Smiling Statues

Each of the churches in Rome, especially the major basilicas have unique atmospheres.

When we arrived at the Arch Basilica of St. John Lateran we entered through a side door close to the sanctuary. And as I was walking towards the front of the church I had this very humbling, almost fearful feeling the further I walked – and I know exactly why.

You see, the nave of the basilica is dominated by giant statues on pedestals of the twelve apostles (six on each side) – these great figures were staring down at me.  I had a feeling that they were looking deep into my heart and telling me that it was my turn and asking me what I had done for our Lord.  I have to say that the statues looked mad! From the far recesses of history, those who laid the foundation of our faith were looking to me. Add to that that there are at least 20 popes buried there, and that tradition holds that the skulls of St. Peter and St. Paul are in a reliquary above the high altar and you can understand somewhat the feeling of history bearing down upon me.

What am I doing for Christ’s church? How dedicated am I to our Lord and Savior? Am I a strong stone in His church or a weak one?  All of these questions were bearing down on me as I walked down the nave – and all were demanding a reply. But as if in answer to these questions I noticed in the side naves many confessionals – each one with two languages listed Italian-German, English-Italian and so forth.

The Apostles, who at first were looking down at me accusingly, now seem to be saying they understand. It doesn’t matter how strong of a stone I am now – God will make me stronger!  Take advantage of the His love, use these confessionals, strengthen yourself; help build that strong temple that we started!

Brothers and sisters, as the readings today highlight the church is always building, always in transition. The Church will never be complete until its foundation, Jesus Christ comes back to claim her.  We can’t rest on our successes and we can’t stop because we know we failed and fear that we will fail again; He requires our constant participation. God gives us His strength through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation to heal and grow stronger.  Let’s take advantage of this gifts and in doing so strengthen our part of the temple.  I bet that this will make those statues at St. John Lateran smile.

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Open Window

This morning while talking with a friend about the situations we find ourselves in she told me that for every door that closes God makes sure that at least a window is opened.  Jokingly I responded that I hoped it wasn’t an eighth floor window; as we all are very well aware, life throws us some very difficult situations – even for the most faithful.

Throughout his writings St. Paul shows us his constant and energetic mission to proclaim the Gospel.

But within his writings we see very human reactions: exhaustion, uncertainty (not about the faith but about the situations he finds himself in) as we hear in today’s reading from the Letter to Philippians ‘And I do not know which I shall choose. I am caught between the two.[1]; and yes even fear. ‘I came to you in weakness – and fear and much trembling…[2] he tells the Corinthians earlier.

It is not easy work being a disciple of Christ.  He demands much from His followers.  There have times when I thought that with St Paul’s statement in Corinthians ‘God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.[3] God might overestimate my limits.

But it is important to keep in mind that He doesn’t overestimate our limits. He doesn’t allow us to be overburdened, or overwhelmed. He gives us the necessary helps to make sure that doesn’t happen.  If these helps seem to be missing it is because of us – not God.

In our first reading this morning the Lord, through Isaiah, points out to us the key to finding these helps that He gives us. ‘Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near.[4] And He continues to tell us why: ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.[5]  Look to Him who knows the full nature of things, knows the reality of situations, knows the totality; and trust in His omniscience.   But most importantly trust in His love for us.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.[6]

We proclaimed today in the Responsorial from Psalm 145 for all to hear; and we should allow our minds and hearts to hear it as well.  For when we seek the Lord, when we trust in His omniscience and His love then these trials, though not eliminated, will be within our ability to deal with. With God even an eighth floor window is no problem.

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[1] Phil 1:22-23
[2] 1 Cor 2:3
[3] 1 Cor 10:13
[4] Is 55:6
[5] Is 55: 8-9
[6] Ps 145:8-9