Jesus says, “…Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18: 15-20
To all of you under forty years of age, I apologize to you in advance but my little ditty today may bore you. Please read the parish bulletin or count the lights in the ceiling.
To the rest of us, Jesus clearly lays out for us what a follower of his looks like.
Since those over forty years are now the only ones listening to me, I have some good and bad news to report to you.
You’re pretty much who you are and will be for your remaining days. Because you see as you get even older – if you’re lucky enough to get there – you will be more of yourself than you are now.
If you’re cranky in the morning now, God bless the wife who has to listen to an intensified version of you in old age. If you hate your job now, steal that stapler today instead of waiting for your elimination or retirement day.
The old adage says, “You are in old age as you’ve always been, only, only…more so.” “More so?”
Whether it’s your humor, a type-A personality or a quiet demeanor – it only increases and expands as your years add up because that’s what we know.
All of the advice and admonitions from Jesus describes a faithful follower and believer in Him and His Father and then mingled with our life stories.
“Our own stories.” What a great phrase. We write our stories every day even if not for publication. Our happy stories are shared at family gatherings and cocktail parties, but there are other remembered stories which are full of the fullness of our lives. Those are safely kept in our minds and most importantly within our souls.
Those sinful parts of our lives are the easy parts to recall whether we confess them or not. Those unspoken parts of our lives that are seldom shared but are remembered… always alive within our souls.
How many times do we think or say to ourselves, “God forgives others but not me.” And, how many times are we proven wrong? Every, single time.
Well, I’ve given you the bad news, now how about the good news.
It’s the gift. A part of the gift is about God’s forgiveness. Another part of the gift is “hitting the mark” and doing the right thing. The greatest part of the gift is about the created you, the grace of God’s creation. Are we now what God created or have we become a creation of ourselves? Is there lots of God in your life or have you filled yourself with, well, too much of yourself?
If the gift of your life is authentic and real, then the all of life’s stuff, good or bad can be handled.
The most humbling part of being a priest? It’s confession. It’s two people connecting God’s mercy to our often broken world. It’s admitting doing the wrong thing while knowing the right.
I believe my job is to remind the penitent of something already known. If the penitent didn’t know the right way, then there’s no point to confession. The “box’ would remain empty. Confession is rediscovering what’s been lost, misplaced or forgotten. It’s both humbling to admit mistakes and humbling to hear them.
Us folks over forty don’t and will not change. (And do we really want to? “I like myself just that way I am!”) We’re pretty much who we’ll be for the rest of lives with perhaps a few modifications thrown in here and there.
But it’s those small things like misplaced frustration or anger, it’s a minor mishap when we believed we were so right or a mindless misstep (a statement we regret saying right after saying it), it’s the small parts of us that bother and causes us second thoughts or a restless sleep.
Those telling sparks are our souls talking to us, souls that contain and hold all of our lives, telling us where we’re goofing up the gift God gave us; as God’s creation.
There’s a new theological word for your religious prayers. “Goofing up.”
“I goofed up big time God, please forgive me.” “I goofed when I convinced myself of some goofy action or belief.” Please use “goofy” in a sentence today before you go to bed, and this new religious word will truly be yours.
The irony (that word is often misused but correctly used here), is that we know better – which is why it’s called “sin.” That’s what prompts and causes us to strive to be the grace-filled people Jesus calls us to be.
When age and time begin to meet, a theologian’s words may assist us in trying to define God’s great gift of grace:
“Sometimes a wave of light breaks into our darkness and it is as though a voice were saying: ‘You are accepted.’ You are accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything; do not perform anything; do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. If that happens to us, we experience grace. After such an experience we may not be better than before and we may not believe more than before. But everything is transformed. In that moment, grace conquers sin, and reconciliation bridges the gulf of estrangement. And nothing is demanded of this experience, no religious or moral or intellectual presupposition, nothing but acceptance.” Paul Tillich
Okay, those of you under forty can rejoin us now. But just wait! Your time is coming.
Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS. All available on Amazon.com
“Soulful Muse,” inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
“Living Faith’s Mysteries,” inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons
of Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter
“Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
Newest books include:
“Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of letters written by my cats over twenty years
“Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up