"...a hundred times more now in this present age...with persecutions..." (Mk 10:30)
but a prayerful protest against abortion
was organized in Malone yesterday morning.
Fr. Scott and I were among the 30 or so people there,
standing with signs on both sides of Main Street.
I was encouraged by the number of people driving by
who gave a friendly wave or honk, who gave us the thumbs up.
Near the end, I noticed one fellow in a pickup truck
extend a different finger in our direction—
and then wave it rather vigorously specifically at me
when he spotted my Roman collar.
I think you all know what his “sign” meant.
But do you know what my sign said?
It said nothing about Planned Parenthood;
it didn’t even say anything about abortion.
It simply said, “Jesus Forgives & Heals.”
Who knew that such a loving message
would provoke such a strong and hateful reaction?
And yet we shouldn’t be surprised, should we?
Jesus has always provoked strong reactions.
When confronted with Christ, you can’t remain neutral:
you’re either for him or against.
As in the story of the rich young man
from this Sunday’s gospel reading:
you must either follow Jesus or turn and walk away.
There are an awful lot of people in the world today
who claim to be “non-religious.”
Truth of the matter is, we all worship something—
everyone has some ultimate goal,
some “greater good” which they are pursuing
(although it might not appear “great” or “good” to anyone else.)
Even an atheist has his “god”—
generally, his comforts, his joys, or himself. (cf. P. Kreeft)
Reflecting on the story of the rich young man,
Saint John Paul II noted that he didn’t come to Jesus
so much looking for a specific list of rules
as he did for the meaning of his life.
His question was one of direction.
The young man has sensed—
as does anyone who gives serious thought to life’s purpose—
that there’s a real connection between his actions and his destiny:
between a moral way of living and hope for eternal life.
The goodness he sees in Jesus naturally attracts him,
but that goodness also places obligations on him—
obligations he’s sadly not ready to fulfill. (cf. Veritatis Splendor)
That’s because Jesus is so much more than just a good teacher;
Jesus is God’s eternal Wisdom,
God’s living and effective Word come in human flesh,
with the unique ability to cut right to the heart.
The One who gave up heaven
for the sake those of us stranded here in sin on earth
has impeccable credibility
whenever he asks us to give up mere earthly goods
for the sake of heavenly treasure!
Oftentimes, we’re all too ready to follow a false Jesus—
not the Jesus of the gospels,
but one who has been heavily edited to better fit our likes and lifestyles.
Such a Jesus never demands very much, never asks us to change.
How different that Jesus is from the real one!
The real Jesus is constantly challenging us.
He’s never satisfied with us just “getting by,”
with us being “good enough.”
Jesus knows we were made for so much more!
While a lot of people on the road responded to our protest yesterday—
even if it was only with a turn of the head to stare—
the vast majority had no reaction whatsoever;
they simply kept on driving right by.
How many people—even some regular churchgoers—
keep passing by Jesus in much the same way!
Does the message of the Gospel regularly challenge you?
When was the last time the teaching or example of Jesus
provoked you to make a change?
Have you settled for being just “good enough”?
Which gets more of your time and attention:
material gains or spiritual progress?
Where does your life find its meaning?
What gives it direction?
There can be no standing still this side of the grave!
You can’t remain neutral!
When confronted with Jesus,
you must either follow or turn and walk away.
I’m not saying that his mission
is to irritate or aggravate us—
although he clearly still has that effect
on some people.
No—as the perfect sign
of God’s forgiveness and healing,
the reaction Jesus came to provoke
is one of love.
The late Fr. Pedro Arrupe—for years,
the international head of the Jesuit order—
once put this very beautifully while speaking with a group of nuns;
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends, what you read,
who you know, what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.
Let Jesus give you meaning! Let Jesus set your direction!
Let Jesus provoke in you that sort of joyful love!