Saturday, March 1, 2014

March 2, 2014: 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Do you remember a little more than a month ago when everyone stayed off the highways and roads when the winter chill froze the Sunshine Bridge and the Interstate? On one of those days, I was in the church office when a young man knocked on the office door looking for a place to volunteer and a place to sleep. He had pedaled his bike from Mississippi and was headed to Corpus Christi. He was not looking for a handout. He emphasized that he needed to do volunteer or charitable work. Your generosity to our parishes allowed us to put him up in a motel for a couple days so that he could be out of the frigid weather. His bike pilgrimage reminded me of what the Jesuit order requires of all their novices. The novices must take a 30-day pilgrimage without money, begging from door to door, to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging. How would you like to be handed a one-way bus ticket to an unfamiliar destination with only $35 in your pocket, and told that you are to return back home 30 days later for dinner at 4PM?

One Jesuit novice got on a bus from Detroit to Atlanta with only $35. From there he planned to walk 20 miles to a Trappist monastery to spend his pilgrimage in prayerful solitude. Within minutes his plans changed. The first person he stopped to ask for directions had just been released from prison. After they chatted a bit, the novice was so moved that he gave the man $10 for train fare. Next, he met a homeless man, and the Jesuit gave him the remainder of his money so that the man could eat. With no money in his pocket, the Jesuit spent the rest of the time in a homeless shelter. He said, “The point of the pilgrimage is to spend the month letting go of our typical securities of home, money, community, and in doing that, come to trust more fully in God,”
 
What is one of our deepest fears? That we would not have enough to live on. Our Lord addresses this deep anxiety we all have. “I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?... Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?” We may question Jesus, “But Jesus, do you know how much Catholic School costs to educate our children, how much it costs to run a household and pay bills? How can we not worry?”

A couple of days ago, we celebrated the funeral mass for a 98-yr. old mother who had 13 children, 29 grandchildren, and 50 great grandchildren. These days we worry when we have more than two children. How could a couple ponder having 13 children? She and her husband had one secret: they trusted day-by-day that God would provide what they needed, not what they wanted.

Ash Wednesday is just a few days away. The Church gives us this wonderful season of Lent to help us make those changes in our lives that keep us from trusting God and loving the way we are called to love.  Lent is a time to let go of our desire for unnecessary wants and to cultivate a desire for only what we need. Let us ponder Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel through the words of a song written by Kitty Cleveland who will be with us in few weeks to sing the Divine Mercy Chaplet as well as share her testimony.   

God will provide all we need.
He’ll never leave or forsake us.
He lovingly tends all his sheep.
We believe God will provide.

He clothes the grass in splendor, and feeds the birds of the air.
If such as these he cares for, how much more will the Father care for us?
We know that God will provide all we need.
He’ll never leave or forsake us.
He lovingly tends all his sheep.
We believe God will provide.