Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
With a twist and a turn
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the Dec. 2, 2004 edition of the Inland Register)
The really great stories are about change. If itís a surprising change, itís even better. The unexpected change. The twist ending, like in O. Henryís short stories. Or a really good mystery, with a twist at the end that leaves you laughing at the surprise and the cleverness and the audacity of it all. When I was a kid we used to watch mysteries on TV, my dad and my sister and I, and we would ask Dad, ďDid you figure out who did it?Ē and he always said, ďSure I did,Ē and of course we eventually caught on that he was only saying that after the solution had been revealed. Which was pretty audacious of him, too.
A good twist is terrific, especially, of course, when itís happening to someone else. Itís different when itís happening to you. ďI never saw that one coming.Ē ďWhoíd have thought?Ē ďGreat Uncle Fred did what?Ē
I got to interview a priest a few years ago whoíd spent a lot of years as a counselor, a clinical psychologist. He said, ďI started out, and boy, was I going to help these people, they were going to go all the way from A all the way to the end, to Z Plus. Then, after a few years, I thought, Maybe I canít get them to Z Plus, but maybe I can get them from A to, say, G Minus. And then, by the end, I was thinking, If only I could get them to go from A to A PrimeÖ.Ē
Change is a lot more interesting when itís happening to someone else. Itís a lot easier to offer advice and coach when you arenít actually on the field. Itís easier to read the map if you arenít the one driving. Itís much more interesting to watch an iceberg calve, and break off a big chunk, and fall into the sea with a big, big splash, than it is to be standing on an iceberg as it calves, and breaks off a big chunk, and falls into the sea, with a big, big splash. And splashes happen. And itís always a lot easier to notice the ways that other people can improve, than to improve ourselves. Even to A Prime.
A few weeks ago, as Ordinary Time was winding up, we heard the Disciples asking Jesus about signs that the end was near. What would they look for? Who would they listen to?
And Jesus talked about the way of the world. How easy it is to be distracted by whatís going on around us, that we have no control over, instead of the things inside us that we do have control over. What happens that happens, come what may Ė instead of paying attention to what we can really affect, like relationships, with God, with one another, with that whole big world out there.
Things happen. Disasters happen. Sickness and politics, death and taxes Ė things happen. Some of it seems like disaster. All over that whole big world out there. Some of it really is disaster. Betrayal. Persecution. Hatred. Family and friends. Neighbors and strangers. Nations and other nations and still other nations. And thereís usually somebody who wants to convince us that yes, he saw that coming. Yes, he knew the answer, all along. We just need to follow what he says.
We know that terrible things happen. But we also know that there is so much good out there. So much good in this world of Godís creation. These people of Godís creation. Our friends, our families, ourselves Ė our world, filled with people made in Godís image and likeness.
What really matters doesnít change. Our souls donít change. Godís relationship with us doesnít change. The gift of the Holy Spirit Ė Godís gift to us, with us, always, through good times and bad, times of plenty and times of want. That doesnít change.
These are hard times in the Church. Some days, it really does feel like the sky is falling. The historians tell us that the Church has seen worse. If you read the daily newspaper out of Spokane, thatís hard to believe.
The sky, falling. Wars and insurrections. Persecution, because of Christís name.
But despite what you might read in that newspaper, a dozen people standing on the steps of the Cathedral on a national holiday doesnít constitute a divided diocese. Weíre a single Church. We will continue to be a single Church. We have the Holy Spirit, and we have each other. The Spirit is perfect, and we Ė we know that we arenít perfect, and we know that God loves us anyway, and stays with us anyway.
Itís hard to be a Catholic in these days, in this part of the country. Itís too easy to listen to the people who scream about all the horrible things they claim weíre doing now, have been doing, will be doing. Hated, because of Christís name.
But you know what? I think we stand there, and listen politely, and we listen charitably, and look around, and we remember: ďThat doesnít sound anything like the Catholic Church I know. That doesnít sound like my pastor, that doesnít sound like my bishop, that doesnít sound like the people I gather with every Sunday, the people I pray with every Sunday. That doesnít sound like the Church I know and love, the Church that feeds the hungry, and clothes the naked, and consoles those who grieve, and rejoices with those who rejoice, and prays for those who persecute it. What theyíre saying, those other people ó thatís not the Church that Iíve always known. And I bet I know this Church better than these reporters do. Or any of the other liars out there, trying to pull down the sky around our heads.Ē
Itís hard, itís discouraging, itís confusing. We have to remember that Jesus warned us to steer clear. To be clear. To hold on. That means that when the times are good, we donít get sloppy and think, ďHey, look what I did! What do I need God for?Ē And it means that when the times are hard, and people are shouting and screaming for our blood, and shouting and screaming for the head of our bishop, we donít give up and believe the lies, the damned lies, or even the statistics.
It means that we do what we hope to do every day, every week, in good times and bad times: We work to build up the Kingdom of God on Earth. We work to build up our relationship with our loving, merciful God, who has never, ever abandoned us, and never, never will.
God promises to stay with us, to give us the sun of justice and its healing rays. Persevere, he says. Even when splashes happen. Even when itís easy; especially when itís hard. We have God. We have each other.
No surprise ending. Just a happy one.
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