Sunday, August 14, 2016

All prepared to receive

I was on my way to New Jersey for my first healing mass at our friend’s place. I was more skeptical than excited. What were my wounds that I wanted Jesus to heal? What does HE want of me? And our bustling summer activities gave no time to think. As the journey was long, I and my wife got down to discuss regarding the youth ministry that we were about to help moderate in a couple of hours. It was transfiguration Saturday, but we were discussing the Sunday gospel with the kids and youth that related to Jesus talking to his disciples about their preparation for HIS second coming. What was Jesus trying to tell his disciples and through him, each one of us? What was the meaning of transfiguration from Jesus’ point of view? Was it that Jesus was getting so frustrated with the disciples as to what they thought of him, that he had no option to have this amazing event where he was in conversation with Moses and Elijah, confirming to his disciples that they were with GOD himself? No, it didn’t seem that way, at least not the frustrated tone I felt within me, although there was every opportunity to be frustrated indeed. What could one expect of the fishermen, right? I looked at it positively. Jesus was trying hard to make the disciples feel very special and honored that GOD has chosen to spend HIS lifetime with them. He had chosen them for HIS mission. And through them, HE had chosen each of us. I hoped this message would come through when we spent the time with the youth.

And right after the transfiguration, HE tells them what HE expects of them when HE comes back again. And they don’t get it. Just like each one of us, Peter actually thinks that HIS instruction and message is for somebody else. Somebody else had to become responsible. Somebody else had to mend their ways. And Jesus keeps telling them about how much expectations HE has that they will do according to HIS instruction. Otherwise, they will be punished, severely. And to think about what actually happened. HE lays down HIS life for us. 

 I was now getting skeptical about how the youth would interpret this gospel. I needed to be hopeful. Will they be like Peter, thinking all that’s written in the Bible is for others? Well, I hadn’t had a great time discussing this gospel with others before. Previously, I have been at groups of adults and when this gospel has been thrown up for discussion, I had come back home depressed. Because nobody accepted that any of this is do-able in this world, given how the world has turned out to be. They felt judged and they didn’t like it. And therefore, this gospel is not to be taken literally and seriously. 

So, when we got into the youth group discussion, which was very well lead by two wonderful youth, my fears came through right away. When asked if they were prepared to receive Jesus when he comes again, all of them said that they were unprepared. Trying to alert them, I reminded them that Jesus tells them that they will be punished severely because of their unpreparedness. But, they didn’t change their answer. They were being honest. As I was thinking that we had hit a wall, we proceeded to discussing the obstacles the youth faced that makes them unprepared to welcome Jesus. And I am so glad they were so brutally honest. And in their honesty, I found hope. Their answers ranged from their gadgets that prevent them from seeking Jesus to Parents who force things upon them and not give them a chance to explore at their own playful, joyful way, to the church itself that prevents them by being ultra conservative and boring. They had tried finding Jesus by helping out at the Sunday school and other missions, but they still felt they could do a lot lot more.  It was amazing that the very factors that should aid them in finding Jesus had become their obstacles? And before finishing they resolved to pay more attention to the gospel and the homilies at the church, say more rosaries and prayers and seek more opportunities through which they can get closer to Jesus. And I have prayed an entire week that they have literally managed to do all these things and more and that their promises haven’t remained as intelligent words at a meeting. In their honesty, I found hope that they would start recognizing just as I did for myself that it was time for getting my relationship with Jesus stronger. That was the start we needed. 

But a big question arose from all of this. Here I was faced with what Jesus exactly wants of me as he illustrates through the various parables, signs and discourse throughout the bible. Yet, here we were faced with a reality of being unable to put HIS mission into action because of umpteen number of reasons. In most cases, the paths that should have lead us to Jesus were actually taking us away from HIM. And by analyses, as we aged we had resigned to the fact that it was impossible to do what Christ was telling us to do and ended up doing things which we knew were probably contrary to what Jesus wanted us to do. How could we change this course? How could we do things that are pleasing to Jesus, in-spite of being mocked at by our very own society? This bothered me through the week and I did not know how to get an answer. But, faith is beautiful. “Ask and you shall receive” I kept asking the question and I received answers from unlikely sources. 

One, my little 5 yr old daughter. She has been an amazing link for me with Jesus. Two nights after the prayer meeting, I was waiting on her to finish dinner. It was dark outside in our new home and she had her back to the large window with expansive darkness outside. And suddenly she moved away. I asked her what was wrong and she told me she just felt afraid. As I was telling her that I was around and she was safe and that I appreciated the fact that she was aware of her surroundings, she immediately calmed down, not because of what I told her, but because she instantly prayed to Jesus and told me HE will now take care of HIM. I was stunned. All of this happened in just a minute and the turn of emotions was so dramatic for me as an onlooker that I was deeply taken aback. What faith? How come I am not so strong in-spite of knowing HIS abundant love for me?  I decided to probe further. The next day, out of nowhere I asked her if she was prepared for Jesus’ second coming. She instantly said “yes”. I asked her if she has done everything that Jesus has asked of her and she said there were some things that she hadn’t. So, I reminded her of the gospel and told her that Jesus has said that HE would punish those who did not follow what HE asked of one to do. So, given that, does she still believe that she could welcome Jesus the second time. Instantly, she said “yes”. What if he points out to things she hasn’t done pleasing to HIM. She had an answer to that too. She simply said that she would ask him to pardon her and that she would correct those things immediately. A five year old had a very simple answer. I am sure all of us had that answer too. But, we had not preserved it and lost it as we grew up. We had lost that friendship with Jesus, that ability to be humble, to request a second chance, to correct ourselves. And we had forgotten that Jesus had himself shown time and again that HE was a pardoning GOD. All HE wanted of us was to ask him. No wonder HE had said that children are precious for he knows who is innocent and wise. 

This instance reminded me  of the gospel when Jesus visited Mary and Martha. When Martha went and tried to please HIM y trying to cook and clean, all Mary did was to sit at HIS feet and listen to HIM. The consequence was, as HE himself pointed out to Martha, that what Jesus wanted was not a wonderful meal or a spotless house, etc, but a keen ear and a humble heart. And that’s what I pray we would understand and turn back a page or pages where we were, probably long long ago, when we were truly at the feet of Jesus. That’s when we were all prepared to receive Jesus, no matter what, no matter when.