Holy Family

Holy Family

Friday, April 13, 2012

Feast of Pope Saint Martin I

Good morning. There is a strong message for all of us today in the Gospel about perception and how our experiences influence how we see things. Isn’t it strange how there are times we come to recognize things and then other times we just don’t see it. It can be like hunting mushrooms sometimes, or four leaf clovers. Sometimes we fail to see what is right before our eyes. We read in the Gospel this morning how the disciples failed to recognize the Lord calling from the shore of the Sea of Tiberius. Within ear shot a man calls out to the disciples from the shore inquiring as how the fishing was, yet the disciples fail to recognize that it is the same person they have spent day and night with for the past several years. Strangely, not one of them inquired, they all were reluctant to ask. One has to wonder as to the cause for their reluctance to unsettle whatever doubts they were experiencing; what was it that influenced their ability or openness to perceive that it was the Christ? I’m reminded of an old brain teaser involving fishing. Two fathers and two sons go fishing together in the same boat. They all catch a fish but the total catch for the day is 3 fish. How is this possible? The solution is that there are three men: A grandfather, a father (the grandfather's son) and the father's son. How we envision ourselves or how we envision others will determine what we or they become for us. Do we look to each other as Jesus calls us to? 

 In reading this scripture this morning I was taken back to an experience I had with a colleague regarding a discussion of a community service program. We had this discussion over a program which is intended to provide various skills designed to assist individuals in overcoming the various life entanglements which present barriers to escaping a life style which keeps individuals impoverished or from actualizing their full potential. Simply, a program intended to motivate poor families to help themselves, and each other. Our discussion quickly came to a point where we found ourselves at an ideological impasse. To which my colleague suggested that I just didn’t understand the program, but in fact there was no misunderstanding of the particulars and intentions of the program, or that it perhaps even might have some degree of success (depending upon how one chooses to measure success). 

 Who could argue with a program that attempts to alleviate poverty? Further, my argument was not at all about the underlying intent, or even the bulk of the rubrics involved in the program. No, my concern rested in whether we were perhaps contributing to influencing a self- perception which sustains a lifestyle of poverty. My argument had to do with a crucial part of the program which seems to me to diminish individuals own sense of dignity and worth. Yes, it recognizes their ability to succeed, but my argument was one of influencing a perception of self-worth that perhaps contributes to the perpetuation of the problem. My argument rested on the program’s assumption that a monetary enticement is necessary for motivating individuals to change. This individual suggested to me again that I just didn’t understand the program. It was suggested that the program was predicated on the assumption that everyone has a price, that we all do things for a price. My colleague then proceeded to ask what motivated me to do what I do, to which I responded that perhaps I do have a price, the price of knowing I’ve made a difference and the price of hopefully glorifying our Creator. This suggestion that we need to somehow motivate people to engage in something which they already want for themselves seems to me to raise a risk of influencing a perception of self which could potentially prevent their fully appreciating their own inner capacity to free their own spirits, and to fully recognize the presence of their God-given potential. Like the Apostles, they might miss recognizing what is right before their very eyes. 

 Yes, how we envision ourselves indeed determines what we become. Yet, our life journey sometimes presents unexpected twists and turns which prevent us from realizing all that we envisioned. How often we look to our lives and become frustrated and discouraged over not always becoming what we envision for ourselves. We see this too often among the poor, and we see it so often in marriage. Couples begin their lives with much hope and envision a life of joy and unceasing love. The struggle in helping couples overcome these periods of discouragement and uncertainty further reflects my colleague’s argument that we all somehow have a price; that life somehow is just something that ‘is’ versus something that is constantly evolving, and that what it becomes is contingent upon the choices we make and as Blessed Pope John Paul II noted in his book Love and Responsibility “on the contribution of both persons and the depth of their commitment.” Unfortunately we live in a culture that suggests that all in life is a commodity, and when what we embark upon turns out to be different from what we envisioned then we simply discard it for something different. 

 Like the Apostles, we sometimes fail to recognize what is right before our very eyes. The message of recognizing Jesus at the Sea of Tiberius is a message meant for each of us. Jesus makes Himself known to us in various moments of our lives, but there are times our perception, especially in life’s more challenging moments, prevents us from appreciating His presence in ourselves and in each other. Jesus is calling us from the shore to look to each other with a love and vision which seeks that which is best for each other. We see this self-sacrificing love in the life of Pope Saint Martin I whose life we commemorate today. His life offers us a glimpse of what Jesus is calling us to from the shore. What keeps us from seeing the Risen Lord in ourselves and in each other? What do you have your sights set on? Make a great day! 

 Today we recall the good life, gifts, and work of Pope Saint Martin I—the last martyred Pope.

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