As Catholics, we come to church because we love the Lord. We come to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. We come to profess our faith in the saving Grace of Jesus and life everlasting. But, I suspect, as in any religious congregation, there are those who come for other reasons: because it’s what they’ve always done on Sunday mornings; because they feel they need to set the example for their children; or for fear of what might happen in their after-life if they don’t. And, there are many more Catholics who simply no longer attend church either because they no longer believe or have justified and allowed worldly things to keep them away.
Today is a day we have been waiting for in our parish for several months: we begin our mission for conversion and renewal (for any Protestants reading this, think, “revival”). Over the next four days, we will have a guest speaker, Deacon Ralph Poyo of New Evangelization Ministries, who will provide insights into what keeps us from becoming the disciples – followers of the Lord – that we are called to be; and how to improve our relationship with the Lord by recognizing those things that block our path. The hope of the mission is to bring all parishioners, those strong in their faith, the luke warm and the fallen away, into a closer relationship with the Lord.
And, so, as I prepared for mass this morning by reviewing the scripture readings for the day, I couldn’t help but sense that they were cued up by God especially for our purpose.
In the first reading, from Genesis 12:1-4, we hear God telling Abram to “1Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” God goes on to tell Abram how he will be blessed, how from him a ‘great nation’ will be made, and how his name will be made great. Unspoken is the reality that this would be a tough journey through desert with uncertainty of what lies ahead. Abram didn’t say, “No, I don’t think so, Lord! That doesn’t sound like fun. What about all the things I will have to give up? What about my other commitments? No, Lord, I kind of like it right here where I am.” Instead, without blinking or thinking twice, “4Abram went as the Lord directed him.”
Then, in the second reading, 2 Timothy 1:8-10, we hear St. Paul reminding his beloved Timothy: “8Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God. 9He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus before time began.” Here St. Paul is telling us that we are all called to live a holy life; and that it’s not always easy to follow the Lord. We have to use the strength the Lord gives us to say “no” to our will (the things that keep us away), and “yes” to His will that will bring us closer to Him.
Finally, the Gospel reading was Matthew’s account of the transfiguration of Jesus, Matthew 17:1-9. After Peter, James and John saw Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus on the mountain, “5a bright cloud cast a shadow over them” and, upon hearing God’s voice say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”, the Apostles fell prostrate to the ground. Jesus came to them and told them to, “7Rise, and do not be afraid.” Then, “8when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.” With this last line I thought how wonderful it would be if it was that easy – each time we are fearful, each time we start to let our will take control – to raise our eyes and fix them on “no one else but Jesus alone.”
Unfortunately, we tell ourselves it isn’t that easy. It’s in our fallen nature to do so. But, through the Grace of God, we have been given the gift of faith which is all that we need to give us the courage to say no to the things that keep us from Him. Sometimes we just need help being shown the way.
Deacon Poyo, I hope your talks this week enlighten and inspire me, and everyone else in our parish, to build a better relationship with Jesus, and to help our brothers and sisters do the same.
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit, and we shall be created and You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.”
(Raising Our Eyes to Jesus was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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