Friday, September 3, 2010
Guest Post by Fr. Don Hying
It was last Easter when my wonderful friend, Fr. Don Hying, the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Seminary in Milwaukee, agreed to let me post one of his reflections on this blog. I am so grateful that once again he has given me permission to post another of his reflections. He never fails to help me see scripture in a new and meaningful way and this reflection for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary time is no exception. I encourage you to enjoy his words and ponder his questions!
Back in 1993, I received a call out of the blue from Don Mueller who was in charge of the World Mission Office at the time, wondering if I would be open to serving in our sister parish in the Dominican Republic. I said I would consider it and he suggested I go down for a week to check it out before making a decision. My visit was very enlightening; I encountered wonderful people, saw the great work of Frs. Jim Schuerman and Kevin Murphy and experienced the Church in another culture in all its richness. But the thing that really scared me was my ignorance of Spanish. I felt I could deal with the poverty and the heat, but realized how difficult and crucial the learning of another language would be. And then other questions started rolling around inside my head. How would I deal with homesickness? Did I really want to leave my current assignment? Would the poverty of the people start to get to me? The implications of such a decision were beginning to sink in. I came home firmly determined to tell Don that I would not serve in La Sagrada Familia Parish. So, when he called me two days later to get my feedback, I shocked myself when I blurted out that I wanted to go to the Dominican Republic after all! Where did that response come from?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the radical demand of renunciation to the crowds following him. No one can be a disciple who does not “hate” his family and his own life, who does not give up all his possessions. Clearly, Jesus is not telling us to hate anyone; he uses such strong language to emphatically make the point that those who choose to follow him must not let any human relationship, material thing, or self-preoccupation get in the way of a total, sacrificial response to Christ and his holy Gospel. In other words, Jesus calls us to step out in faith, to trust that his grace and love will be enough for us, to intentionally close all the other doors of opportunity and walk through the Door himself, as Jesus describes it in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel.
What does this stepping out in faith look like? All the saints did it. Joseph takes Mary as his wife. John and James leave their nets, boats and father behind. Peter steps out of the boat into the stormy waves and battering wind. The martyrs refuse to worship the Roman emperor and know they will die for it. Thomas More refuses to acknowledge Henry VIII as head of the church and knows he will die for it. Archbishop Romero denounces the El Salvadoran government for its oppression of the poor. Living only for Christ and his holy Gospel always costs something, and at times that “thing” may be our very life.
What does this stepping out in faith look like? We have all done it before. A young couple marries, pledging their radical fidelity for better and for worse. A man kneels down in a cathedral and gives his life to the priesthood of Jesus Christ forever. An archdiocese begins a capital campaign shortly before the economy falters and yet continues. An employee blows the whistle on corruption and loses her job because of it. A woman discovers her baby will be born with severe disabilities but carries the child to term and welcomes him with love. An heiress gives away her fortune to help those of Native and African descent. A father goes to work every day, despite great difficulties in the office.
Christianity often feels like a high-wire act. We must disencumber ourselves of excess weight and baggage or we will never make it across the tent. Imagine a performer walking the high-wire burdened with a heavy backpack. We must gently and flexibly bend in order to maintain a proper balance. We must keep our eyes fixed on Christ who beckons us to step out in faith and believe (we know not how) that he is simultaneously waiting for us at the end of the wire, walking with us as we traverse the terrifying distance and standing down below to catch us when we fall. One who renounces all for Christ loses nothing in the end, but rather, gains a kingdom and hundreds of fathers, mothers, children and friends besides. Step out in faith! God will not disappoint us. My surprising decision to serve in the Dominican Republic ended up being one of the best choices of my life.
1.What has your practice of the Catholic faith cost you?
2.God will use us for good as far and deep as we allow him to. How can you go farther and deeper in your surrender to Christ?