Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sept. 25, 2011: 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Have you ever had the experience of your mind wanting to go in one direction, yet your body goes in another direction? One of the best examples of this is a game we played as kids whenever we went on school outings, called Dizzy Bat Race. The game was played on a grassy field and the teacher would set out an orange cone as the goal for the kids to reach. Two students at a time were each given a baseball bat. With the baseball bat standing on end and the student’s forehead pressed down on the bat, the student would then spin around the bats 10 times.  After spinning, the students would then have to run toward the orange cone.  Of course, after spinning around the bat that many times, your mind wants to go toward the orange cone but your body is confused and wanders sideways. I don't know who had more fun, we kids who were hopelessly falling down or the classmates and teachers who were laughing at our expense. There are other occasions where our mind and body go separate ways. Last time I was at the nursing home here in Donaldsonville to celebrate mass, I noticed a lady in her 90's in her wheelchair. Her family member commented that now she is like a sweet child. I noticed how this lady was clutching a baby doll just as a 6-yr. old child would.

There is a great mystery hidden behind how our will and our body interact. Many folks here who were taught by the religious nuns and brothers know that a ruler was not only used to measure length but also to teach our mind and the will through the pain felt on the body. When I was in middle school, the football coach handed out our report cards in the locker room. Afterward, the guys who got D's or F's had to line up outside the shower room where the coach would then offer an “incentive” to them to study. The sound of 'POW!' that the rest of us heard reverberate from the paddling seemed so loud and so painful that we knew not to procrastinate on our homework, less the same would happen to us the next time. Occasionally, before those guys would line up for their “incentive”, some of the guys in the line grumbled that it was not fair, but after their behind received some heat, they no longer dared to say, 'It's not fair!'

In the First Reading, we hear people grumbling and saying, "The Lord's way is not fair!" But then the Lord puts forth this question, "Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life." For most of us who live through daily aggravating, frustrating, and confusing situations, all we can say is "Why? This is not fair."

To all of our questions of "Why," St. Paul gives us an explanation in the Second Reading. Look at Jesus he says. "Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." We may wonder why our Lord lived and suffered as he did? Jesus said, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38) At the very heart of why Jesus did what he did is, that he loved his Father. The accusation that the evil one heaps on Jesus as he faithfully follows the Way of the Cross, is 'Why would a loving Father let this happen to you, Jesus? Does He really love you?' This is the same accusation that the evil one whispers in our ears when we face our earthly crosses. We may be enduring one unexplainable tragedy after another even though we are faithful to our prayers, to our church, and to our work. As we go through struggles, we probably wonder how Blessed Mother was able to say to the Archangel Gabriel, "Be it done to me according to thy word." (Luke 1:38). What Blessed Mother and Jesus did was to surrender to the Father's Will.

In another words, they were obedient to the Father's Will for them.Mother Teresa made the following observation about our culture. "Today we have many broken homes because there is not that obedience, that surrender to each other between husband and wife, parents and children. There is so much trouble with the young people because they want to be free to do everything, as they like. [In one book] it says let the child do what he wants from the age of one, so from that age he can say, 'Oh no, I won't go today, I will go where I want.' The person given totally to God knows obedience. I am not talking of the obedience of a slave, but of love. My parents--I love them and they love me and so I obey. There must also be some fear: The fear of offending God, of offending our parents, of offending our superiors. What an empty life is ours if we have not understood this: that I belong to Jesus and He can do with me what He wants."

It is easy for our mind and will to get disoriented and lose direction like the child who tries to walk straight after turning ten times around a baseball bat. Just as Our Lord and Blessed Mother surrendered daily saying "Be it done to me according to thy word," we also need that spirit of surrender, trusting that God has a plan, a future filled with hope.