“You did not choose me, but I chose you,” Jesus assures us
In Greek mythology the sirens are creatures with the heads of beautiful women and the bodies of attractive birds. They lived on an island (Sirenum scopuli; three small rocky islands) and with the irresistible charm of their song they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island (Virgil V, 846; Ovid XIV, 88). They sang so sweetly that all who sailed near their home in the sea were fascinated and drawn to the shore only to be destroyed. When Odysseus, the hero in the Odyssey, passed that enchanted spot he tied himself to the mast and put wax in the ears of his comrades, so that they might not hear the luring and bewitching strains. But King Tharsius chose a better way. He took the great Greek singer and lyrist Orpheus along with him. Orpheus took out his lyre and sang a song so clear and ringing that it drowned the sound of those lovely, fatal voices of sirens. The best way to break the charm of this world’s alluring voices during Lent is not trying to shut out the music by plugging our ears, but to have our hearts and lives filled with the sweeter music of prayer, penance, word of God, self-control, and acts of charity. Then temptations will have no power over us.
During this Lent, fasting, sacrifices and almsgiving are 3 important actions. But a 4th is equally important: Getting closer to Jesus!
How do I and Jesus become better friends?
· There are many types of friendships in my life:
· The friends who can sit with me and hold everything going on in my life
· The friends who can sit in silence with me as we savor our time together
· The ones who laugh loudly with me and celebrate the abundance of life
· The ones who are present during the tough times
· The ones that are part of my day-to-day life and support me in fatherhood
All of these friends offer a piece of themselves to me, and by their doing so I experience what it’s like to be loved by another.
I, too, offer various types of friendships. In being there, I am helping them experience what it’s like to be loved by another.
Jesus offers a relationship that encompasses all of these different types of friendships. In a sense, Jesus is the totality of all of my human friends in one. Jesus sits with me in silence, rejoices with me, laughs with me, celebrates with me, supports me in tough times, and walks with me in my day-to-day life and cries with me as well. All of these ways that Jesus is present deepen my understanding of God’s love for me.
What can I offer to God, though? I offer my presence to God. I offer my response to the totality of God’s love. I offer my love to God as I laugh, celebrate, cry, and share the depths of my heart with God. I offer my gifts and talents to God. In this mutual giving to each other and receiving from each other, we develop a deep friendship with each other.
However, I have a different kind of struggle, which is to surrender control to God in those areas of my life that are out of my control.
In my life as a husband, dad, businessperson, friend and deacon, I am a good at organization and balance. However, I find myself challenged when faced with events outside of my control.
For example, in the aftermath of choices our daughter’s make, I found myself acting in ways that were demanding and impatient in the place of seeking peace reconciliation. Sometimes we have to accept and surrender however difficult. Others’ responses are never in our own control. Surrender is not giving up! It is giving it all to Jesus. Central to friendship with God, as with any friendship, is mutual trust. As I said recently to a friend, “I trust in God; it’s other people that can be hard to trust!” Yet trusting in God is also a matter of trusting that despite my own and others’ human limits and sin, I am gently being invited to cooperate with the God who wants to “make all things new” (Rev. 21:5). I’m learning that I have not only to offer God my own creativity and responsibility, but to make that offer freely, without trying to control God or anyone else. Not easy! WHEN WE TRY TO CONTROL GOD WE BECOME GOD.
How do we do it? The old adage says, “Let go and let God.” We can offer ourselves freely to God and to others and then let go of the outcomes.
For example, at the Catholic cemetery, where I am the chaplain, I cannot know whether the families whom I am serving will benefit. But I can trust that God will somehow weave my actions into a larger, meaningful pattern.
Slowly I am discovering that Jesus’ story and mine are intertwined, like threads in those old friendship bracelets that we used to weave back in college. The threads of both joy and suffering are like bright threads that contribute to the pattern of our stories with God.
Once I was contemplating the Prodigal Son. I was the son, walking on the road every day, searching the horizon for my father.
One day I again scanned the familiar skyline and hills in front of me, and then I saw the speck far down the road. All of my love for Jesus rushed into my heart, and I was overwhelmed with the realization that nothing I had done could possibly matter, if only I could hold him in my arms again and tell him how much I love him. I ran down the road toward him as fast as I could, yelling with joy. I was home!
It was that extraordinary experience of prayer that brought home to me how much God wants a loving friendship with me—with each of us. I often had the same sort of experience with my own children. These two young people that I adored with all of my heart often ignored me, disobeyed me, and went their own ways. Yet, I could feel how nothing they did could dim my deep and lifelong love for them. I might be frustrated or angry with them as they stormed from a room or slammed a door, but my children could not escape my love.
NEITHER COULD WE ESCAPE GODS LOVE. NO MATTER HOW MANY TEMPER TANTRUMS OR PITTY PARTIES. GOD IS STANDING THERE PATIENTLY WAITING FOR US TO COME BACK TO HIM.
On this Lenten journey, we have been invited first to imagine and then accept that God wants a friendship with us. I think we have such a difficult time picturing God as wanting to be in a friendship with us because our imaginations can’t do better than to picture God loving the way we love. We give God our own limited, human version of love.
LET US PUT THE LOVE HE HAS FOR US INTO ACTION: As we journey during this Lent and we give something up in sacrifice, think about these alternatives:
· Give up looking at other people’s weak points. Instead, concentrate on their best points, God will judge us as we judge others.
· Give up speaking unkindly, instead, let your speech be loving and uplifting. Give up the sharp tongue instead.
· Give up your worries and anxiety. Most times we cannot do anything about them. Give them up to God. Trust Him.
· Give up social media and TV for a few hours a day. Instead do something for others.
· Spend time together with a family member or go visit someone homebound.
Give up the idea that Jesus cannot love you.
In our heads we might allow ourselves to think that God loves us endlessly, but in our hearts, we whisper that we are really not worthy of that love. We know too well our own flaws and shortcomings, and we are certain that if God really knew us, God would be disappointed.
But the dizzying fact is that we have a God who reaches out to us, who wants our friendship. “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” Jesus assures us (John 15:16).
Accepting this friendship with God means putting aside our fears and asking God to help us ACCEPT His love.
You chose me, Lord, and I accept your love. Help me start up the road towards you and come into your long-waiting embrace.
By Jesus choosing me, how should that translate in my dealings with others?
What public actions should I take during Lent, apart from my quiet, private