- Ezekiel 12
This morning's first reading at Mass was a bit... dark. The prophet Ezekiel was inspired to literally embody the exile that unfaithful Israel was about to become. He "shouldered the burden" and dug a hole in the wall of the city and escaped in the darkness of night to show the people where their sin was leading them. A sign in his very body of what was to come. God loves teaching us this way, through physical signs and symbols.
A few millennia away from Ezekiel's experience, sitting in the church pew, close to my wife, with a hand on our little boy's soft head of hair, I had a whole other train of thought start chugging down the tracks of my mind.
"I have made you a sign..."
The summer has allowed me to go, most days, to daily Mass with my family. I'd heard it from Rebecca but now I see how others love to watch our little boy - quite literally the "MASScot" of St. Charles parish. Playing with his books, begging for goldfish, and pointing to Father at the altar (affectionately referred to as "ZAH!"), he brings loads of smiles to the retirees, young couples, and rosary ladies (glue of the Church, seriously) who attend Mass with us.
"I have made you a sign."
It's easy to see that little squirt as a sign of God's love in the world. Any child still dripping with the waters of Baptism seems still in communion with the angels, don't they? But then I thought of Rebecca this morning, and myself, and our son. And the thoughts got bigger. We must all become like little children.... magnets of joy, wonder, trust, and love for others to see. We are a family. We are a sign. A sign in our very bodies of what is to come. And what is that, you ask? LOVE, BLISS, COMMUNION... THE ONENESS. A unity in distinction, three persons in one family. Sound familiar? Whoa. I got schooled by the Holy Spirit, once again. "ZAH!"
An examination of conscience kicked in.... What is the language of my body saying in that pew, in this place, in the grocery store, at the bank, the mall, the many places where we live and move and make our living? Eyes are seeing us.... this little family. Are we a sign of what is to come? We are called to be! Are we in love?
The history of mankind, the history of salvation, passes by way of the family... The family is placed at the center of the great struggle between good and evil, between life and death, between love and all that is opposed to love.
- Pope John Paul II
I've seen and heard (and been) the counter-sign often enough. Visit a department store at a peak hour or sale and you'll hear all manner of unlove, non-bliss, disunion and indifference in families. With bitterness, division, fracture, and a radical individualism, we can become rotted out building blocks for a culture not long for this world. How can any society stand on such tremulous ground? This is starting to sound as dark as that first reading from Ezekiel this morning... In this present darkness, the faithful family does seem to be exiled!
Hmmm. Well, it's always darkest before the dawn, they say. And such darkness has a way of highlighting the light. Goodness, patience, charity, and basic human kindness have never shown so bright as now, when their absence can seem so mainstream. We have to pray that the morning star still rises in our hearts. And look for grace in the right place. We personally need to get our butts to Mass as often as possible. For into darkness we might go, but for the grace of God poured out on that altar, and deep into the heart of every child who believes. God help us!
To the family is entrusted the task of striving, first and foremost, to unleash the forces of good...
- Pope John Paul II