Sunday, April 6, 2014

Think About It

Given a recent wilderness adventure of mine, I've been thinking about it a bit more than usual the last few days...

   Fifth Sunday of Lent   A 

John and Jim loved baseball.
They lived and breathed the sport
to the point that they often speculated
on whether or not there would be baseball in heaven.
They agreed that whoever got there first
would come back to let the other one know.
It so happened that John died, and his friend grieved for days.
After about two weeks,
Jim awoke to a familiar voice calling his name.
It was John, and he’d returned with the promised report.
“I’ve got good news and bad news, Jim,” he said.
“The good news is, there’s baseball in heaven.
We play everyday!
The bad news is…you’re scheduled to pitch next Tuesday.”

This Sunday’s gospel makes abundantly clear
the inevitably of death,
even for those who are close to Jesus.
What we see in the death of Lazarus
is seen repeated in the lives of so many saints.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux, a French Carmelite nun,
died painfully from tuberculosis at the tender age of 24 in 1897.
Recognizing her great holiness,
one of the other sisters said to her that, when she died,
a radiant choir of angels 
would most certainly come for her.
Thérèse—ever the realist—
wouldn’t accept such attempts 
to make death “pretty.”
But she also refused to see death 
as something fearful.
When another sister said, 
“Death will carry you off,”
Thérèse quickly responded,
“No, not death.
God will come to take me. 
Death is not a ghost,
a horrifying figure such as one sees in pictures. 
It says in the catechism that death
is the separation of body and soul—
nothing more.
Well, I have no fear of a separation
which will unite me forever with God.”

Staying close to Jesus may not spare us from death,
but faith does have the power to rob death of its terror.

This Sunday’s lengthy gospel
contains the Bible’s shortest verse:
“Jesus wept.”
Death is not the Lord’s plan for us; it never has been.
Jesus weeps, not because he believes that death is the end,
but because it pains his Sacred Heart to see us suffer—
suffering that’s a result of sin.
Yet Jesus does not stop at shedding tears.
He will proceed from Bethany to Jerusalem to shed his blood,
that by his own dying on the cross and rising from the grave
death might be swallowed up in victory.

The sacred writings of the Hindus ask,
“What is the greatest wonder of the world?”
And the same text answers:
“That all of us know that we will surely die,
but each of us foolishly thinks he will not die any time soon.”

Do I give death any thought—
and not just generically or the passing of loved ones,
but my own death, which could come at any time?
And if I do think about death—
do I see it as the end, as something final which I should dread?
Or do I see death as a new beginning,
as an opening to a life beyond this one,
which has the potential to give meaning and purpose
to every moment I spend on this earth?

I can’t be sure if there’s baseball in heaven,
but I do share the perspective of none other than Peter Pan:
“To die will be an awfully big adventure…”

We will soon enough walk again with Jesus
on his way of the cross
It’s a way that necessarily passes through death to new life.
Jesus would not avoid it;
we cannot avoid it.
So why not be ready?


Bernadette Thompson said...

Fr, Joe,
I thought many times that I wanted to write to you and today I went to your blog again and saw your homily. It felt like I was getting a nudge from above…ok already …write him and thank him! I am Cori’s friend, Bernadette. You have been blessing my family’s rosary beads for the last couple of years. I started on a renewed spiritual journey 2 years ago. I had never gone very far but had a hard time really praying. I didn’t know how. My parents passed away and a friend bought me a ticket to see John Edward ( the medium..not the politician!) He talked about praying the rosary. He said you don’t even need rosary beads..just use your fingers. I didn’t have rosary beads…but I knew how to pray the rosary.. so I started using my fingers. I went to dinner with Cori and Claire and told them the story. Cori said “ I can get you rosary beads!” She brought them too me at work…in a little gold box. When she gave them to me… I felt the grace of God. And like the homily you wrote about the woman and her rosary beads, I am trying to pay it forward. The rosary beads that you have blessed are with my children and my husband everyday. I have relearned how to pray. It gives me great comfort to ask for support when I pray but to also give thanks. We all carry them with us. My husband is born and raised Episcopalian…he doesn’t know how to really pray the rosary but they are with him everyday. So I want to Thank you for your blessings… and I Thank you for your sister whose faith was so strong that she knew praying the rosary was important. Now getting back to why your homily today spoke to me! Both of my Grandparents died of tuberculosis when my dad was only 5 and 6 years old. He was orphaned but had aunts and uncles to care for him. My Great Aunt Peg wrote diaries back in those days…and when Helen (my grandmother) was dying…they called her their ”Little Flower” .Theresa is my confirmation name. So I’m sorry this is so long… but It is 2 years of wanting to say Thank you… Bernadette

Fr. Joe said...

You're VERY welcome, Bernadette! I'm so glad to hear from you--and to hear your story. (If I could offer one bit of advice: I know he got you back to the rosary and back to prayer, but stay away from Mr. Edward and all mediums from now on--they're rather dangerous, spiritually speaking.) Neat to hear your connections with St. Thérèse, as well. May God continue to bless you and your family! And please say "Hi" to Cori for me, too!

Bernadette Thompson said...

No need to worry Fr. Joe.. I start every day with a quiet moment and prayer and I have no interest in seeking the spiritual guidance of a medium... I am grateful though for that encounter with John Edward because I feel like I was meant to hear that message about the rosary... and for Cori saying... I can get you a rosary! And for your blessings too.. I know I can go to St. John Vianney Church and have my rosarys blessed but I just feel like they need to be blessed by you. And the homily Cori sent me to read about the woman who also was connected to the rosary and Her story about paying the rosary forward.. " Pray a decade for me...and I'll pray a decade for you" So sometimes the path to follow comes from and unlikely source! I thank you for concern... and I hope to stay in touch... Bernadette