Sunday, April 16, 2006

A New Way That's the Same as the Old Way

Happy Birthday Troglotyke #2
Happy Belated Birthday Troglotyke #1

We have journeyed through Lent. The anniversaries of Terri Schiavo and Pope John Paul the Great have passed. Now Passion Sunday and the Easter Triduum. And still I can't get my mind off Advent. The homilies from the different parishes where I attended Mass during Advent all pointed to the similar theme that as Christ's passion, death, and resurrection is all the single event of the Triduum, the Incarnation not just points to the act of Redemption, but is in fact part of it, and, accordingly, our mission to evangelize is established in our preparation for Christmas.
Week 1 - "We are on a mission of heart and dedication."
Week 2 - "As John the Baptist used the waters of baptism to lead others to Jesus, so to are we called to use our baptisms to lead others to Christ."
Week 3 - "We often define ourselves by who we are, but it is just as important to define ourselves as Who we are not."
Week 4 - "Like Mary, we are not alone."
The humility of an outcast's death is pre-figured by an outcast's birth, while He discloses the complete truth about humanity.

Pope Benedict noted in his message for the World Day of Peace that the truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships. This was the genius of my friend, Don Cook, who passed away last December (during Advent). When we met in Oklahoma nine years ago, he would not have hesitated in saying his faith was not particularly mature, but he always had a way for drawing people together--we used to somewhat-jokingly refer to him as the homeowner association's social director. However, there was nothing earth-shattering to his methods, usually some kind of game, or something social: a game of washers, or "horse," a round of golf, a spur of the moment BBQ, a day on the lake, the occasional cigar in the backyard, a neighborhood-wide crawfish boil... Conversation ranged, but always included family and almost always was casual. In those times, the ties of many friendships were made, fulfilling a fundamental need for authentic relationship, a need that even Jesus Christ shared in his full humanity; "You are my friends, and there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for a friend."

At Don's funeral, his brother-in-law noted that this gift for friendship had become a gift for evangelization. Dozens of people visited Don, or were pulled to him, really, as he was losing his struggle with melanoma and many, if not most, came away at least mentioning his faith. It was always easy to talk to Don, and he made it a natural and easy thing for his friends to pass along to other people. The sincerity, maturity, and comfort of it made it easy to share. When I last visited him in November, Don told me that my friendship had helped him with his faith formation, and he thanked me for it. Stunned, I think I said something stupid in return. I can only believe my help was in a small way because his faith, not mine, was tested in fire and showed its mettle. However, to the extent that it was true, I am humbled and forever grateful. Whether we, his familty and friends, were aware of it at the time, in a world often lost in the shadows of the twin towers of expedience and solipsism, a beacon of genuine clarity and charity shined.

So now the dawn draws near, and the challenge before us of the dictatorship of relativism remains as it ever was. Yet, He is risen! Alleluia! And now we have another example on the pre-figured Way in Don. May he rest in the truth of peace, as we take up his mantle.

Washers, anyone?

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