I really think this woman hit a “home run” with her theologically splendid and faith filled reflection. – Fr. Joe
Although I publicly claim not to be bothered by “regrets” since such is a waste of emotional energy, in my more reflective (and perhaps sadder) moments, I can’t help but both feel them within myself and notice them in others. I’m not talking about the “what-ifs” that most of us of a certain age now experience: what if I had answered the call to study law instead of theology or taken my dad’s advice and majored in chemistry which had been the love of my academic life in high school? Those are merely whimsical questions.
I wonder if we as a nation will ever even begin to regret the sins of slavery, racism and discrimination and their myriad offspring of hate-filled behaviors that truly infest us as a people – nationally and locally! I wonder if the world now regrets never having settled the issues on the Korean peninsula 60 years ago. I wonder if the world will someday truly regret having developed the technology for weapons of mass destruction. (I have always been struck by the response of the great Albert Einstein who, when asked if World War III will be fought with atomic weapons, stated that he did not know, but if it was, then he was absolutely certain that World War IV would be fought with sticks and rocks.)
Will we all regret that the modern world has allowed religious or political fanaticism to flourish or to have allowed our lifestyle choices to place the poor of this world in more environmental jeopardy than is ethically justifiable?
Maybe I have used the wrong term. It is not “regret” that I am examining. Maybe the word should be “repent!” Maybe “the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf” (to quote from Enriching Our Worship’s version of the Confession of Sin) need be on our plate all the time so that as we do repent of the wrongs we perform or allow, we return to our loving Father who offers us life in abundance. Modernity is so “enlightened” that it has no place for Christ. To have no place for Christ is to have no need of forgiveness – and to use a rather snarky but poignant quote: “so how’s that workin’ for you?”
We have no time because we are so busy – and even if we’re not so crude as to say it, we act as though we believe it. Will we or our children regret our choices and attitudes unless we do repent and seek to bring “the peace of Christ that passeth all understanding” back to our world? I pray we still have time to do so.
Most of you know that my being a New York Mets’ fan has conditioned me to deal with loss and disappointment on a regular basis. The other day, I witnessed at home what it must be like to have a sense of entitlement and expectation to win all the time, and then to have that taken away. Wasting time on a hot summer Sunday early evening, we were watching one of those goofy dog competitions. Getting to the agility event, I know that this is one Border Collies always win. They actually have an unfair advantage in the way their hips are created. It’s as if they have a “slinky for a spine” – to use the phrase of a long ago commercial.
Long story short, the Border Collie did not win. It lost to some “rat dog” whose handler “may” have cheated with an early release – who cares! But the angst from the couch next to me over the unexpected loss. (NO, it wasn’t Abby whining!) Is this what it is like to feel “entitled?”
We no longer live in a world that “entitles” Church or Christians to anything. A long time ago in what seems like a galaxy far away, the trappings of church determined the work week calendar, when stores could open, how time itself was delineated, how much deference clergy received, and the vocabulary of holidays.
We now live in a world where church attendance is no longer a matter of social status: you come to worship because you believe. And there may be more status in rejecting the trappings of any organized religion – especially the various traditions of Christianity. Sunday worship has even been described to me as a “bother” or an “inconvenience.”
This may shock you, but as one who questions the very purpose of entitlements, I see this as perhaps the Lord waking us up. If we are to be disciples of Jesus and walk his path, enlightened by His Spirit, then perhaps we must do so without social support or even social courtesy. Maybe we’ve been chosen to be the generation who must really LISTEN to what our God is calling us to be. Living off the status or accomplishments of prior generations is no longer an option and in effect, we are “entitled” to nothing – not even parochial survival. All we know is that we have been redeemed through no act of our own. We are totally loved by Our Father – not because we are entitled to that love, but because of God’s gracious mercy. All that I have and am is pure gift! And that puts having any sense of “entitlement” outside of my definition of being a Christian.
|I believe I have told you that there is an on-line service to which I subscribe that includes a spiritual reflection each morning. Most often these reflections are written by priests. This one below was not, and I was so struck by it that I wanted to share it with you. Again I do not know anything about the author, but I found her prayer self-search moving. So I hope you will enjoy this as much as I. – Fr. Joe
As many of you know, seven (7) young people from this parish participated in the Appalachian Service Project (“ASP”) earlier this summer. They went down to Virginia to serve God’s poor as they participated in work projects of home repair. Upon their return I emailed them and asked if they would not mind sharing some of their experiences, and also, would they share what they might have learned from this experience. On Sunday morning July 9, four of them addressed our congregation and spoke from the heart.
I am going to share with you (although I will respect their privacy and withhold the writer’s name) written reflections from some. Please note that the four email excerpts you are about to read do NOT necessarily come from the same four teens who spoke – in fact they do not. But I thought you would find the reflections of our own teenagers to be food for the spirit as well as thought.
|Hey Fr. Joe. The trip was amazing and I learned so much from it. Not only did I make new friends within ASP but also friends with the family I worked with. My family was so nice and I loved spending time with them. Their life was so different compared to us. I wish I could have stayed down there for longer and helped the family more and also gotten to spend more time with them. But the time that I did spend with them will stay with me forever. ….|
|Hi Fr. Joe: Sorry this is late. I started work this past week and have had a pretty busy schedule but just wanted to pop in and say ASP was incredible. It was a truly eye opening experience and I learned so much more about the country we’re in and the state of it. I also got to meet so many lovely people, both from Bland County and Westchester. It was really powerful and moving and I’m so glad I went……|
|So I guess the biggest thing that I learned during the trip was that everyone had a story. The family that I had worked with had some of the most love for each other I had ever seen, but also had gone through the hardest situations in life. They had lived in Chicago when MLK Jr. was assassinated, and their house was completely destroyed by the riots. The father of my home owner had been in the Korean War. My home owner has had 30+ surgeries in the past year. A flesh eating disease, nerve damage in his left hand, acid burns on his legs, suicidal thoughts, and is the nicest person I have ever met. His family has battled cancer, poverty, destruction and disease, and yet are the greatest family I have ever met. That’s the lesson that I learned this week, is that there is always hope in love.|
|Hi Father Joe, … I had an amazing time on ASP (as usual). My group did flooring in a house all week, which was a first for me. We stayed at an old bible camp in Virginia which was super fun, and I met tons of new people. All the families were amazing…|
I would add one final thought: to do as they did and learn from their experience, our parish youth are also amazing.