“But the one who listens and does not
When Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. last week, television was filled with dramatic pictures: houses battered by winds, trees uprooted, waves leaping over cars on flooded streets. After the storm had passed, vivid images of the aftermath remained. Solid buildings withstood the weather and remained intact. Other more fragile structures collapsed into heaps of wood or brick, spilling out the contents of their owner’s lives into the soggy streets.
The images seem perfect for today’s gospel. Jesus tells us that we cannot give lip service to his message. It must be real for us, a solid part of who we are. We cannot call him “Lord, Lord” and publicly look as if we are paying attention to him but look the other way when it gets too hard.
I struggle to live out this truth. How much is my life really on the firm foundation of my faith? How often do I really live that way? Recently, I was in a tense and highly emotional discussion with someone I love, and I realized that we were in a mess. My first instinct was to run, to pretend nothing had happened because I had no idea what to do. My head was in a whirl and it seemed that I cried as many tears as any storm.
It was only when I went for a shaky walk and took a deep breath that I asked God for help. At the moment I asked for help, the flood waters of fear receded and I began to feel calm again. I knew the situation was difficult but could be resolved.
I had simply asked God for help. My own stubborn independence had kept me from asking for the very thing that I needed. Please, Lord. Help me. Help me to find the first step to take to rebuild and heal this situation. It was only a matter of asking, of admitting that I am not in charge of the world. In great humility, I had to admit that I don’t always live my life trusting and relying on God.
I am, as Timothy says in the first reading, a sinner. It is by the very fact that I am a stubborn, independent sinner that Jesus came into the world to save us. I love the way Timothy says it:
Forgive me, Lord. Forgive me.
I, like Timothy, am a good example of God’s constantly forgiving love and patience. It is what saves all of us who build our lives on the fragile foundations of our own efforts rather than reliance on God. But just as the Lord knows we will fail again, we can rely on God to help us rebuild over and over again.
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