I’ve been thinking about this a great deal lately. Being a priest in a historical cathedral, in a historical community, I often hear stories about how the Church was the center of everyone’s lives “back then”. It never fails that the one sharing the particular story with me inevitably states how nice it would be to return to a time when the Church was the center of life for our community. But before we can return, if in fact we need or want to return, we must first ask the question, “Why was the Church the center of life in the first place?
When it comes to hearing the Word of God, everyone has an equal chance to hear and receive the Gospel. Each of us, depending upon the condition of our heart and soul will hear the Word of God, and either produce fruit or not produce fruit for the glory of God. Year after year the Church proclaims the same Gospel story so that as our heart and grow closer to God we are able to produce fruit, but it requires work to prepare our soul.
Sometimes words just are insufficient for comfort, especially when tragic events occur. In those moments, it can be enough to just be present with those who are suffering. In those moments, God’s presence can be experienced through our willingness to keep our mouth shut and just pray with others. God’s grace is able to bring comfort where we fall short, no matter how many people gather. God is there whether we see him or not. Whether we recognize it or not, God is always standing, holding our hand.
Several times in my ministry I have had the profound experience of spending time with families during a variety of tragedies. The most profound is when I am blessed to walk along with a parent who is forced to bury a child. I have long believed that human beings are not designed to bury children. As difficult as it can be to bury parents, grandparents and even spouses and siblings, there is a unique pain when a parent is faced with the death of a child, no matter who old that child is.
When it comes to the work of Christ and His Church, we are expected not to put our trust in our own understanding. Instead we are expected to have faith the Christ knows what He is asking us to do, we are expected to be obedient to Christ, and to have humility when Christ reveals the great results He always knew was in store for us. Christ already knows what He wants us to accomplish when He sends us out into the deep unknown. It is up to us to have faith, be obedient and humble, three Great Characteristics of our Christian Journey, so that Christ can be glorified.
It may be popular these days to pick and choose what we believe and like about the Church, but is that going to help us get to heaven? Christ invites each of us, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” The Christian way of life is not a life of self-indulgence and easy living. It is the hard way, the way of the Cross.
God has done many great things for us. This ultimately includes bringing us with Him to Heaven when He ascended. In our daily life we are reminded of His love for us, and our obligation to Him for such a great gift.
You may wonder why the Church chooses a particular reading for each Sunday. You may even have noticed that on particular days throughout the year, the reading is always the same. Then again, you may never have thought about which reading is chosen, but we should all know that it is not random.
When Our Lord spoke these words from the Prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord," He declared, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Today God reminds us that everything we have hoped for from God, has been fulfilled in His presence.
When the storms of life seem unbearable and you feel the waves crashing over your head, you might feel like your sinking and that you may never make it out of the storm. At just that moment, remember the love and presence of God in your life, and remember the lesson of Peter walking on the water as told in Matthew 14.22-34. So long as Peter remained focused on Christ, he was able to stay above the waves. When he focused on the severe storm, fear took over and he began to sink because he took his eyes off Christ. Stay focused and stay afloat.