Every so many weeks I am blessed with an opportunity to bring the Eucharist to a facility that cares for Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. There are a group of people that do this for the residents of care facilities that are unable to make it to Sunday mass. We all share the Sunday readings from mass, give a reflection on the readings, and distribute Eucharist. For the residents it fulfills their Sunday obligation For those of us that get the opportunity to share Eucharist with the patients it’s just fulfilling. What follows is the reflection I will share with the patients on the readings. I am crafting this from my speakers notes so I sincerely hope this equates in written form. This is the first time I’m sharing my reflection outside of with the residents of the home. This reflection is on this Sunday’s readings from the 23rd week in ordinary time:
I’d like to look at one line in today’s Gospel Because I feel that one line opens up the main message of today’s readings. That line is, “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” I have to be honest and tell you…that line confused me at first. But after a little thought and doing some work I haven’t done since high school, who knew I would ever diagram a sentence again, it became clear.
You will HAVE TO carry a cross to follow Jesus. You have many burdens on your shoulders in order to get to heaven. We all know it will be worth it, but we don’t know what burdens will be making the cross so heavy to carry.
Let’s start by looking at the lives of the saints. When we do that, we find lots of stories about people that let go of everything in the world around them and found true happiness in God. When you or I look at what they let go of we may think otherwise. We may say:
“I can’t do that.”
“I can’t walk away from my family.”
“I can’t go live in a cloister shut away from the rest of the world.”
“It’s all too hard.”
“It’s football season, I can’t miss this Sunday’s game!”
It is exactly that sort of thinking that is the focus of this Sunday’s Gospel. Jesus is calling us to be close to Him and God the Father. In order to do that, we must realize that it is often the people and attitudes of the world around us that make it difficult. it is that very difficulty that makes a long journey seem even longer. Those difficulties can create that “additional weight” on the cross we must carry to make it to heaven.
Did you know it takes about 7-8 years to become a priest?
Did you know it takes about 4-5 years to become a nun?
Did you know It can take a deacon a minimum of 5 years to become ordained?
Seems long doesn’t it. That is until you compare it to this:
To get to heaven it takes a lifetime.
Each of the above decisions isn’t taken lightly. It is a decision that doesn’t come easy. It also takes careful planning. Which takes us to the second main point in today’s readings. That point is best summed up in this passage from today’s Gospel, “Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying a foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.'”
In other words, have you really made a decision to get to heaven? Have you thought it out? The choice seems obvious, of course we all want to get to heaven. But what is your plan to get there? Do you have one? If not, should you start to make one? Or, like today’s Gospel asks, have you not made a plan to “construct the tower” or “get to heaven”?
If you don’t, I would love to share with you a basic idea for a plan. This is just the start of a plan. If you do have one, feel free to compare. Maybe there is something you have that I don’t, feel free to share it with me when you get a chance.
1. Participate in the Eucharist as often as you can. Receiving Jesus is the pinnacle of the journey to heaven. It is what we strive for so receiving Him as often as you can is a great start in your journey and great food all along the journey too. (It is also something we will do together shortly.)
2. Follow the commandments.
3. Love one another as Jesus has loved you.
That final one I can’t encourage people enough to do. Prayer in any form is great for your journey. I could spend hours sharing various ways to pray. But I want to summarize it in a couple of ways for now. You can pray for God’s help for yourself or others. You can pray in thanksgiving for yourself or others. There is one more way to pray I want to share with you.
I learned it listening to an abbot from a Benedictine monastery. He was talking about his love of animals. Especially a dog he had as a child. He talked about how his dog was great. They would run around together, play fetch, walk all over the neighborhood. But the happiest times were times of what seemed like no activity at all. Sometimes his dog didn’t want to play. Sometimes he dog just wanted to sit at his master’s feet and rest quietly. The abbot of this monastery asked us to do the same. Just sit at the Master’s feet quietly. Don’t ask for things. Don’t talk at all. Just “Be” with Him. The best part of this prayer is you can do it without speaking, singing, or even opening your eyes. Just “Be” with him. I just love that analogy. To sit at the Master’s feel.
In order to get to heaven we have to be ready to carry a pretty significant cross. That cross is our burdens of life on earth. Everyone has to carry those burdens. (Even if your plan isn’t heaven, you will still have the burdens of life on your shoulders.) But today’s Gospel encourages us to not only carry that cross, but PREPARE to carry it. To have a plan. That plan should include prayer.
I guess that is my challenge for you today. Do you have a plan to get to heaven? It is NEVER too late to start a plan. And prayer, in whatever form you choose to do it in, is a great start. Just remember, when those burdens get too heavy, some quiet time at the Master’s feel sure can be great.