Monday, September 24, 2012

Three Well Chosen Readings

Each Catholic wedding has the potential to be a unique experience.  At least among people I know, the bride and groom working with the priest who will celebrate the wedding mass have a chance to choose the readings.  A Catholic mass typically includes one reading from the Old Testament, one reading from the New Testament that is not part of the Gospel, and a Gospel reading.  Each couple has many reasons for choosing the readings they do.  Each couple is at a unique point in their lives in terms of their understanding of their faith and their understanding of themselves.  The choice of readings was guided by both for me and Sherry 20+ years ago when we planned our wedding.  We were just two people of an age we now refer to as "kids" (22 at the time we were married) who had attended mass regularly, had some exposure to what was called CCD at the time (Sherry having more than me), and had been involved in the campus ministry while in college.  At Jackie and Patrick's wedding (at a slightly later point in their lives with a different background in exposure to and working with their faith) the choices were clearly inspired by their understanding of themselves and their faith.  And, as I am clearly one who thinks about how the words I am hearing from the Bible relate to the current day (myself or, in this case, those whose wedding is being celebrated) I projected from the readings onto my own life experiences and the lives of the two beautiful individuals getting married.

The first reading was Micah 6:6-8
With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow before God most high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old? 
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
with myriad streams of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my crime,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 
You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.
I have never known Jackie and Patrick to be anything but humble.  Quiet--not necessarily.  Shy--definitely not.  But wonderful examples of humility before everyone and focused so much on the lives of others.  Giving not to be noticed but because it is right and it all comes from their hearts.

The second reading was from the letter to the Hebrews (12:1-3)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us 
while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. 
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
As I heard this one, I looked around at the packed chapel on Loyola's campus (where Jackie and Patrick had met, gotten engaged, and were getting married) where they were surrounded by a cloud of witnesses as two people whose eyes are truly fixed on Jesus.  Running races (both figuratively and literally) is something they do a lot and endurance (whether the opposition of sinners as mentioned in the reading or, more, in a running race) is an important part of their lives.

Finally, the Gospel reading was Luke 24: 13-35, the story of the Road to Emmaus.  I won't copy and paste the whole thing (it is a long reading) but there is a link above.  It mentions that the disciples were walking a distance of seven miles when they came upon the person they did not recognize as Jesus at first.  In the reading, they ended up walking seven miles to Emmaus and seven miles back--14 miles or just over the distance of a half marathon.  Yes, my brain actually went to thinking about how it was like an "out and back" course that the two disciples ended up walking.  What else did I think about?  Jackie conducts many of the orientations for community members who want to be new participants in Back on My Feet.  I remember that she told us to try to remember to say hello to as many people as possible when out on our runs.  Just to be polite.  Just to try to brighten people's day.  Whether the person was homeless, outside a shelter of some sort, at a bus stop, or at Health Care for the Homeless.  There are many popular stories about how a person might come to meet Jesus or someone representative of the qualities of Jesus in a modern setting and overlook that person.  This is where I connected the story.  When we are out running with Back on My Feet, we never know who we will meet on the road.  We never know what type of difference we might make for the people we meet or what type of difference they may make for us.  We never know who might be able to demonstrate for us and share with us the grace of God.  In fact, we never know anywhere in our lives when we will come upon a sign from God or the second coming of Jesus himself.  Yet we should always be open to it.  And the disciples, once they realized that they had seen Jesus, did the second half of their "course" quickly and shared all the news when they returned.  Again, so closely similar to the experience of many runners who share stories about what they saw, who they experienced, and how they felt when they get back from a run.  And this relates to Jackie and Patrick not only because a half marathon distance is something with which they both are familiar but also because I know that they live their lives in a way that shows they are always open to receiving God's grace.  To welcoming a stranger.  To extending hospitality to a stranger.  To listening.  To relating.  And to sharing stories of the little things and most important things in life.

Their three readings were well chosen for them.  And their three readings served as a reminder for me. Of how incredible my two friends are.  And of the importance of living a life of humility, perseverance, and openness to the grace of God every day.  

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