Sunday, May 25, 2014

Just Ask

   Sixth Sunday of Easter   A 

Two stories—both from Monday.

Monday afternoon,
we began our annual Assembly of Priests in Lake Placid.
Our speaker, a Dominican friar,
would be speaking to us about end-of-life issues:
a very important subject,
but one which could be—pun intended—rather deadly.
Not in this case.
he shared some of his life’s story.
He grew up in the Philippines
and came to the States for college.
In 1996, he was completing his Ph.D. in molecular biology at MIT.
He was also rediscovering his Catholic faith.
He’d grown up Catholic,
but Catholicism was pretty much something his parents did.
A group of other Catholic college students
helped him to learn about the faith, and learn how to pray.
It was together with them,
right after successfully defending his doctoral dissertation,
that he went to Mass.
And it was then and there that he met the Lord.
At the words of consecration,
as the priest held up the Body of Christ,
he had an incredible experience of grace.
“I knew he was alive,” he said, “I knew that he was there.”
He could see his whole life, especially the difficult times,
and see how the Lord was always there:
how all those moments were connected
and the Lord had been leading him all along.
“And I knew that he did it because he loves me,” he said.
“It blew my mind that God could love me that much.”
He had a job lined up as a biologist in London,
and was planning to be married.
Within a year, he resigned that position
and entered the Dominican novitiate.
He now works as a priest and a scientist—
or, as he describes it, a “geek for God.”
He couldn’t tell us this story without crying.
It clearly affected how we heard the rest of his talks.
It clearly has affected the rest of life.

Earlier on Monday,
as I was driving back to the rectory after Mass,
the story of a seventeen-year-old boy from Massena
whose arm was torn off at the elbow
in an accident at work four weeks ago.
He’s recuperating in a Boston hospital,
where a team of surgeons reattached his arm.
He’s had three other surgeries since, and likely has two more to go.
He’s been through an awful lot,
and knows this will be life changing.
Yet he’s remained incredibly positive.  How?
Sitting up in his hospital bed,
looking around at his mom, all the flowers and cards,
he said he never thought much about God before.
“[But] after this event,” he said,  “it really has shown me
that God is there and God is real,
because if it wasn't for God,
I don't know if I would have been able to get through this."

Two stories.
Two young men who’ve met God:
one on a day of great achievement,
one in the midst of painful tragedy.

“Always be ready,” St. Peter tells us in our second reading,
“to give an explanation to anyone who asks you
for a reason for your hope.”

Before we can each give our own explanation,
I think we each have to honestly answer the question,
“Have I met the Lord?”
No doubt, some sitting in this church today have.
But I’m also pretty certain that quite a few folks here this morning,
many of whom have been faithfully going to Mass all their lives,
haven’t really—really—met him yet.
How is that possible?
Well, for one thing, many of us
didn’t even know that we could meet the Lord.
It simply hasn’t crossed our mind this is an actual possibility.
For others, we’ve let other things get in the way:
maybe it’s a sinful habit which we cling to;
or maybe it’s a life full of distractions;
or maybe it’s fear—fear that, if I get serious about God,
things are probably going to have to change.
Of course, for some people, they haven’t yet met the Lord
because they feel don't they deserve it.

We must avoid these stumbling blocks
and get rid of the excuses.

If you haven’t met the Lord,
just ask to meet him.
Come to Mass fully engaged.
Get yourself to confession.
Spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration.
Read the Bible or a spiritual book.
Pray—in your car on the way to work
or as you’re heading home after practice,
when you get up or when you go to bed.
You will meet him.
“I will not leave you orphans,” 
Jesus promises.
“I will come to you.
The world will no longer see me, 
but you will see me,
because I live and you will live.”
Yes, you will meet him!
You’ll know it when it happens.
And you’ll never, ever be the same.

That Dominican priest who spoke to us in Lake Placid
said that he was attracted to the Catholic group at MIT
because they were so joyful.
He envied them for it.
“Why are you so happy?” he asked them one day.
And one of the young women simply answered,
“Because we’ve met Jesus Christ.”

Ask to meet Jesus.
And then get ready to explain to anyone who asks you
the reason for your hope.

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