10 July 2016
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
When I was growing up, I never like going to gym class. From grade school through high school, I don’t there was ever a day when I woke up and said, “Yeah, I get to go to gym class today.” That never happened. But I went to gym anyway, because I had to. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t try to get out of it.
In Second Grade I remember we had to do sit-ups. So, I went over to the gym teacher and said, “I don’t know how to do sit-ups”—thinking that she would see my inability and excuse me from doing them. But, of course, she didn’t. She just got on the floor, demonstrated how to do a sit-up, and sent me on my way. I knew what I had to do—I just didn’t want to do it.
And there are any number of examples we could talk about, when it comes to that. You know, when you buy a house, there’s the happiness of having a home . . . and there’s that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think about the mortgage you’ve just taken on. The home and the mortgage go together.
Or think about getting married and having children. That’s a pretty big move, really, from being single to being bound to someone else for the rest of your life. And then to find yourself responsible for the well-being of children . . . There can be a lot of happiness in marriage and in having kids. But there’s also that feeling in the pit of your stomach again, when you think about all the responsibilities and challenges you’ve just taken on. We want the family, but not necessarily the pains that go with it.
Of course, the growing pains, the mortgage, and the trials of gym class make us who we are. How we approach those things in life we know we have to do—but would rather not—how we approach them says a lot about our character, and it says a lot about how much we really trust God.
When Moses was speaking to the people, he reminded them of God’s law which was already written in their hearts. In other words, they knew what they had to do; they knew how they were supposed to live and worship. All they had to do was do it.
And that whole conversation in the gospel between Jesus and the scholar boils down to the same thing. The scholar already knew what the law said: “Love God; love your neighbor as yourself.” And he even knew what it meant to be a “neighbor;” Jesus didn’t have to tell him. It means to treat others—especially those who are wounded—with mercy. The scholar knew what he had to do; he already knew how to live well. All he had to do was do it.
Moses and Jesus simply reminded people of what they already knew in their hearts. They reminded them of the inevitable. You know, if we’re going to call ourselves disciples of Christ, if we’re going to call ourselves Roman Catholic, then there are certain inevitable consequences. We know what we have to do—we just have to do it. But, of course, there’s resistance to that. There is resistance to the inevitable.
Just think about death. You know, with the advances in science and medicine in the past century, we’ve become a culture that increasingly denies death. But, in past centuries, part of Christian living was something called “the art of dying well.” As much as death was something people didn’t want to go through, they nonetheless accepted it. And so, they lived in order to die well. And they accepted death as a necessary part of living. They were more at peace with death than we are today.
A big sign of that is how we treat things that are “old.” Our culture glorifies youth and vibrancy, and it downplays old age and frailty. When the flowers in church start to wither and fade, what do we do with them? We throw them out. Or, at a funeral, there’s the casket with the body of a loved one in it. Now, normally, we’d go up to that person and engage them. But at a funeral we stay away. We keep a safe distance from that casket. We don’t want to get too close to death.
We don’t want to be reminded of the inevitable. Now, it might sound kind of weird for me to say this, but when I was little, every time I went to gym class, it was like I was facing death (I said it would sound weird). I was facing the inevitable—I knew what I had to do, and I learned to just do it. But that was good for me.
It taught me discipline. It taught me that not everything in life is going to be the way I want it to be. And the really weird thing about it is that when I got older, I actually paid money to go to the gym. When I was older, nobody made me go to the gym; I went because I enjoyed the challenge.
We don’t like to be reminded of the inevitable. And maybe that’s a reason why so many people couldn’t stand to hear Jesus speak—he reminded them of what they already knew they had to do. And he reminded them to actually do it. He pushed them. But he did it because of a reason that almost parent knows. He did it because he knows: “It’ll be good for you.”
“Go exercise and eat healthy.” “No, I don’t want to.” “Well, do it anyway—it’s good for you.”
“Come on, get in the car, we’re going to church.” “No, I don’t want to.” “Well, do it anyway—it’s good for you.” “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” “No, I don’t want to.” “Well, do it anyway—it’s good for you.”
Now, I know I’m pretty new to Saint Clare Parish. But all you have to do is scratch the surface to realize that we’re in the midst of . . . change. But, then again, that’s the history of the Catholic Church in this whole area. It all started in 1833 (or so) when a little mission church was started in Little Chute, founded by Father Theodore Van den Broek. At the time, the congregation was mostly Native American. By 1848, it was mostly Dutch.
From there, mission churches were set up Hollandtown, Sniderville and Morrison. Hollandtown set up a mission church in Morrison, which eventually became its own parish. Sniderville set up a mission church in Wrightstown, which eventually became its own parish. And Morrison set up a mission church in Greenleaf and Askeaton, each of which eventually became their own parishes. And, along the way, the church in Morrison declined, as did the church in Sniderville.
Now all that’s left are their cemeteries and the communities they founded. And, seven years ago, Saint Clare Parish was formed. Change is part of life—as humans and as Catholics. It’s part of our history, and it’s an inevitable part of our present day and future. And—as Jesus would remind us—we already know that in our hearts. We already know it. The question, the unknown, is: “Where are we going? What’s going to happen?”
How we approach those things in life we know we have to face—but would rather not—how we approach them says a lot about our character, and it says a lot about how much we really trust God. At a time like this, we Catholics must do what we’ve always done—we have to turn to the Cross of Christ.
It’s good to remember that dark evening in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s important to remember how Jesus sweated blood as he waited for the inevitable to come. It’s soothing to hear Jesus himself say: “Father, I would rather that this cup pass from me. I would rather not face this.” Jesus knows what we feel in our hearts.
But then he said those words which are hardest to say: “Not my will be done, but yours, Father.” It’s both comforting and nerve-wracking to say those words. But that is what we must do. We already know in our hearts what we have to do. We know that the winds of change are blowing and that we have to face it. But, aside from that change, the more fundamental thing we must do is trust God.
The more we trust God, the more we’ll see that it’ll turn out well. Our trust isn’t in councils or committees, or in studies and statistics. Our trust isn’t in trying to copy the Evangelical churches. Our trust isn’t in a building—a new one or an old one. Our trust must be in God alone. And that, brothers and sisters, is the Cross.
The Cross isn’t the changes we’re facing. The Cross we carry is the question of whether or not we will trust God to take us through those changes. “Trust God.” “No, I’d rather not.” “But it’ll be good for you.” It’ll be good for us—in more ways than one—to do what we know have to do; to carry the Cross and truly, deeply, trust God.
“Trust God.” “No, I’d rather not.” “But it’ll be good for you.” It’ll be good for all of us.