It's not often that a homily at a daily Mass at my parish hits me between the eyes, but one did this morning. The gospel of today is Mark 8:11-13, where Jesus is hitting a spiritual brick wall with the Pharisees who come to argue with Him. And the homily I heard went something like this: Remember that Jesus has been doing tons of miracles, healing people, feeding people, casting out demons. And these Pharisees come asking for a sign. "Gee, Jesus, what can you do? Let's see something impressive so that we might consider whether you are worth considering."
And my pastor went on to muse that he figured that just seeing one of Jesus' miracles would be enough to convince him and get him firmly on the side of following the Lord. And what was blocking the Pharisees from doing just that? Their lack of faith.
I thought back to an interesting incident that happened just last week. I don't believe in reading tea leaves or finding directives from God in the shape of a cheese curl or a smudge on the wall, but I do believe that God's ironic sense of humor shines through reality pretty clearly. Last Thursday my crates of 1,000 copies of my CD Unleashed arrived. And I knew they'd be arriving later that day when I went to Mass at Noon, and there encountered The Freaky Priest. Oh, I don't say that because he himself is freaky, but because of some freaky interactions -- between God and myself -- that have happened because of this priest.
It was last year in February that I was wrestling hard in my heart over whether or not I should pursue recording a CD. I had this sense of a call in my heart, this sense that God was actually asking something of me, but I wanted, like, all my questions and concerns answered beforehand and a written statement stamped by God Himself pointing out His Divine Will. A run-of-the-mill powerful drawing in my heart, nourished by prayer, fortified by favorable circumstances and punctuated by a sense of the need to obey just wasn't enough.
And I went to Mass one day and was complaining to God about this. I reminded him that once, a year before that, I had felt a similar overwhelming compelling need to invite a certain priest to our house for dinner. I don't invite strangers to dinner lightly, so this was pretty unusual for me. In fact, I passed up one chance to speak to him and felt so compelled that I promised God if I had another chance I would do it, but I let another chance pass by, too. A few rounds of embarrassing phone tag ensued, and the dinner never did pan out. He had been a priest in town only for a few weeks on sabbatical and shortly after my attempt he left for his home. So I reminded the Lord of that: "And what came of that weird compelling need, huh?!"
Not 30 seconds later that very priest, whom I had not seen in a year, processed in as a concelebrant at that Mass. I was dumbfounded, and only came to myself again when he started reading the gospel, in which Jesus chastised his disciples for their lack of faith and their slowness to understand what He was teaching them. I was still dumbfounded when, about two hours later, my son came running in from playing saying that a woman had fallen on the sidewalk and was having a seizure, and that I had to come immediately and deal with it. That experience in turn grabbed me by the innards, turned me inside out and shook me so hard that that evening I felt like I experienced the emotion of every traumatic event I had ever witnessed but had not been able feel. It was like some sort of psychic-spiritual cyclone picked me up and threw me down really, really hard.
Days later when I finally recovered equilibrium, I knew that I should no longer dicker with my heart nor with God about doing His will with this music thing, and I officially set out to make Unleashed. I still didn't understand everything or feel secure, but I knew I shouldn't make Jesus "sigh from the depth of his spirit" anymore as He does in today's gospel.
And, yeah, Thursday that same priest was there at Mass, visiting again. It's odd how just the sight of a person can remind one of a lesson once taught. And today there was the homily. Do not be faithless. Have faith in God, obey in what He shows today. Do it. It matters. God is holy; do not toy with Him.