09.03.17: Embrace the detours
Homily from the 5:30 p.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. Masses at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Crown Point, Ind.
On Monday, I had what will more than likely be my last “First Day of School,” at least as a student.
When the alarm rang at 5:45 a.m., I laid there for a good 15 minutes before finally getting up and getting ready. When I arrived in the chapel 10 minutes before Mass, there was a new guy in MY seat. Now, we don’t have assigned seats, it’s just that I’m Jeff and I’ve sat in that same seat surrounded by the same guys for years. It’s my seat. I reluctantly took another seat. At breakfast, I started a new table and thankfully I got a “good table,” a table full of good guys who after commiserating with each other, began looking forward to the year ahead. It was going to be alright.
But that night, reflecting on the day that had passed, I thought back to just a few days before that when I was I popped in to our 3-year-old pre-school class and their first day of classes. They weren’t shuffling their steps. They weren’t dreading that walk to the classroom building. On the contrary. They were so excited to be together and with their teachers and their new friends, beginning their journey of knowledge that there was no containing their excitement.
So, what made the difference in those two experiences? Well, my cynical side likes to think it’s the 31 years of life and 10 years of college that separate me from the preschool class. But, it’s not. It’s the obstacles. Obstacles I allowed to prevent me from experiencing joy.
Friends, so often, when our cynical side shows its face, it’s because there’s a roadblock preventing us from experiencing joy. Sometimes, it’s not our fault. Sometimes, to paraphrase an old bumper sticker, “Life Happens.” Some event gets in the way of our plans, the plans we worked so hard on, the plans that were keeping us going, the plans we were so looking forward to.
Peter faced a roadblock. Here he is, following Jesus around as he performs miracles, they’re healing the sick, they’re raising the dead, they’re making water turn into wine. Life is looking great, and just imagine how much greater it’s going to be. Certainly, Peter had an idea of the wonderful future that lie ahead as Jesus’ wingman.
“By the way, Pete, we’re going up to Jerusalem. Yeah, there’s going to be a speedy trial, they’ll beat me, make me carry a cross, they’ll hang me from it, I’ll die, but everything will be great after that.”
That wasn’t part of Peter’s plan, and so his natural reaction, is what our reaction would be. No way, no how was that ever going to happen. And what does Jesus say?
“Get behind me Satan! You’re an obstacle to me. You’re thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
Peter was attempting to thwart the will of God, because God’s will wasn’t Peter’s will – and Peter knew better.
Peter wasn’t thinking as God thinks, because that would mean Peter losing control, losing control of the plans he had laid in his mind, the plans for his future with Jesus. Certainly, he’d have a life with Christ, but not the one he planned.
Road closed. Detour ahead.
Just like Peter, we create, we foster, we allow the obstacles that get in our way of thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.
When we do this, we conform ourselves to the thinking of the world around us, as Paul says the thinking of the age. And, we see examples of this all the time – especially this past week.
The Best Buy in Houston that was selling cases of water for $30.
The megachurch that locked its doors during a hurricane.
It’s not hard for us to see examples of a “me first” mentality.
In such a world, how do we conform ourselves to Christ? How do we align our will to the divine will?
We put aside our wants, our plans. We hand over control to the God who loves us. We allow ourselves to become conformed to Christ. We allow Christ’s will to take over the driver’s seat.
Friends, it’s not easy – and for most of us, it’s a lifelong process. But we have to remember that dying to self always results in rising to a new life.
This is part of God’s saving plan for us.
Putting aside some crutch, some obstacle, always frees us for something greater.
What does that look like? Well, I imagine it’s a lot like seeing our world, seeing our God with the wide eyes of one of my three year old mentors.