those discerning and painstakingly questioning years.
I think back shaking my head, “Poor God.” Every time I prayed back then, God must have been rolling those divine eyes and saying, “here we go again… same old, same old … should I or shouldn’t I … do I have what it takes or don’t I… should I be doing something else, something “better,” something more?” My prayer was on repeat over and over again. God never really came out and said, “Listen, dummy, do this!” God knows me. Something that direct and clear-cut would never have worked with me. Rather, the answer to all my prayers about future things was calm and peace. When I thought about priesthood, there was a calmness and a peace that settled within me. When I asked, “do I have what it takes?” I found, much to my surprise, God opening my eyes to the fact that I was already doing it: living a life of prayer, entrusting myself to the Sacramental life of the Church, turning to God in Sacred Scripture, abandoning myself to God’s will … and ultimately falling in love, like no other love that had ever loved me before. If you’re a Hallmark Movie aficionado, you won’t see my life story on that channel. Yes, indeed, there is more than just romantic love that exists in the world. Read “Song of Songs” in the Bible, on one level it is the love poetry of Christ with his bride, the Church (that’s you and me!). I digress…
I must admit, sometimes I didn’t want calm and peace back then. I didn’t want to hear what God was telling me. There were days in my discernment years, that I thought I was going nowhere, fast. I thought I knew better than God. The great thing about God in those days, looking back now, God simply let me have that period of time. God would seem to step back, or I would push God away. God would allow it with a gentle word: “See how you fare… see if you are smarter than me… see for yourself what you can do without me… maybe we will both be surprised at what comes your way. I will be here though, when you choose.” Those days! Yikes!
Enter Ms. Dillard. Two images to share that took me beyond my self-paralysis about future things and future vocation and that really helped me to get over myself. Image one: she writes in one of her short stories that seemed to be set in the Wild West about finding this dead, decaying feather and bones of a bald eagle. Nice image, right? There’s more… still attached to the eagle’s backbone is the skull of a weasel. Obviously, the eagle tried to pick it up for a meal. The weasel, however, sunk its razor sharp teeth into, not only the eagle’s feathers and flesh but all the way down to the marrow of the bone. It permanently anchored itself there. In the meantime, the eagle ate the rest of its body. What the eagle couldn’t reach, simply decayed and fell away. The skull, however, remained. Weasels are fierce. Till the day the eagle died, the weasel sank its teeth into what wanted to eat it up. Get it? (I’m sort of laughing now.) It’s about vocation. Taking the will of God and allowing it to swoop down and scoop us up and then sinking our teeth in, until the day we die. The image helped me to soar. Back then, the image shook me. It was gross and yet bold.
Another image: She writes about the experience of rather bored and boring people … from what I remember… mostly younger people who are so wrapped up in their own lives and so wrapped up in themselves that they fail to see the grandeur of faith that surrounds them. They come “shlumping” into church and sit and wait to be released. The story goes on to say… if they only knew the God they invoke, if they only knew the God that they wake up to every Sunday… ushers would have to pass out crash helmets and life preservers instead of hymnals and wicker baskets. I loved the whole image … “if we only knew.” We who are Catholic and have a legacy of over 2,000 years (sorry, no other faith can say that!) and so many in their youth … some 20, 30, 40 years old… me almost 50… we are a mere speck in what the Catholic faith has seen and what our Catholic faith holds out to us with open hands. Yet some who say, “No thank you, Catholic faith. I know better.” It’s somewhat comical, really. Our Catholic faith shakes me in its brazen boldness. I don’t mind.
What am I getting at? The first reading today… The Apostles prayed. Big deal, right? NO! They have finally come out from behind their fear and doubt and locked doors. They have finally stepped away from their life of me, myself, and I. They have sunk their teeth deep into the flesh and blood and bone and marrow of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Nothing can shake them loose, not even death itself (all, but one Apostle, martyred). They prayed and “the place where they were gathered shook” (Acts 4: 31). They spoke about God and bold words were heard. They must have needed crash helmets!
In this time of testing and trial, because this time is getting really old and fast, sink your teeth in unrelentingly to your Catholic faith. In this time, pray scripture and view the Mass – a poor substitute for the real thing, but good enough – BUT don’t settle for “good enough,” await all the more diligently for the real thing… for church doors to open, for Mass and Eucharist to be really present in your real presence. And when that happens, bring a crash helmet.