Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's the little things that reflect our following Jesus

By Father Perry D. Leiker

I don't know if you've ever seen these movie titles of these horror movies or thriller movies. They'll be titled something like: "Don't go in the basement" dot, dot, dot. And then where do they always go? Into the basement. And the whole movie is about people saying, "I heard that sound down there! It's dark and gloomy! There's green fumes coming out! Obviously you don't go down there! You better go check it out!" And then, usually, they go alone. It's crazy.

There's something about being told not to do something that makes us want to do it, even as kids. Moses speaks to the people: "I give you life and death. Do this: walk with the Lord, and you will thrive. Do this: walk away from the Lord, and you will perish. You will surely die."

What was some of that stuff? Well, the most catastrophic things the Jews would do would be they'd lose all their trust in God and turn back to the phony gods, the gods that never brought them any peace. So Moses was always in this tug-of-war between don't do this, don't abandon God, stay faithful to God. That was the constant struggle of the Jewish people.

One could ask if we have that struggle. I guess not. We're all here in church. We're good, faithful Catholics. But I suspect the issue is not so black and white — it's all or nothing, even though Jesus puts it in those terms. If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. You either lose your life or you save it. You surrender everything or you find everything. So when we have those black and white terms, that all or nothing stuff — which, by the way, in all the 12-Step programs they say don't think like that: all or nothing, don't think black and white, because most of life is not black or white — it's not all or nothing. Most of life is in the middle, in the gray, and there's nuances and there's just shades.

Today we don't have to make a choice to follow Christ 100 percent or throw him out. But it's little things, it's like putting up with little irritations; it's like letting go of I can go on this argument with this one now, I could go after my husband or wife, I could make this the fight of the century, or I can let it go. And when we get deeper and deeper and deeper into the life of the spirit, it becomes so important to check out the gray area, the nuances, to understand how much of life could be so much better lived if we didn't create all the dramas, if we weren't willing to go there and make it all or nothing.

Now, I'm not trying to negate the Gospel, because in the first analysis we have to make some decisions: Do I go with Christ or not? Do I walk with my God or walk away from God? And if we choose a life that is filled with every kind of vice and craziness, we're choosing to walk away from God and we're bound to find problems — Moses is right. But once we make this basic assertion: I want to walk with God, I want to belong to Christ, I want to embrace the Gospel, after we've said that, it's going to be in the nuances — in the gray — that so much happens. Life really isn't all that dramatic. It really isn't. But boy, can we make drama come alive.

Today, for example, how will we live? We've already committed ourselves here again to Christ in this Eucharist. We will eat and drink of the body and blood of Christ, we've listened to his word, we've listened to this black and white, all or nothing talk; but of course, we'll walk out of here saying, "Yes, Christ, I'm even more committed you." And then what happens? It's the little, tiny things all day long that will challenge us. For example, we're walking home or driving in our car and we happen to look right next door to that neighbor that drives us nuts, that we just can't stand! Everything that he or she does is wrong. Well, we can just sit in that negativity. We can roll our eyes, walk in. Or we might do something that is not all that dramatic but it's simple. You know, bless her today. Lord, fill him with your spirit. Love him. Such a little, tiny act in the gray area that brings us peace, probably creates on our face a better look, and maybe they might even look up and be surprised. Such a little thing in the gray area that could make such a difference. And we could multiply those all day long, the little things. When we're zinged by someone at home and we want to make that remark, that instead you say something peaceful or you say nothing at all or say a blessing inside us. It's amazing how those things mount up, how those things collect; and we begin to find that, in those gray areas, there really, there, is the grace and the life of Christ for us.

Father Perry D. Leiker is St. Bernard parish administrator. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

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