9 Aug 2009
“‘Whoever believes has eternal life.’” (John 6:47) In the name …
Fr. Randy Calvo
Jack wakes up with a huge hangover after attending his company's Christmas Party. Now Jack is not normally a drinker, but the drinks didn't taste at all like alcohol. He didn't even remember how he got home from the party. As bad as he was feeling, he had the nagging feeling that he had done something wrong. Jack had to force himself to open his eyes come morning, and the first thing he saw was a couple of aspirins next to a glass of water on the side table. And, next to them, a single red rose! Jack sits up and sees his clothing in front of him, all clean and pressed. He looks around the room and sees that it is in perfect order, spotlessly clean. As he walks to the bathroom, he see that so is the rest of the house. He cringes though when he sees a huge black eye staring back at him in the bathroom mirror. Then he notices a note hanging on the corner of the mirror written in red with little hearts on it and a kiss mark from his wife in lipstick: "Honey, breakfast is on the stove, I left early to get groceries to make you your favorite dinner tonight. I love you, darling! Love, Jillian" He stumbles to the kitchen and sure enough, there is a hot breakfast, steaming hot coffee and the morning newspaper. His son is also at the table, eating. Jack asks, "Son... what happened last night?" "Well, you came home after 3 A.M.., drunk and out of your mind. You fell over the coffee table and broke it, and then you threw-up in the hallway, and got that black eye when you ran into the door.” Confused, he asked his son, "So, why is everything in such perfect order and so clean? I have a rose, and breakfast is on the table waiting for me?" His son replies, "Oh THAT!... Mom dragged you to the bedroom, and when she tried to get you ready for bed and started to take your pants off, you screamed, "Leave me alone, I'm married!" Broken Coffee Table $239.99. Hot Breakfast $4.20. Two Aspirins $.38. Saying the right thing, at the right time ... PRICELESS!!!
Jack got away with all that nonsense because his wife saw in the moment of his drunken stupor that deep-down he was sincerely, unquestionably, unfalteringly, committed to her. The booze did a job on all of his other inhibitions, but even in this state of confusion he never dreamed of being unfaithful to his wife. This core commitment, this loving relationship, erased all of the other drunken blunders that he had gotten himself into that night. His wife came to see his drunken episode as an isolated fault because his words focused her attention on his abiding strength as a husband. His words in that inebriated condition could not have been planned or staged, and his wife saw them, therefore, as absolutely sincere. That sincerity of his commitment to her wiped clean all of her anger at his drunken behaviour. That sincerity turned a miserable night into a good one. Now we shouldn’t forget that Jack had to pay the price that next morning. His hangover must have been a doozy. There were definite unpleasant consequences because of his actions that he brought on himself and that he was completely responsible for, but none of this was from his wife because she realized what a good man he was deep down.
I wonder if this make-believe story helps in any way so that we can better understand why God still loves us. We mess up a lot. All we have to do is read through the brutally honest Old Testament to see that time and time again God availed Himself and then we failed God. As you read along sometimes you wonder why God didn’t just throw in the towel and say forget it. The failures continue to accumulate in the New Testament. We’ve been reading from John chapter six for six weeks now. It tells the story of the miracle of the loaves and Jesus walking on the water, but it also tells of the people’s reluctance, even refusal to believe in Jesus. Remember from last week their words amidst these grand and powerful miracles: “What sign can you do that we may see and believe in you?”
This past week I was getting ready for my Retreat session up at Camp Howe. I’m supposed to give an over-view of the story of the Word of God between the end of the biblical period and 1909 when we named it as a sacrament of our church. When you read church history, it’s really not all that different than reading the history of Israel in the Old Testament. There were a lot of blunders and outright failures. Did you know that one bishop actually declared a crusade, and not against occupiers of the Holy Land, but against the peasants in his diocese who refused to tithe, to pay 10% of their earnings to the church? There were more than a few uprisings of the laity and some of the lower clergy against the abuses being committed out in the open by the church’s hierarchy involving money and lewdness and power. At first heresy was supposed to be dealt with by better preaching, study and example. What happened eventually is that it was met by the Inquisition. When the Inquisition started, torture was rare, then it was to be committed only by the state under the direction of the church, and finally the church said we’ll just do it ourselves. Why does God put up with us and our constant failures? Why doesn’t He just give up?
It might have something to do with His ability to see in some people all the time and all the people some of the time that deep down where just saying the right things are not feasible, where protocol and politeness have no power, where sincerity is laid bare and cannot be faked, that people believe or at least desperately want to believe in God and that God believes in them. It’s not easy to believe. There are things like disease and evil, tragedy and divine quiet, that can make it hard for some people to believe in God, but even in the face of doubt, I wonder if God can see deep down through all of this to where sincerity lays out this basic human desire to believe, and that this belief in God explains the patience of God and the promise of eternal life with God. When we mess-up by not believing, we create the problems we have to live with, but at least we can still hope that God counts our belief as more important than our disbelief, and that’s why Jesus can say, “Whoever believes has eternal life.” And for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)