I wonder as I wander…
June 25, 2023
Scriptures: Genesis 21:8-2, Matthew 10:24-39
Lately, I find I have been reflecting on what the future may look like. Not in ways you may think, as in planning for some particular lifestyle, or even what I would like to be doing in say the next 5 years or so. No, my reflections have come out of just looking around…looking carefully and thoughtfully at the state of affairs everywhere, from the most local of those in our own town and neighborhood, all the way up to the nation and world at large. Carefully looking at and thinking about any of those many things that come before us each day…and especially those which seem to demand that we take a stand…or at least position ourselves privately in relation to some current hot-button issue or concern.
I must apologize for that wordy, perhaps jumbled opening description. For it does not really do justice to the thoughts and ponderings I have been holding in my heart. My concerns, or at least the places I have been wandering to ‘in-thought’, mostly have to do with where the world seems to be right now, and perhaps moreso, where it appears to be heading…because that direction…seems at times to be quite opposed to what I have long preached about regarding God’s plan for our future as the human race. Seems opposed to, or different from what I believe will one day be the eventual triumph of God’s love over all of the hate and harm of the ‘world’.
Which may sound harsh, and I don’t really mean for it to, but honestly, wouldn’t you agree that anything that does not further the cause of our Lord’s commandment to love one another, and to pursue justice and peace, is to some degree working against this ‘day’? That ‘Day of the Lord’ of which the Prophets spoke? That ‘day’ when the ‘blind will see, the lame will walk again, and weapons of war will be melted down and re-fashioned into gardening tools?
And to top it all off, today’s gospel reading speaking of deep and personal division, with the pitting of one family member against another, of father against son, and mother against daughter only further confuses the issue…at least for me. It seems as though Jesus is saying that his coming has something to do with all the division and strife…at least in his day, if not also of ours. But I am not sure that is the end of this particular message, but perhaps only the beginning. Let me explain…
The other night I was flipping through some channels on TV and saw something about a Ukrainian National Orchestra concert. Interested, I turned to it and saw an introductory piece about how a composer or lyricist had taken an opera by Beethoven, and had modified the words only slightly so that they tied into and described the Ukrainian/Russian conflict very closely…speaking of struggle, of power, of pain and torment…as well as of eventual joy. The composer also had a particular Ukrainian soprano in mind for the title role and in this introductory segment she also was featured, speaking of how the words and the message captured not only her own pain and fear, for she had family members involved in the conflict, but the worldview of Ukrainians in general, as they struggle to fathom how dreams and hopes have in some cases just literally gone up in smoke and fire.
And all that in itself was very moving as it brought home to me personally just how senseless and evil this whole affair is, and how deeply individual Ukrainans and their families as well as young Russian soldiers are paying such a terrible price. But the one line in the opera that really captured my attention, was something to the effect that with the ‘coming of the light’ comes the resolution…that ‘when the evil was brought into the light, then the conflict would be resolved’…which sounded an awful lot like a line in our gospel reading as well where Jesus says, ‘What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.’. And that all seemed to tie something together for me. Both in how we are to continue steadfast in our hope in God, as well as how we are to engage with the sources and origins of evil in our own day.
Now I know I have often said that our God is a ‘Big God’. One who is capable of answering the very smallest of our needs or requests, as well as one worth praying to for the ‘bigger ones’ like ‘world peace’ or an end to warring and injustice! Which reminds me of two short stories.
The first of these is not actually a true story, but more of a fable…meant to teach something. It involves a person who is deeply upset and concerned over a terrible tragedy that has just occurred…perhaps in their own life or in their family. Deeply concerned and just a bit angry I suppose, this person enters into a deep prayer, pretty much blaming God directly for the troubling outcome (as we sometimes do as well I suppose). He prays, ‘Dear God, I don’t understand why this occurred…why this could not have been prevented. I don’t know how anyone could let this happen, it all seems so senseless and so unlike you!’ After a minute or two of complete silence, the one in prayer was astounded to hear God respond in a voice as clear as day saying, ‘I don’t know why either…’.
And when I first heard that it struck a strong chord in me, as I realized that we humans sometimes forget that we are responsible for the consequences of all our actions, both good and bad…and that God is always there, but not the one who actually caused the harm or hurt in the first place. God promised to be with us and never to abandon us, but not necessarily to prevent us from doing what we choose to do or not do, even if the outcome may be the opposite of what we would ever want.
And the second story comes from many years ago when I was in business, and it involves another businessman from whom we received our product and who was a close friend. His name was Johnny and he was a very devout Catholic and quite involved with much of the Catholic Charismatic movement of the 1970’s including Tres Dias. In one of our many discussions on the nature of faith and belief, Johnny said that he believed that it was his personal responsibility to do what he referred to as ‘Christian-ize his community’. In other words, to do all he could to share and to live out his faith so as to make real change possible right where he lived and worked…at home, at work, and everywhere else he found himself. And at first I resisted that idea, as I felt it didn’t sufficiently address what I saw as bigger needs or problems outside the scope of one’s local community.
But over time, my focus has shifted a bit as I have come to realize that the largest impact, and the most immediate effect we can have towards positive change, is right here within our local community…here, where what we say, and what we believe, can be communicated…with, or without words…shared through acts of love, service, and compassion.
To be sure, we have plenty to work on right here…surely we do not need to look far to find dysfunction and division…pain, sickness or suffering…loneliness, sadness, and separation. Truly if we apply all our energy and effort to trying to do all the Lord seems to be asking of us right here, I do not think we will ever run out of having even more to do. And I for one do not want to stand before our Lord one day wondering aloud why ‘thus and so’ just never happened…only to hear him respond, ‘Yes, I was wondering about that myself’.
Which is not really to put any limits on our outreach in love and service whatsoever…it is not to say that we should never take action on behalf of others, even as far away as Ukraine or Russia…but rather, to say that our ‘daily portion’, our waking prayer may most effectively be, ‘Dear Lord, what can I do for you today, right here and right now?’
But it is also to propose that goodness and love is highly contagious, if it is practiced honestly and persistently…so much so, that starting in a community as small as ours, can ultimately have a huge impact far beyond our community, and further than even we can imagine.
So in all my pondering as to if, when, or how we could possibly get to that place of actually seeing the ‘Day of our Lord’ become our ‘lived reality’…given all that looks to be standing in strong opposition to it at present…it seems, that if each one of us commits to making each day just a little ‘brighter’, if we let in just a ‘little more light’, and if all our interactions with those we meet can be just a bit more considerate, understanding, and even caring…then with time we will begin to see the Lord’s goodness breaking out all around us…right here in our own little community…
It truly is our responsibility to both listen to, and to act on the words of our Lord as he taught, ‘This is how they will know you are my disciples…
….if you have love, one for another…’
…may it ever be so…