Saturday, February 9, 2013
I have enjoyed watching my oldest son and his teammates play basketball this season. I have especially enjoyed watching them mature as a team by winning very competitive games and as players in moving from uncertainty and doubt on the court to playing with confidence in their ability to consistently play aggressive defense, make a lay-up on a fast break, and even make multiple 3-point shots. This is how our faith life should be too: moving from doubt, fear and uncertainty to a pattern of strong and unconditional confidence, trust and hope in our God. As I often say, this is what we are called to do and what we do best. However, too often doubt and uncertainty leaves us feeling not worthy, not willing, and maybe not able to be or grow in relationship with God. This is true for us now, as it has been since the beginning of time, when doubt and uncertainty crept into the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve. They doubted in the power and love of God, which led them to reject God. And we see the presence of doubt and uncertainty in today’s readings. The Prophet Isaiah recognizing his sinfulness bemoans: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips.” Last week we read from the book of the Prophet Jeremiah, who in trying to avoid God’s call, says “Ah, Lord GOD! I do not know how to speak. I am too young!” The Apostle Paul in today’s second reading is quick to own up to his faults and failings, describing himself: “as one born abnormally,” and as “the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle.” And Simon Peter, falling to his knees before Jesus says: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” And as we know, this is not the last time that Peter shows doubt and a lack of confidence in his faith in Jesus. And for me too, I know my own weaknesses and failures. And, not only am I embarrassed by them, I am also often left unable to do what I need to do as a father, a husband, a deacon, a friend, a co-worker because of doubt, fear, and uncertainty. Fortunately, for us (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, Peter, me AND you), the story does not end with us wallowing in doubt, fear, uncertainty, and despair. Instead, our story continues with a personal encounter with a loving and merciful God, by which we are transformed. Going back to today’s readings: Isaiah’s eyes saw the King, the LORD of hosts! And his wickedness was removed, his sin purged. Paul’s personal encounter with Christ transforms him from one who persecuted Christians, to one who toiled harder than any other Apostle. And it was Peter, upon seeing Christ do miracles, left everything and followed him. And certainly, my experience of God, especially in the Sacraments, has changed me forever! Just as our loving God does not want us to wallow in darkness; we also can’t remain fixed in a single moment. Like Isaiah, Paul and Peter we go forward from our encounter with Christ more confident and certain in our knowledge and love of God and in our commitment to serve him and others. God in his great love for us, gives us his Spirit to protect us and guide us as we go forward. This is the prayer Father/Monsignor offered at the beginning of Mass: “Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care, that, relying solely on the hope of heaven grace, [we] may be defended always by your protection.” It is the gift of this heavenly grace that also helps to sustain us and even grow as Christian men and women. It is God’s gift of wisdom, courage, patience, or whatever we might need to overcome doubt, fear and uncertainty in order to live lives with purpose, meaning, hope and joy. In fact, in today’s second reading, St. Paul states that “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.” We need this grace working with and through us! Let’s pray that as we fed by God’s Word and His Body and Blood, we may be filled with this heavenly grace. And as we enter this season of Lent, let our acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving allow us to be more open and receptive to God’s gift of grace so that may overcome doubt, fear and uncertainty in order to live lives with purpose, meaning, hope and joy. May God bless you.
Posted by Jeffrey Fortkamp at 6:25 AM