I thought of my local Church this morning. The massive Cross on top of it was found to be cracking with no hope of repair. It was taken down less than a month ago. Then a friend reminded me yesterday of the fire of Notre Dame on April 15, 2019. Now the stopping of Masses. And I realized that perhaps the Lord is speaking to us - once again - of the condition of our HEARTS; not our appearances.
“I desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice.” Matt. 9:13
In this time of great anger and upheaval; perhaps He is striking home that reality. Social Media leaves us so very critical - so Judging. Yet we are doing all of it with our limited knowledge. We see something, we hear something - no matter that we have limited knowledge of what is the intent behind it - what is the condition of the HEART of the person. We don't know.
But we judge nonetheless.
He desires MERCY, not SACRIFICE.
Perhaps the removal of the exterior shows of devotion and faith right now - are simply to remind us all of this.
But Jesus, in the gospel today, takes this lesson even further. As He walked the roads of Israel, he saw a man blind from birth. The disciples asked: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” (John 9:1-41)
NEITHER HE NOR HIS PARENTS SINNED.
So, in other words. He had no fault. He had spent his life as a social outcast. His parents had lived with a blind child, and now a blind adult - with all in the community judging them as ‘sinners’ - which was the thought process back then. (Are ours any different now? Are they not simply the way our culture ‘thinks’? Are they more correct? I would argue: No.)
But back to the poor blind man. A life of difficulty - a life of the community smugly assuming that they know ‘why’ (some hidden sin in the family). And yet - WHAT WAS THE TRUTH?
The truth was something that absolutely NO ONE could ever know.
It was done so that when Jesus showed up on that road, in that place and in that time, He could demonstrate the power and works of God. So that many, many more could believe - and be saved.
As it was for Joseph in the Old Testament. When his brothers asked if he would kill them due to them selling him into slavery as a young man, Joseph wept. Then he said, “Fear not, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Why do we only assume that ‘good’ actions are from God?
When my son Bobby was a toddler, he swallowed a bottle of Tylenol. I then spent about a week in the hospital with him (my husband Bob, as usual in the Navy, was far from home). They gave Bobby the antidote, but had to keep checking his blood to make sure his liver did not die. He was a baby, and struggled and screamed each time they came at him with needles. I simply stood there by his side, crying. I could have stopped it - but if I did, there was a chance he would die. But in his mind, all he knew was that he was in pain, I was there, and I was doing nothing to help him.
I think that most of us would realize that I was still a loving mother. I was trying to save him.
Why do we think less of God?
And so I’ll share one last reflection I have had recently. During this Lent, I’ve been working through a Lenten Healing program - looking for things that are impeding the Joy of the Spirit from operating more intensely in my life. The topic of Abandonment came up, and I remembered and relived 2 of the most painful times in my life.
The first was when Bob and I left behind our home, my law practice, our friends and families to get our children out of a body & soul killing environment. Everything we had ever worked for was gone; and the future of our family was not looking too great either. But we felt God needed us to do it - so we left and started over. We moved to a more faith & family friendly part of the country - a place teeming with economic growth also - so that we could still try to attain our life of a happy family living all around us till we are old and grey.
10 years later, we had to give that up too.
And so the second most painful moment was when our daughter, son-in-law and grandchild got on a plane, and flew across the entire country to begin a new life far from us. Within 2 years - all the rest got their own calls from God, and were gone. I was left bereft, with zero idea of what to do or where to go. My future dreams had been ground to dust; yet, I let them go without temper tantrums, without complaint, without guilting them into staying. How could I fight against God?
Well, I did complain to Him quite a bit and one day, I guess, He had just “had it”. He responded with this:
“All these years, what has been your prayer to me regarding your children?”
I, of course, responded immediately. “I asked that you make my children lights for Christ in the World.”
“And how,” He continued, “are they expected to do that… if they are sitting and illuminating YOUR living room?!!!”
I guess I had no intelligent response - hard to have one when arguing with the Creator of the Universe.
But back to the present. In the midst of reliving these moments, it occurred to me. What were the 2 things that Abraham did that were 'credited to him as righteousness'?
1. Moving his family to an unknown land and future; trusting only in God
2. Offering up his son to God's Plan, trusting only in Him.
So, of course, in my pride I lit up like a lightbulb and instantly thought that I was a SAINT!!!
Until I went to Mass, and He showed me the whole story. He showed me that even this - even actions that were saintly, were not my own doing. All these things that I could take pride for - were NOT my own doing. They were the result of the actions, etc. that God had allowed to happen in my life - FOR SPECIFICALLY THESE PURPOSES.
Growing up in my home, I learned to hide my feelings; to be numb to pain. I learned to do what had to be done to protect those around me, without contemplating the awfulness of the immediate situation. That ability (defense mechanism) is what allowed me to remain quiet and to ignore the growing pain and panic in my life as these events unfolded. That freedom (i.e., inability to do otherwise) in my actions gave us and our children the ability to do God’s will in theirs…
So even my GREATEST actions in THIS life - were orchestrated by God. And those actions were the result of terrible things done to, and awful things experienced by, me for years upon years in my early life. Truly, I can remember thinking during that time: ‘Where are you God?!!! Why don’t you HELP me?!!!’
And Jesus answered my questions over 2000 ago, “…it is so that the works of God might be made visible through (us).” (John 9:1-41)
Today, our children are at the forefront of the Spiritual Battle. They are carrying the Light of Christ everywhere they go - in fact, they are running before the immense hurting crowd - encouraging them to follow. God is working his Will in all things.
And “We know that He works all things for GOOD for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”…
We forget eternity. If we suffer for 10, 20, 50, 80 years in this life - but that suffering ensures that other eternal souls will be in heaven with us FOR ALL TIME - is that not worth it?
So why do we worry? Do we not know that He is working everything; EVERYTHING; out according to his Plan? Coronavirus, Politics, Moves, Jobs, Deaths, EVERYTHING."
We all have a Good Father, and like a Good Father - He is in charge. That is something we all need to remember right now; lest we hear Jesus say to us also: “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ (i.e. we know better than God what is really going on - hence WE can judge!), so your sin remains.”
Ashley and Susan
Two women asking the world to not just hope, but to Hope in Love.