June 8, 2008
ORDINARY 10 (A)
I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. – Mt. 9: 9
There’s an old ditty that goes like this:
A little seed lay on the ground, & soon began to sprout. Seeing all the flowers around it, it wondered, “How shall I come out?” The lily’s face is fair & proud, but just a trifle cold. The rose, I think, is rather loud, & its fashion is getting old. Of the violet, some may think well, but it’s not a flower I’d choose. And so it criticizes each flower, this haughty little seed, until it woke one summer noon, & found itself a weed.
A basic aspect of sin is to be estranged from God, & we are all, in varying degrees, estranged from God. As for the righteous, they simply do not exist. Every one of us needs to be drawn into ever closer union with God. Our Lord’s mission is to call each of us to Himself. Why? Because in God’s eyes, as improbable as it may seem, each of us is of infinite value. That has been the testimony of Scripture from beginning to end.
If a new mother, babe in arms, were offered any amount of money for her child, she would say NO, if she is any kind of mother at all. Why? Because that baby is worth more to her than all the world. Yes, we hear of parents who sell their children for various reasons; but there is something about that that shocks us. When asked why he loved his children the way he did, a father responded, “Because they’re mine!” Such assessment of worth does not reside in the physical appearance, nor in the performance, but in the person.
We are worth it to God because we are in His image, hard as that may be to discern at times. It is not that God loves sinners more than non-sinners. He simply does not play favorites, one way or the other. We are all sinners, including those who feel they have no need to change. I once had an 80 yr old man come to confession. It was his first confession since he was being received into the Church via RCIA. He said, “I have no sins.” I replied, “We know from John’s first letter that he who says he is without sin is a liar. So I’ll give you absolution on the grounds that you have just convicted yourself out of your own mouth of being a liar.” Perhaps such people are the most to be pitied, for they do not even have a clue how bad off they are.
A biographer of Theodore Roosevelt tells of a bedtime ritual Roosevelt often carried out with his close friend William Beebe, a famous naturalist of the time:
The two men would go out into the night & look up at the sky, searching for a tiny patch of light near the constellation of Pegasus. When their eyes had focused on that tiny patch of light, Roosevelt would say, in prayerful tones, ‘That is the spiral galaxy of Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of 100 million galaxies. It consists of 100 billion suns, each larger than our sun.’ Then Roosevelt would turn to his friend & say, ‘Now I think we’re small enough. Let’s go to bed.’
For peace of soul, we must go to bed every night feeling small enough to acknowledge God’s supremacy. We must acknowledge our dependency on God, & to help us sleep tight, we must remember, & take to heart, the knowledge that small as we are, in God’s eyes we are of infinite value. If we were to ask God, before nodding off, “Why do you love me?” we just might hear Him answer, “Because you are mine. Sweet dreams!” AMEN!