Sunday, March 8, 2015
Blog # 456 The goal for everyone
Blog # 456 The goal for everyone
Recently I have been reading some bulletins from parishes where I have been Pastor years ago. It occurred to me some of them could be used as blogs. This is one of them.
Last Tuesday morning about five minutes after five o'clock I was walking south on Harris Street toward the junction of Riddleville Road. A pick-up truck was stopped at the red light. Before I got to the corner the light turned green and the truck turned south on Harris. I go by that corner almost every morning at about the same time on my way to the high school track. It is not an unusual experience to see a car or truck waiting there for the light to change.
What was unusual about it this morning was the fact I was thinking about my response to our liturgical readings from Isaiah 56:1,6,7 and Matthew 15: 21-28.. In both of the readings we have an indication of the relationship God desires to have with all people. The short section from Isaiah is making reference to how it would be after the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon and the temple would be rebuilt.
"All who keep the Sabbath holy and hold to my covenant I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer...my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people". In the Gospel message a non-Jewish woman whose daughter is troubled by a demon begs Jesus to have pity on her and heal her daughter. At first Jesus gives her no reply. The disciples want him to chase her away. She keeps begging. Jesus acknowledges her faith, and her daughter is healed. An outsider is brought into the fold. Just imagine her joy!
The practice envisioned in Isaiah of welcoming all people to the temple and sharing prayer with them was not easy to accept on the part of those for whom the vision was originally laid out. The difficulty could have been built on a righteous fear the true faith and God-given standard of the Israelites would be contaminated or watered down by such a close association with non-believers and that would seem to indicate there was no consequential difference in what each of the groups held to be true. It could also have been based upon a false pride and arrogance that caused them to look down on all but themselves, or a selfish possessiveness with regard to the gift of faith.
The danger of contamination of their faith was real, and God gave various rules and safeguards for protecting the truth and moral standard to which He had called and directed them. God's love for all people was so strong there was no danger for it to be conquered if it were understood and lived out as it should have been. This understanding would come about gradually and the living out of God's love would have to be learned and perfected step by step, as we might learn the way of doing other things such as playing the piano or operating a computer. Some would never understand the truth God desired to reveal. Some would never learn to live according to God's plan. But the truth would stand, and the plan would be the only plan that would lead to the joy that God desires for all.
By this time I had already arrived at the high school track and was well on my way into the first lap of mile one. My mind went back to the pick-up truck at Harris and Ridddleville Road. I wondered why the driver had stopped at the red light. There seemed to be a connection between this experience and the experience of the people of Israel as a whole, then of the Church, and finally of individuals. I could imagine several motives the person driving the truck could have had for stopping.
There were no other vehicles in sight at that particular time, and no police in evidence. so the driver could have thought there was no danger of an accident or of getting a ticket if he or she did not stop. Perhaps the person stopped without a strong conscious motive, merely out of a habit of stopping at all red lights. It is something he does every day and never thinks of why. I can imagine another possibility, though it might rarely occur. I thought of the person saying to himself or herself: "I am going to work now, to do some good for the world, to make a living for my family, in evidence and as an expression of my love for them. Here comes a red light. I will stop as an expression of my obedience to the truth about myself and my love. I am going to work. That is my immediate goal. But every inch of the way is a part of it. If my goal is good and I will be happy to arrive there, then all the way to the goal is good and I should be happy to be on my way. The red light is an invitation from the police department, from my neighbors, from the truth about myself, and from God. What a bargain is combined in such a thing that I can do every day! Thank You, Lord! And the light turns green.
It is lap three, mile two. I realized the thoughts I had placed in the mind of the person who stopped at the red light Tuesday morning might very well be rare. Yet I realized they were good thoughts and were possible for anyone who wished and was willing to have them. Without such thoughts the moments on the way to a chosen goal might be vacant or even damaging. Such moments could be wasted or sinful. I see all of this in relationship to the single driver of the pick-up truck at the corner of Harris and Riddleville at a brief moment of time last Tuesday morning. But I knew it applied on larger scales as well, to married couples, to organizations, to nations, and to the Church. All of us are doing something all of the time, whether it be eating sleeping running jumping killing dying. Many times it seems individuals and groups as well, just continue to do whatever it is they do, day by day, and over long periods of time, without asking why we are doing this, and what it is we are doing.
Back around 1932 our class at St. Thomas the Apostle school in New York City learned in some limited way there was a single goal for us and for everyone. We were taught to ask and answer the profound yet simple question: why did God make us? It was to know Him, to love Him, and to do His will on earth and be happy with Him forever in Heaven. That was our goal. Just as lap four is built on three and mile three is built on mile two, so our goal is built on all that leads up to that goal, even such a thing as stopping at a red light as an expression of our knowledge love and desire to do God's will, leadng to the joy of Heaven, where all the lights are green. Our readings today remind us this vision in God's plan is not for a few but for all. Many have yet to hear it, to understand, to believe, to rejoice. We should keep them in our prayer.