16 Aug 2009
“Watch carefully then how you live.” (Eph. 5:15)
Fr. Randy Calvo
In the name …
This past Tuesday I had to go and start the process of replacing my eyeglass lenses. I’m keeping the frames, just tweaking the lens prescription. I don’t actually get the new glasses for a couple of weeks, which is good because I don’t want to take a new pair of glasses out into the woods of 4-H Camp Howe for this week’s Youth Retreat anyway, or as the kids call it: God Camp. Sometimes the less I see out there, the better. Although the culture shock of Youth Retreat shouldn’t be as bad this year because a bunch of Retreat kids slept out in my backyard last night. It was kind of like my Retreat inoculation: the noise, the energy, the people just at a lower, safer dose than what’s going to happen this afternoon. I’m hoping it will make the transition to the 100 of us out in the woods less abrupt. But back to my eyeglasses, part of the process of replacing lenses is that they have to take their measurements, which means that they have to take your glasses away from you for about 15 minutes or so. I figured that while that was taking place I would walk over to the supermarket and pick-up a few things. I don’t know how many of you wear glasses, but once you’re used to them and then you go out without them, everything seems strange. Even walking is a bit awkward when things beyond just a few feet away are blurred. It’s not like I was going to walk into a wall or anything, but when you have to concentrate on seeing what’s around you rather than just taking it for granted, everything else become affected too.
Sharon, for example, wanted me to pick-up a particular kind of Bounce Dryer Sheet. Without my glasses on, I had to just about put my nose to the grocery shelf to read the packages. Then when I went to grab the one I wanted, I hit the shelf instead, and knocked some of the boxes to the floor. I guess my body was used to seeing what I was looking at from a ways back from where I had to stand without the glasses on. My brain must have told the arm reach and grab, but my brain forgot to mention how much closer I was standing now that I couldn’t see very well. So something as ordinary as reaching out my hand became something I had to think about. Then when you start thinking about having to think about everything, it only gets worse. Now I start becoming self-conscious. I don’t want to be the guy with his face pressed up to the dryer sheets who just knocked a bunch of them onto the floor. I want to be my usual suave self. But when I have to think about being my usual suave self, my usual suave self disappears. I walk around squinting, staring at people who look like so-and-so only to find out that they’re not so-and-so. I was so glad to get back to the optometrist’s and put my glasses back on so that my world could return to normal.
And all of this came to mind when I read the first words of today’s selection from the Epistle to the Ephesians: “Watch carefully then how you live.” I know what Paul is trying to say to those old Ephesians. Christianity is a new way of life for them. They had to put away old habits and had to consciously think about acting like their new faith commanded, or as we read from this same Epistle last weekend: “Be imitators of God.” Obviously, that takes work and concentration. To “be imitators of God” can’t be natural except for the smallest number of saints. The rest of us have to work at practicing our Christian faith. And this is why Paul writes: “Watch carefully then how you live.”
But we don’t have to make it harder than it already is. When I had to think about the things I took for granted when I was walking around without my eyeglasses on, everything else, in turn, became that much more complicated. The more we have to think about practicing our faith, the harder it is, which means that the more naturally our faith comes to us, the easier it should be. This is one of the reasons why coming to church is important. You here are summertime church-goers. In our world, you are the exception and not the rule. I assume that church is important to all of us here and that’s why we come regularly. In this way, faith seeps into our thoughts. It’s constantly refreshed. It’s never far away. It becomes a part of our usual experience. We get used to living like Paul said as “imitators of God.” We try to be considerate and forgiving with others. We think about God around us and especially at Mass. Plus there a host of things we wouldn’t think about doing or saying because they wouldn’t feel right to us as church-people. When the practice of the faith starts to come more naturally, it also comes more easily. We’re less self-conscious about it and that helps us not to stumble around the faith and to proverbially knock things over. We become more suave in its expression.
This is also why programs such as “God camp” are important. The kids begin every day with worship and end every day with prayer. In between they spend time learning about Christ and Church, and then living accordingly. They find out that it’s not weird to be a church kid at “God camp.” They discover that church isn’t only Mass, it’s climbing a rock wall, pacing along a high wire, swimming in a lake. They find out that church isn’t always quiet, that it can be loud until the wee hours of the AM. That church isn’t always neat and orderly, that it can be as dusty and chaotic as cabins in the woods. That church isn’t only what we do when we think about it here in this building, but that church is how we live as “imitators of God” naturally out in the world, when we choose to not lie, cheat and swear, when we choose to be kind to someone who is different, to share rather than to steal, to help rather than to hurt, to bend rather than look for a fight, to listen rather than yell, to help rather than complain. What we learn at church, God camp, in Sunday School, at home, wherever we are surrounded by the practice of our faith, it becomes a part of us. It becomes natural. And then it becomes necessary. That our faith and our church may be a full part of our lives, for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)