Browsing Pastor's Corner

Invincible

Feb 7, 2018

My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle; they come to an end without hope. Remember that my life is like the wind; I shall not see happiness again.

Job represents every person at some point in our lives when we feel stressed beyond the max or the hurts, disappointments, heartaches and dreams deferred oppress us. We feel as though we too have become slaves who no longer have zest for life and instead feel as though we are just existing.

Though we may be tempted to give up, God is not and pursues us with His promise of peace, healing and joy with even more vigor and resolve.

There is an excellent movie that helps bring today’s depressed condition of Job to the 1970s. The movie is Invincible.  Vince Papale is the main character of this true story.  The events of his life have never been much of an ego booster. 

In the beginning of the movie, Vince loses his substitute teaching job and is forced to rely on bartending for an income. Worse, his wife leaves him even going so far as to write the following note to Vince that he will eventually carry around with him like an albatross around his neck:

Vince you’ll never go anywhere…you’ll never make any money…and you’ll never make a name for yourself.

Enter the chance to try out for his favorite football team the Eagles and he does so at the insistence of his friends who are impressed by his efforts in their weekly pick-up games. Like Job, Vince had two voices to respond to: the one on the note shouting down his self worth or the Psalmist who sings, Praise the Lord who heals the broken-hearted.

He then tries out and is noticed by the head coach Dick Vermeil. He makes the team due to his incredible speed and unexpectedly great performance. When he is initiated, the other teammates bully him by telling him that he won’t be successful and he won’t last in the NFL because of his age and lack of experience.

We all have this desire to be a part of the action rather than merely watching it from the bleachers. If this were not the case then why is it that we are so passionate about sports? We are usually on the edge of our seats, rocking back and forth, jumping up and down, screaming and shouting with as much intensity as the players on the field.  In feeling as though part of the action we perhaps are projecting both our desire to be in the action and frustration of not. 

Today’s readings remind us that salvation is not a spectator sport, and that despite how deeply we have sinned, or how hurt by others, this is no excuse to dispense with the demands of discipleship. We see how quickly Peter’s Mother in Law springs up when taken by the hand of Jesus and immediately gets to the task of hospitably serving others as Christ had so generously served her in healing her.

She reminds us of our personal encounter with the powerful reality of Christ’s Incarnation. That He has human hands with which to reach out to us and grasp us by our own…grasp us by our hearts and draw us ever closer into His power. But in order to embrace the immensity of healing, love and renewal that is the Incarnation, He must be brought to us.

We all have our Job moments, some longer than others. We are crippled and blinded by the colliding powers of our own sins and those committed against us. 

This is why it is so essential that we encounter Christ, who reaches out to us through His Body the Church, extending not only His hand to help us back up on our feet, but He extends His entire body with every last drop of blood spilled from it from the Cross.

Papale once said “I always go by a quote, ‘It’s never too late to get in the game.’ The message there is that we all have the potential to do something extraordinary, do the impossible, do the unthinkable and maybe have that dream come true,” Papale said. “The message is, don’t let people tell you that you can’t do it. Surround yourself with a good team because the teamwork makes the dream work. Surround yourself with a good team and if you hustle, you work hard, you have a good attitude, you can do it.

Jesus sends others to us as through this same body of which we are a part…it’s major organs if you will that ensure the body’s strength and health if our faith and putting it in action is strong and vibrant: family members, friends, teachers, authors, saints our teammates who invite us into the arena of redemption.

Vince is able to prove a lot of people wrong and make the team, and perhaps that is the easy part. The hard part is confronting his failure, his pain, letting go of that note that he still carries with him. Having been given this awesome gift, he has the offer of going two ways…his own, which allows him to hold onto his hurt and failures.  Or the way of redemption…which is the way of second chances. 

The contest is fierce and demanding, and will most likely leave us bruised and weary. Why else would Jesus spend a lion’s share of His ministry casting out demons.  Ever wonder where depressed spirits get so much of their strength from.  Demons are spiritual parasites which latch onto our predispositions (which we all have) to negativity and suck the life out of our spirits. 

More than any sin the devil and the demons tempt us to commit, they really have only one goal, one sin in mind for us…and that is despair.

Every other sin, even the so called most heinous is only a spring board for their ultimate prize and trophy, as we hear from Job today…to despair of God’s good graces…to lose absolute confidence in God and instead place all one’s faith confidence and hope in the destructive power of despair so that we no longer desire to live, love and worst of all…embrace love.

We push the hands of Christ and others away until taking our own hands we put them to our own throats and choke. To accept the hand of Christ is to be His disciple who follows Him through the battlefields of sin and death into the eternal field of glory that is Heaven. Vince Papale in saying yes, goes from watching the eagles play each Sunday from his bar to practicing with them each day and playing with them each week. 

In our yes to Christ, we are equipped each Sunday attending Mass, and the time between Sundays suited up tirelessly practicing our faith. In Vince’s case his greatest accomplishment and the one which enabled and empowered him to be an accomplished NFL Football player for a time, is when he finally tore up that note…severing the chains of despair that note held him bound by. 

Freed from that diabolical spirit who would constantly whisper: Vince you’ll never go anywhere…you’ll never make any money…and you’ll never make a name for yourself.

How like Satan who having the ear of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane brought Him so near to the brink of despair as to have him beg the Father three times…

Father please if it is possible let this cup of suffering pass from my lips but not as I will, your will be done. Or from the Cross, when Jesus would plumb man’s deepest depths of horrific despair, abandonment and hopelessness crying out: My God My God why have you abandoned me...having redeemed this worst of our human experiences…so that passing through so terrible a darkness and pain of doubt and fear…our spirit might at last be commended into the hands of our Father by those wonderfully pierced extended hands of His Son from that Cross.

With Lent nearing, our thoughts will soon turn to the need of repentance when receiving those ashes, we are told repent and believe in the Gospel. Here in lies our greatest invitation to be healed and strengthened.  We can take all the vitamins in the world, but if we are not eating healthy and exercising, it will be a waste of nutrition. 

Now is the time to consider making a good and thorough confession. In the Confessional we are taken by the hand of Christ and led into the healing compassion and power of His most Sacred Heart so that having been healed from the sins which often depress our spirits we emerge from the Confessional like Peter’s Mother in law from her bed of pain, restored to health or better yet we emerge like Christ from the darkness of the tomb into the light of a new day…an eternal Easter day of renewed hope, faith and joy.

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