Fr. Steven Roth
Treadmills. They have a feature where at the end of the workout a message appears that simply says “great workout.” It feels so great to see that message after beating a previous record for time or speed or simply walking the distance the person had hoped for. The other day, however, I had only run no more than 60 seconds when I accidently touched the stop button. Immediately the treadmill stopped, thinking I had completed my intended workout, and guess what message came up? “Great workout.” The same message obviously appears regardless. As I saw that, a question dawned on me. Do we expect the same in our relationship with God? In other words, do we look for faith and our relationship with God to always repeat the same message to us time and again, compliment and praise.
We know what God asks of us. We often do the opposite, but hope and expect God to still say good job. Thankfully, for our sake, God loves us too much to do just that. Instead we see in the gospel exactly what He does. Jesus could have easily let His apostles continue arguing about the nonsense they got distracted with. Yet He didn’t. By asking the question, “what were you discussing? ” He helps them to acknowledge what they were doing. After having been able to recognize their focus, Jesus corrects them. Notice He does not scream or insult them. Rather, He uses an example so that they remember.
In turn, the Lord does the same for us. Whether here at Mass or in our private prayer, sometimes through family and friends, the Lord reaches out to us. He stops us and asks in a sense, “what are you focusing on?” It is such an important question because we can then realize maybe we are mixing up our priorities. Even though God wants to be most important in our lives, maybe more often than not, He isn’t. Maybe money and careers are becoming more important than family and friends. Perhaps we spend more time thinking of ourselves than we do those in need? Let’s face it, for a time doing our will feels good and free, but soon it becomes empty, frustrating and not fulfilling. Without God stopping us and calling us to answer, we would never find our way to happiness. Instead He helps us to get focused on the right things, so that we might find happiness and contentment.
Let’s not be afraid, also, if the Lord speaks to us in such a way that makes our heads spin. Sometimes we miss out on the full meaning of Jesus’ words since we are hearing them 2,000 years later. Today, when Jesus used the example of a child we often think of cute, adorable and lovable child. However, in Jesus’ day children were not viewed in the same light. Instead, children ate dinner last in the family. Children also had no rights. Now consider, Jesus uses a child as an example for a group of men who were arguing over who was the most important? The apostles must have been shocked.
Sometimes the Lord might use our experience here at Mass to open our hearts and minds in a drastic way. Let’s not be alarmed or scared. He might be calling us to make family more of a priority over work. He might be inviting us to make Him more of a priority in our lives. The Lord gets our attention so we might see, believe and change our ways, so that we can experience the great happiness God has for us. We know that it is God’s ways, not our own that will bring peace. So often, we need a reminder to consider what we spend our time focused on and then to consider how God wants us to change. “What were you arguing about?” What were you spending your time on?
And so today, we gather in the presence of our God who loves us so much that He does not offer us an automated response. Instead, He has called us to this church to hear His words individual and unique to each one of us. As we walk on the journey of life, out of love, the Lord’s words tells us not what we want to hear, but that which we need to hear not to have a great workout but that we might have a great life!