A Definitive Direction

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time – February 17, 2019

Saint Margaret Mary – Wichita, KS

Jeremiah 17:5-8; Psalm 1:1-5, 6; 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; Luke 6:17, 20-26

As we look through our readings today, we see that there are only two paths. Trust in God or trust in men and in ourselves. The Lord’s way or my way. Faith in the resurrection or faith that this is all there is. And I don’t intend to sound mean. But we do have to be honest with ourselves because if you never really ask yourself the question, if you never really know the answer, how do you move forward? So ask yourself, and be honest: do I place all of my trust in God, or do I really place my trust in men and in myself? Do I follow the way of the Lord, his beatitudes which we heard in the Gospel, or do I follow my own way, the way of “woe” in the Gospel? Do I have faith that Christ truly rose from the dead, or do I believe that this is all there is and I only live once? In other words, does your faith, the faith that you profess—does your faith give definitive direction and meaning to your life? If not, why not?

I have used this example before, but it is worth repeating. There are two types of games: finite games and infinite games. A finite game is a game in which there are known players, fixed rules, and a clear and agreed-upon objective. Take basketball for example. There are known players: five players on each side. There are fixed rules with a team of officials to enforce the rules. And there is an arbitrary, but clear and agreed-upon objective: the team with the most points after time runs out is the winner. That’s a finite game: players, rules, objective, winner and loser.

But an infinite game, an infinite game is one in which there are known and unknown players, where the rules are changeable and not always clearly defined, and where the objective is to perpetuate the game, to never stop. Yes, there are certain rules, but the infinite game involves a radical openness, a radical embrace of the unpredictable. For example, in your relationship with your spouse, there isn’t a winner or a loser. That’s not how relationships work. The “objective” of that relationship isn’t to “win.” The objective is to perpetuate the game, to love one another until death do you part. You would never say, “I won my marriage!” No, that’s stupid. But in a good marriage, in any good relationship based in love, each and every day you wake up and find your life determined by the other, by your love for them. Everything in your life is determined by them because you love them. And you never want that to end, never.

So often we can live our lives as if they were finite. There are the players: me, myself, and I. There are the rules we make for ourselves: “I’ll do this, but I am not going to do that.” And there is a clear, but arbitrarily established objective: “I’ll only be happy if this, this, and this happen.”

So often, we can think of our faith like this. We “play” our faith like any other of our finite games. There are known players: me and God. There are fixed rules: go to mass, pray the rosary, fast on Fridays, follow the Ten Commandments. And there is a clear and agreed-upon objective: when time runs out, when you die, you get to go in one of two directions.

What is my point? My point is this: trust in men and ourselves, living life according to our own rules and our own standards, believing that this is all there is and eventually time will run out and that will be it—this way of living is incredibly finite and leads to nothing.

I have shared many times about how all I wanted in life were a few things: to be a doctor, to get married, to have a family. That’s all I wanted. And those are not bad! But, they were the plans I made because I trusted only in myself. They were my standards for a good life and happiness. They were my beliefs that this life is all there is, so I better do what I want to do while I can do it. I was living my life as if it were finite, as if one day it would all come to an end.

And for the longest time, I couldn’t understand why doing everything I wanted to do wasn’t making me happy. I couldn’t understand. There I was studying, working hard, chasing the goals I had, but never feeling truly happy, always feeling like there was something missing, always feeling like I could be so much happier and more fulfilled in life. Even when I had the good grades, and the beautiful girl, and everything, even then, I couldn’t figure out why life felt so dry and boring.

But then one day the Lord smacked me in the face, and I decided to try something new: I decided to give my life to the Lord, to place my life in his hands, to ask, “Lord, what is your plan for me? What is the way you want me to walk?” And when I trusted in his plan, when I followed his way, when I truly began to believe in the resurrection and all that it entails, then life opened up, life became charged with meaning and life and joy and happiness.

Life is not finite. No, life is eternal, it is infinite, and eternal life starts now! The Lord has laid out a plan before you, a way to walk, and it is a way which leads only to happiness and fulfillment and joy. The Lord does not ask us to walk a path that makes us miserable. The way of the Lord is not easy, but the best things in life never are. Remember the wisdom of St. Paul: “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are the most pitiable of all. But now Christ has been raised from the dead.” Christ rose from the dead, and that changes everything.

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