The commercial below says this about the car it is advertising:
Three out of four people say this much horsepower is excessive.
Three out of four people are wrong.
If we were for everyone, we’d be for no one.
We can say something very similar about the Church:
Three out of four people say our teachings are excessive, unrealistic (or even impossible), and outdated.
Three out of four people are wrong.
If we sought to please everyone or agree with everyone, we’d be for no one.
The Church does not exist to reflect the views of her members, to please them, or to satisfy the world. Rather, the Church exists to reflect the teachings of her head and founder, Jesus Christ, and to please Him.
Would that we leaders of the Church were as plain-spoken, confident, and clear as is this commercial.
When my father lay dying, I remember that one of the losses I began to grieve was that he was the keeper of so many family stories. He was the one who could look at an old family photograph, identify all the people, and tell you something about each one. As I saw him lying there, no longer able to talk much, I thought of all the memories stored up in his mind, all the stories, all the people he once knew and had spoken of so vividly.
And it was not just the family stories he held; he was also a great historian and a great wellspring of the classics. He had read all of the “Great Books,” all of Shakespeare, all of Sacred Scripture, and so many other worthy writings. And he had memorized many lengthy quotes from each.
Such an encyclopedic mind! He was full of vivid thoughts and vivid memories. He was the keeper of our family story. And though I knew he would take it with him in his soul, I grieved that his magnificent mind was now closing to me. I regret that I did not more carefully retain all he told me over the years.
Thankfully, he wrote a family history that stays with us. All his many photos and family films, that we worked to preserve, stay with us. We, his sons, are moving much of this to the digital realm, but it took Dad’s living presence to really bring these things home.
The video below put me in this reflective mood. It depicts an old man who lies dying in a hospital bed. In various flashbacks we see his life, told almost as if from God’s perspective. We see his story, his good moments and his tragedies—and then he passes.
I remember a Bible verse my father jotted down on the frontispiece of a book he was reading at the time of his own father’s death:
But as for man, his days are like the grass, or as the flower that flourishes in the field. The wind blows, and he is gone, and his place never sees him again (Psalm 103:16).
Reading that as a young teenager, I realized for the first time that the Bible was very beautiful. And I was startled to think that the house in which I was sitting would one day “never see me again.” All the stories, all the memories would be gone with the proverbial winds.
The photo at the upper right is the last one I ever took of my father. He standing in front of our family home. I took the picture as he was leaving it for the last time. He moved into a retirement community for a brief time, but was not much longer for this world. There he is, standing in front of the place that would “never see him again.”
Yes, there is something very precious about our memories, our stories. They are meant to be shared, handed down. But there is something irreplaceable, something that dies with each person: a personal glimpse of history, a personal story, something that can never be fully shared with anyone but the Lord.
Only the Lord really knows our story, and he knows it better than we ourselves do:
O LORD, you search me and you know me.
You yourself know my resting and my rising;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You mark when I walk or lie down;
you know all my ways through and through.
Before ever a word is on my tongue,
you know it, O LORD, through and through …
For it was you who formed my inmost being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you who wonderfully made me;
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being fashioned in secret
and molded in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me yet unformed;
and all my days were recorded in your book,
before one of them came into being …
at the end I am still at your side … (Ps 139:varia)
Yes, the Lord knows. He knows all about us.
An old spiritual says, “Nobody knows the trouble I seen, nobody but Jesus.” For in the end, He is the keeper of every story: my father’s, mine, and yours. And whatever is lost in death will be restored a hundredfold, with understanding besides, in the great parousia. Not a story, not a word will be lost. We shall recover it all and tell the old, old stories once again.
Enjoy this poignant and moving video of a man’s life, told almost as if from the standpoint of God, the God who knows. Though the man seems to die alone, someone is remembering his story. Maybe it’s God who is doing the remembering.
Life is filled with distractions and one of the most critical decisions we make from moment to moment is choosing what to focus on. Brain scientists have studied for years how our eyes and ears, along with our brain, filter out lots of background data. If they didn’t, our stress levels would be overwhelming, as we sought to process every sound, image, movement, and change in our immediate surroundings. Focus is essential lest we be overwhelmed.
It is the same in the spiritual life. Setting our focus on the Lord and His Kingdom is essential for us, lest the burdens, distractions, and trivialities of this world stress and overwhelm us. Daily prayer, ever deeper immersion in the truths of God, and practicing the presence of God are essential practices that help filter out the less important things.
The Lord has a plan to simplify our lives. He tells us not to serve two masters and to “fear” Him above all others. If we fear the Lord, we don’t really have to fear anyone else. If we do not fear him, we will fear ten thousand other people and things. If we serve the Lord, our life is simpler; if we do not, ten thousand masters with differing demands assail us.
Set your focus and simplify. The rose window at the upper right (from my parish) is a picture of this. The petals of the rose represent the many aspects of your life: family, vocation, career, etc. But at the center is Jesus, who is to unite and organize everything else.
Enjoy this interesting video, which has a surprising lesson to teach us about focus.