From the Associate Pastor:
Don’t you wish we could turn back time, back to the good old days? In the good old days, there was no pandemic to worry about. In the good old days, there was no internet and people were not attacking each other online. In the good old days, children could play safely on the street, politicians treated each other with respect, and everybody lived in harmony with their neighbors. In the good old days, there were so many priests and nuns and going to church on Sundays was a family routine. You can add so many more yourself after the words: “In the good old days…”
Because we just celebrated the feast day of St. Augustine a few days ago, I’d like to share a quote from one of his sermons:
“Whenever we suffer some distress or tribulation, there we find warning and correction for ourselves. Our holy scriptures themselves do not promise us peace, security and repose, but tribulations and distress; the gospel is not silent about scandals; but he who perseveres to the end will be saved. What good has this life of ours ever been, from the time of the first man, from when he deserved death and received the curse, that curse from which Christ our Lord delivered us?
So we must not complain, brothers, as some of them complained, as the apostle says, and perished from the serpents. What fresh sort of suffering, brothers, does the human race now endure that our fathers did not undergo? Or when do we endure the kind of sufferings which we know they endured?
Yet you find men complaining about the times they live in, saying that the times of our parents were good.
What if they could be taken back to the times of their parents, and should then complain? The past times that you think were good, are good because they are not yours here and now.”
It is human nature that we want to live comfortably and free from problems. We might even think that the way to achieve that is by becoming a Christian, as if by being baptized we will always have enough money, be successful in our career, free from all life problems. As you and I know, that’s not reality. Unlike some preachers you see on TV, you won’t see our priests telling you to send money in exchange for happiness or prosperity.
Like Jeremiah, we may feel that we have been duped by God. This life of following God turns out to be harder than we thought. Or we may feel like Peter. His idea of a messiah was someone who would overthrow the Roman occupiers and restore Israel to its good old days of sovereignty and prosperity. When Jesus burst his triumphant messianic bubble by saying that he would be killed instead, Peter revolted. God forbid! And so, the disciple that Jesus had just praised as the rock upon whom he would build his church is now called “satan” and an obstacle (in the original Greek: skandalon, literally a stumbling block or a rock that trips people up) instead.
Being Christian is never about trying to live the most comfortable life. Instead, it is about denying ourselves, taking up our own cross, and following Christ. It is a life not meant to lived out selfishly. When other people around us suffer, we too feel the pain. When one part of the body of Christ is hurting, the rest of the body feels it too.
There is an alternative. We could just give up on all this Christianity thing and live as if God does not exist. But as Jeremiah says, soon we would have this fire burning within our hearts, the fire that is God’s immense love longing for us to come back. And quoting St. Augustine again, our heart is restless until it finds rest in God.
Sitting back and reminiscing on the good old days won’t do us much good. We are living in the present moment, and each moment has the potential to be good if we carry our cross and go wherever the Holy Spirit takes us, not back to the good old days but to a future full of hope. Pope Francis in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et exsultate (Rejoice and be glad) wrote: “Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace.” Then, and only then, will our soul be satisfied.
Peace, Fr. Sam