Paying Attention to God

09-10-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

Last week the second Beatitude came to mind in a few ways for me. “Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4) August 31st would have been the 96th birthday of my father who died nineteen years ago. I think of him and pray for him everyday. He was a good, humble, hard working man who knew who he was and who he wanted to be: a husband and father. I am comforted by his goodness, love, and humility and ask him to pray for me every day. I am also comforted by the fact that one day I will be with him forever in God’s Kingdom. These past two weeks we have seen the mourning of those who are suffering the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the other states. How sad to see the death, destruction, and great efforts needed to recover and rebuild. But how comforting to see the goodness in the hearts of all of us who are reaching out to them. Last weekend we took up a second collection as a practical way to say we care and we want to help. That is a comfort to them and to us. They see our love and concern and we have the privilege of responding with love to those in our country who are in great need at this time.

The other troubling thoughts I had that made me mourn and caused a lot of soul searching was what I heard about the opening of classes in a local college. When the students went into an opening class the professor asked them what pronoun they would like to be called that day. And they were told that each day they would be asked the same question. Obviously, this is a response to the movement in our nation to look at the rights, freedom, and respect we need to show to those who struggle with their sexual identity. The LGBT movement has taken the front page in the media and has infiltrated the atmosphere of so many places, including our college campuses. While we certainly need to love and respect those who are struggling with their sexual identity, we cannot let what appears to be a minority fringe group to become the norm for us as a society. Our response should not be to condemn those with these feeling or orientations but to live who we are. Sadly, as we live as Catholics and uphold tried and true values of our sexual identity we are condemned for espousing who we are as human beings created in the image and likeness of God. We are labeled bigots and out of touch with 21st century American society. Giving young people the impression that they can choose whatever that want to be sexually with LGBT undermines the ability to be who they truly are so they can live out that commitment. It undermines commitment is so many ways. Will they wake up tomorrow and decide that they no longer want to be identified as an American so they will call themselves a citizen of any other nation they wish? Will they see themselves as heterosexual and marry a person of the opposite sex, have children, and decide to leave because they are not the sex they were when they got married. That causes so much heartache, pain, and frustration. Commitments are key in our lives. They give us purpose and meaning and require love and sacrifice. They take us out of ourselves and put us into the lives of one another for the good of each of us.

One of the other things that happened in that freshman class is that they went to an auditorium and had a rally where people on a stage were throwing out condoms to the students. What kind of a message is that giving to these young people? Sexual freedom is not sexual license. Sex for the sake of sex or merely for pleasure is an attitude that currently pervades our society. Look at the Internet. At our fingertips are countless sites to arouse sexual fantasies and even sites to find a willing partner for sex, adulterous or otherwise. It is not a mystery that sex has permeated our society. In the process, we have lost our focus on the gift that it is from God. Sexual intercourse is a gift and blessing for people committed to each other in marriage to express and strengthen their love. It is so powerful a gift that at times it creates new life. Is that not why each one of us is here in this world? Parents are co-creators with God. They give us life, love us no matter what our age, and keep us in their hearts always. Is that not exactly how God sees us? Parents are an image of God. After all, we are created in the image and likeness of God and parents in a unique way make that so clear.

Once we lose our faith in God, we gravitate to what we want and think should be done for ourselves and others. One of the other temptations is sports. I love sports and in my younger days as a priest played a lot of basketball. In my older age, I truly enjoy playing golf. But sports not only fill our TV screens twenty-four hours a day, they also take families and their children to arenas and fields on Sundays instead of Mass. Obviously, the problem is much deeper than that. Without a solid prayer life, temptations easily lead us astray. There are good intentions. There is an old saying that the path to hell is paved with good intentions. In the end, we cannot use the excuse I did not know. The response to that will be, “You did not pay attention!” You did not pay attention to the longing in your heart for God and His love, the very love He constantly sought to immerse you in.

The Scriptures are the living Word of God, they are timeless in the sense that they are as life giving and pertinent to us today as when they were first written and spoken. Here are two passages to reflect on in light of what I have spoken about above:

Jeremiah 4:22-23: “My people are fools, they do not know me; They are senseless children, without understanding; They are wise at evil, but they do not know how to do good. I looked at the earth—it was waste and void; at the heavens—their light had gone out!”

Ephesians 4:29-32: “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption. All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”

Fr. Wald