Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Are you a contender?

In Genesis 32:23-33 we hear of  Jacob's "match" with the Lord. The text says that they wrestled until the break of dawn. When the divine being saw that it could not prevail it struck Jacob's hip so that the hip socket was wrenched. When it was all over Jacob was given a new name by God - "Israel", because he had contended with and prevailed over both divine and human beings.
As I have read commentaries on these verses I have learned that not all the "scholars" are in agreement on whether or not this was an actual event or just a story. For me, I think both are true. Jacob likely did have a divine altercation because that seemed to be his way. He was always scheming to make things come out for him as in his theft of the paternal blessing from Esau. But the story also has great allegorical value. Which of us has not contended (wrestled) with God? What shall I do with my life? How shall I best serve God and others? With whom shall I spend my life? Where shall I go? Or should I stay? All of these big questions and countless others often put us in a "wrestling match" with God. Should I do what I want? Should I take a different path - one that is more difficult but seems to be where God is calling me?
In my own life, mostly over the past few years, I have contented with God. Should I be a Deacon? That question took me six years to answer in the affirmative. As I look back, I see that God was patiently waiting for me, persistently calling me. Should I leave my job and work full time for the Catholic Church? Maybe when I'm 60 or 65 was the answer I usually gave to that question. But the nagging response I received from God was "Why wait? Why not give me and the Church some of the youth you have left?" So I did. Then it was suggested that I visit the kids at the Juvenile Detention Center. No ministers were going out there on a regular basis but I felt wholly inadequate and ill suited to the work. After him-hawing around for several weeks I gave it a try. I've been visiting kids there now for almost four years and found great blessings in the ministry.
What about you? Have you, are you, wrestling with God? Submit and see what God has in store for you. You won't look back. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I need to see, I gotta know!

The story of Lot and his wife leaving Sodom is the subject of the first reading for Mass today. Such an interesting story of God sparing Lot and his family for their righteousness but then telling them to NOT look back as they leave the city. Every time I read that story there is a little part of me that hopes Lot's wife will make a better choice and be spared but, of course, that never happens. She looks back and is instantly turned into a pillar of salt. How sad.
The question I have to ask myself is this - would I be any different? I think I would be greatly tempted to look back and I'll bet you would, too. Our culture is one of the most invasive, newshound, gossip-seeking and "dirty laundry" cultures ever. We want to see into everyone's life - especially if they are famous and see what's going on. Is their marriage failing? Were they arrested? Are they back on drugs? What about their kids?
In my humble opinion, 24-hour news is the worst thing that ever happened to GOOD news reporting. Now there are many competing TV stations that have to fill all of that time with some kind of "news". Things that NEVER would have made the 30 or 60 minute news program of old are now front and center on CNN, MSNBC and FOX. The type of reporting that is done is most often geared to raising emotional responses rather than on giving an unbiased account. Don Henley had it right in his 1982 song "Dirty Laundry" when he quotes the newsman saying "I could have been an actor, but I wound up here". The reporting is mostly about drama and very little about substance. These networks are all vying for high ratings so that they can attract more advertisers and charge more for each ad.
So, what do we do about it? QUIT WATCHING! I stopped watching TV news fifteen years ago and I don't miss it a bit. I get the little news I need from the internet and the radio. Reading it on a website leaves almost all of the hype out and I am free to assess the stories and research them on my own. Give it a try, give up the dirty laundry before you (your soul) turns into a salt pillar.