Comfort Zones

05-21-2023From the Pastor's DeskMsgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

There are certain people, places, and situations where we feel very comfortable. It is encouraging to be accepted, respected, and loved and to be with people we love, accept, and respect. But we are not in a comfort zone every moment of every day. Some days and situations make us uncomfortable. It is in those situations that we need the courage and wisdom to be who we are in the best sense possible. When we are in a controversial place, our challenge is to respond with the courage and Spirit of who we are as followers of Jesus Christ, that is, to respond with His courage and Spirit. Jesus Himself faced many challenging people and situations. He responded with His inner trust and love for the Father and the inner hope and love He had for those He was with. The Gospel passages these past Sundays have come from the Last Supper accounts of St. John’s Gospel, chapters 13-17. In the ever hastening moments of the suffering and injustice He was about to face and endure, Jesus met the challenge with unconditional love for the Father and us, trusting and hoping we would accept and embrace Him and His love.

In these chapters (13-17) of St. John’s Gospel Jesus revealed His desire to share His life totally and completely with us. In the past few Sunday Gospel passages Jesus has promised to go ahead of us to the kingdom of Heaven and prepare a place for us. Last Sunday Jesus assured us that He not only wants to share His life with us, but wants to bring us into His life with the Father and promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide, enlighten, sustain, inspire, and encourage us. Jesus is comfortable enough to share His life with the Father and Holy Spirit with us.

One of the most beautiful examples of leaving a comfort zone is the Blessed Virgin Mary. Engaged to St. Joseph she surely looked forward to being his wife and having children with Him. She would be security, joy, and comfort to him as his wife as he would be security, joy and comfort to her as her husband. But all that changed because she had the courage to trust in God and His love for her and His love through her.

A thought to ponder is how comfortable do I feel when I pray, go to Confession, come to Mass, and live my faith in all I say and do wherever I am and whoever I am with every day. Prayer, Mass, Confession, the other Sacraments, and the Bible are not duties we must fulfill or opportunities where we will be accepted and graded, but opportunities to see how comfortable and courageous God is with His love for us and presence to us. In our American culture God seems to fade further and further into our moral character almost every day. Abortion is a major issue that clearly divides us. It is not comfortable to speak the truth about life given to us by God Himself. Over three thousand years ago He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai - Thou shalt not kill!. Being a public and vocal witness to life might not be comfortable when we experience opposition and angry responses, but I have found joining with others publicly is encouraging because we give each other courage, the same courage Jesus gave to His followers, especially after His Resurrection. Next Sunday we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire. Once they received the Holy Spirit they were on fire as brothers and sisters through, with and in Jesus. Their courage was not dampened or weakened by threats of jail or death, both of which the first generation of the Church after Jesus endured.

We have our challenges today just as they had theirs. And we have the same Jesus walking with us and sharing His Holy Spirit and Father with us. May we become as comfortable and courageous ourselves personally and together as the Church as Jesus is comfortable and courageous with us. To be embraced by Him and to embrace Him in return is to become His love, mercy, truth, and wisdom. It is not always comfortable, but the more we love as God loves us the more life giving and powerful our courage.

I offer these words from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians 13:1-13.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.