Saturday, September 27, 2014

What's Fair?

From Ignatius House

Weekend Reflection

Dear Friends,

Trusting you will have a wonderful weekend.  Here in DC we already have a sunny Saturday morning.  Hope your weather adds to your weekend.

Good morning!  In the readings today there is a focus on fairness.  Is God fair to us?  Likewise, we might also ask, Am I fair with God?  As I thought about the subject, I recall the first reading from Thursday's liturgy.  It was a continuation of the readings from the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes.  It is a portion of chapter 11:9-12 to12:12:8.  In it, King Solomon, the wise king, is speaking to a young man about growing old.  Naturally I found myself reading and rereading what was written.  I thought these words surely might address what many of us who are growing older each day think about being old:  it is not for sissies!  In a way I can imagine the people of Solomon’s times, and the King himself, saying that growing old is not fair.  However, the King’s message is far from what one would expect.

Since everyone here today is on the journey where we mark our birthdays more seriously with each new decade; and after we cross the sixties bridge, and blow out so many candles atop a birthday cake, we realize that we are not celebrating how many years since we entered this world but rather we are reminding ourselves that the final curtain of our lives may not be that far ahead of us.  But that is so contrary to what King Solomon was telling the young of his time.  His message is simple and short:  enjoy being young.  Even to people of my seventy-some year, he is saying enjoy being young.  You are only getting older if you believe that or do things to make that happen.  Solomon’s message also is simple in this way:  pursue the things you desire.

This section of the Book of Ecclesiastes is really three messages about growing young, and younger.  Let me share them with you.  The thoughts are not mine:  they come from the Prophet as well as a 28 year old young minister from Georgia.  They are both right on in their thoughts …  why? … because they are right on with my thinking!!!

Point 1:  Always pursue the desires of your heart.  However, make sure you really know them well.  In this metropolitan area where so many people live under great stress, you might hear this said:  My family is the most important part of my life.  Yet, actions speak louder than words.  How many times does Dad make it home for dinner?  How often does Dad take time to do homework with his student children or does he assign that task to Mom?  I recall a time when I was shopping at a local Safeway —so you know it was not around Lanham— and I saw a woman whose face was so familiar.  She had the same inquiring glance too.  We were trying to remember who each other was.  So, not shy for words, I said hello and the light bulb went on in the woman’s memory.  “Oh, Father Jordan.  So good to see you.  You know I love the parish.  Your sermons are what I need to hear.  The folks are great there, too.”  I replied, “Thank you.  It is good to see you.  But as I recall, I have not seen you in church lately.  Have you been ill?”  She paused for a moment then said, “You know, Father, I have started going to another church.”  She must have thought that I was dumber than I looked after hearing her two stories.  So often we say one thing and yet do not live it out in our lives.  What Solomon is saying to the youth is also to the point:  Decision you make in your youth days have long term results.  Of course we know the immediate result when someone finds time for drugs, alcohol, immorality, etc, etc.  Not so often in our youth but in our later days God will judge us justly according to the desires that truly directed our hearts.

The second theme in Solomon’s words is this:  Guard what your hearts desire.  When we were brought into this world, God instilled in our hearts a mission for us.  At the same time he let us live with a genuine freedom.  Deep within the hearts of all of us there is a strong desire that will continue to chase us, calmly and quietly until we die.  It is a basic need or desire to be close to the Creator who used our parents to bring us into the world.  So, part of our journey of life is that we need to find Jesus and what God wants of us.  Even as young people and as well us older folks who are seeking to be as young as we can, all of us are called to align our lives with the life of Jesus Christ.  The question we might ask is this:  “Do I love Jesus?”  Answer that question in your heart right now.  Not aloud but in the quiet of your heart, your being: do you love Jesus?  Here is the answer:  Yes, if your life is aligned with Jesus.  No, if you say you do but fail in ways that break that alignment with Jesus.  If the wheels of your car are out of alignment, you don’t continue driving it without getting it repaired, do you?  You have the message!

The third point of Solomon’s message to the young and the young at heart is this.  Do all you can to put evil away from your heart.  Life is like a coin, just like Jesus said to Peter when they were talking about paying taxes:  On one side was the seal of the government; on the other there should be a reminder of what we owe God.  Solomon is strong:  put aside evil from your heart.

The summary of the story is this:  why do we grow old?  Because we do allow sin in our hearts and live.  We let evil weigh down on us.  Yet, even from folks who reach the 100th birthday, when asked how they made it that far, very few will mention that being align with Jesus was the way and the life lived.

Folks, time flies.  When life goes so fast, we seem to be easily led into the trap of thinking that God is not fair to us.  When we feel that way it would really be good to read the verses from Solomon that I have put out there for you today.

Many thoughts but I hope you find some amusement and some insights not thought about ever or often.

Again, have a good weekend.  Today, Saturday, I join a large portion of my high school graduating class at the Washington National's Stadium to continue the celebration of our 55th grad anniversary from Gonzaga High School.  Gathered at The Dubliner last evening before splitting up for dinners around the Capitol Hill area.  As I looked at the crowd, more cains were evident than at the 50th gathering.  However, if my math is correct (rarely), I believe there are 62% of our glass still here on earth.  79 out of 126.  Seems that there is more fairness in our favor than we might first think!  It is hard to believe that just 20 years ago those numbers would have been very different.

Fr. Milt