On Giants' Shoulders

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Finishing Well

This week we hear the passion story once again. Once again we hear about Judas. Judas was one of the twelve disciples. At one point he certainly must have looked like a believer. We don't actually know what went on in his heart, but I suspect that he probably at one point actually thought of himself as a true follower of Jesus. At some point did he become disillusioned? Did he think he knew better how to actually bring on the kingdom? There have been lots of theories about what happened to Judas, but the fact is that whatever happened, however he began, he did not finish well.

As Father Groeschel has pointed out Judas could have repented like Peter. Despite the horrible betrayal he could have thrown himself at the foot of the cross instead of committing suicide. Had he done so he would have become St. Judas, but he didn't. He went out in great sorrow, but not to come back to Jesus. He became instead an example of how not to finish well.

Through the years we've seen examples of Christians who started well, but ended badly. There are the nuns who began with a shining face and an enthusiastic desire to follow Christ who somehow wandered off into a morass of New Age Spirituality and secularly inspired feminism who now have very little connection to Christ at all. There are the priests who began with what seemed like a genuine devotion, but ended in prison after years of being enamored with the philosophy of NAMBLA and years of abusing children. Some of them died while apparently still in this state of mind. They did not finish well.

There are the people who grew up in the Church served as altar servers or carried the crown at May crowning, but who drifted away from the faith in college never to return or fell into the habit of cultural Catholicism, and now are aiming angry words at the Church for not being willing to embrace the political correctness of gay marriage, contraception, abortion on demand, and women priests. They are not finishing well.

There have been converts to the faith, enthusiastic at the beginning, holding to whatever the Church taught, whom have become disillusioned because things weren't being done the way they thought they should have been done. They've forgotten that the Church is a place where the wheat and tares reside together, they've forgotten that there is only one pope and they aren't him. Sadly, some of them have left, even more sadly, some of them have stuck around, but do continual damage with their words discouraging, other people from even considering the call of the Church, teaching in CCD and other places doctrines that are contrary to the constant teaching of the Church. They began well, but they are finishing badly.

I'm old enough now to really think a lot more about the finish line. I'm still in reasonably good health, but I can't look forward to another 50 years of muddling along. Thirty perhaps (my mother made it that far) I can even dream of making it to 100, but already I've lost a lot of people I started life out with. My younger sister has died, our neighbors across the street (both younger than me) have died, numerous cousins only slightly older have died, my best friend from high school and a girl I played with in grade school have died. The finish line may be 30 years out, but the possibility of it looming up much more quickly is certainly a reality. I truly want to finish well. Yet some days I only see how much work remains to be done in order to reach that goal.

Finishing well means not holding onto hurt feelings, it means being more disciplined in prayer, it means being willing to be sacrificial even when my knees are hurting, or I'm tired instead of just when I wake up with a boatload of enthusiasm and the sun is shining. It means being willing to trust even when the answer to a prayer is still wait. It means being tolerant when I'd like to simply be critical, and it means being less wishy-washy when I'm tempted to gloss something over that I really need to not. Sometimes it means to forgive readily, sometimes it means to confront boldly, and finishing well means in part knowing which is which. Mostly what finishing well means is to make Jesus most important and tangential things less important, to love people for the love of Jesus, to enjoy beauty as a reflection of Him, to be thankful for God's good gifts by not indulging in too much of them. It also means remembering each day that each new day is a gift, not an entitlement. The finish line may be around the next bend, and I do want to finish well.

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