Saturday, January 13, 2018
I had the joy and honor to pray with our eighth graders on Friday as they are preparing for their Confirmation next month. As Father John was hearing confessions, I was praying with them before the Blessed Sacrament (at St. Charles high school). As you may know or can imagine, it's tough to be a young adult in today's society. And so I ask for your prayers for them as they prepare for Confirmation. I pray that they may be open to the Holy Spirit everyday to receive the power and wisdom and courage or whatever else they may need to be the Catholic man and woman they are called to be. As I was in prayer, I was also reminded by how much they are bombarded by so many mixed messages about their meaning, purpose, value and worth in life – AND how their Catholic faith can be such a wonderful source of encouragement, hope, and direction. And, even more, how today’s readings offer for them and each of us great guidance. Despite all of the progress we have made in science and health and so many other areas of our life, we arguable are living in a culture of sin and death that is not too different from the one Saint Paul is writing to in today's second reading. This reading is one of these readings where we can easily get lost because of the translation of Saint Paul’s words in to these long and complex sentences and it just doesn't seem to be easily understood. However, what Paul is saying is so beautiful and so timely for us - just not our eighth graders but every one of us. As we read today’s Second reading, St. Paul reminds us that the body is not for immorality, despite what society tells us – in other words, the body is not for our self-gratification and pleasure, but it is for the Lord! Our bodies are made to serve the Lord and we do that by our acts of charity, by our acts of kindness, by our acts of selfLESSness, by our acts of service, by our total self giving of ourselves to the needs of others. Saint Paul then goes on to remind us that there is a profound dignity to our bodies - that we are made in the image and likeness of God, made good, made to love, made by God's love to know love and to be loved. And because of this, we can say, as Saint Paul does, that our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore we are to glorify God in our body – and I will add to also protect and defend the body from natural conception to natural death. And now for a shameless plug for Monday evening’s pro-life prayer service. We will have Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament starting at 7 pm, pray evening prayer together, and have quite time before the Lord. We just ended the season of Christmas – truly a season of life – let us carry this joy for life into our everyday lives by the dignity we uphold for our own bodies and the bodies of others, especially the most vulnerable. That will be my prayer on Monday. Going back to today's readings, they offer truly beautiful insights for us into who we are – our dignity and meaning, as St. Paul reminds us – and then what we are called to do. As Catholics we have a calling, really the responsibility and the challenge to share and teach God's love with others, which leads me to today’s Gospel and First Reading. Like our eighth graders, we are bombarded by so many different things and are pulled in some many different directions that it seems almost impossible that we could experience fully God’s love for us, let alone share that with others. In contrast, I think of Samuel in today's first reading. He is basically at birth given by his parents to be a servant of God and so from his very beginning he is on this path even though he doesn't know it at the time; and so he is in this prayfull place and there's no other distractions, presumably. And even the Apostles in today's gospel seem so quick to drop everything else and follow Jesus as if they had nothing else going on in their lives - no mortgages or tuition payments, or worry about retirement, or illness, or whatever else we have pressing on our hearts and our minds this very moment. So it doesn't seem fair or realistic to be able to compare ourselves to those we read in today's readings right? But really they are no different than we are - humans struggling with so many difficult decisions and choices and pressures and responsibilities. Like us, they were seeking truth, seeking life, seeking God. And like us, they may not know exactly where to go or what to do. And like us, they needed God’s mercy and his grace and his help to find him, to know him, and to love him. And like us, it is God who takes the initiative to invite them into his company, he does not wait for us to get his attention, instead he is there before us, waiting for us to say yes, waiting for us to say: “here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.” So how do we grow closer to God – to his love, his peace, his joy now and eternally? Like Samuel we can go to someone wiser and more mature and to help us, to guide us, to direct us, just as he had in Eli. Or like the Apostles, we can turn to friends and get their encouragement and support, as some did in John the Baptist. And certainly it is the company that we keep and seek – just like the Apostles - that will help us to continue in a life closer to God. And like the Apostles and Samuel, if we set our heart and mind first and foremost to God’s love then we will grow closer to the thing that we long for the most: God’s love. Finally, let me offer two more things we can do. Going back to my time with our eighth graders on Friday, first, we can pray: slowing down, clearing out all distractions – if just for a couple of minutes – to say: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” God wants nothing more than for us to know his love and hear his words – we just have to listen! And then second is to invite the Holy Spirit into our lives and asking for God's help, God's grace, for God's mercy, God's wisdom in our lives. What we need, he will provide us. With God fully in our lives, we will certainly want to share that love with others! But first, we must be willing and able to hear God’s words and receive his help. May God bless you.
Posted by Jeffrey Fortkamp at 9:55 AM