27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C: End of Luke 18 Retreat

When I was 16 I decided that the best job for me was to be a lifeguard because I would get to sit by the pool all day, see my friends, and not really have to do any work. That view was shatter when I met my new boss who had just taken early retirement from the Red Cross, where used to be in charge of aquatics and health and safety services. Needless to say he had a different idea of what a lifeguard was supposed to be. As the reality of the job started to set in and I realized this lifeguard job didn’t pay very well so I went looking for a better job. Since lifeguards had to re-certification every two years and they were always in need of instructors so it only made sense to get become certified as an instructor. At first it took allot of time to learn the material so I could teach it, but once I taught the class about three times I could teach it in my sleep and so with very little effort I made good money certifying lifeguards.

     When you teach something frequently it quickly becomes ingrained into your mind. So while I am no longer certified to teach, I can’t get the material out of my head. One of the basic things that is taught is the different levels of swimmers. On the first level you have active swimmers; these are people who are having fun swimming around without any problems. The next level is the distressed swimmer, a swimmer who is really tired, has a just little motion and may or may not be able to make it back to the wall. Next is the active drowning victim, who is flailing around in the water trying to hang on to anything, including someone who is trying to rescue him. Lastly and worst of all their is the passive victim, the one who is unconscious either at the top of the pool or worse, at the bottom of the pool.

     While these levels are effective in classifying swimmers isn’t it also a great classification for us in our spiritual lives? Hopefully most of the time we are active swimmers, we’re progressing towards something. But if we are honest, we will recognize that there are periods, where perhaps we are a little distressed or maybe we are completely passive. Regardless of where we find ourselves, we need someone or something to hold on to. Even if you are an active swimmer, you better have some goal in mind and if you are distressed or you are at the bottom of the pool you need someone to save you.

     Might I suggest that person to save us has to be Jesus Christ. There are all kinds of people in our lives who can help support us, but Jesus tells us in the Bible that He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. He is unchanging, perfect, and fully mighty and so He is the perfect one to hold on to wherever we are in our lives. While Jesus is there for us wherever we find ourselves we have to be willing to take that step towards Him. We have to be willing to say that we want a relationship with Jesus Christ.

     In 2008, the Sienna Institute, a reputable institute of Church statistics, came out with a scary statistic which showed that 40% of Catholics did not believe they could have a relationship with Jesus. This is simply not true. In fact if we couldn’t have a relationship with Jesus, I wouldn’t be here today. I think some of the reasons we fail to reach out to Jesus as the rock that anchors our life is because we live in a world of messy human relations and so we think to ourselves, if we can’t get it right with those around us, how are we supposed to get it right with some guy who is so distant from us.

     I hope all of us have strong relationships in our lives, but I think if we are honest all of us will admit that we also have dysfunctional relationships in our lives. Maybe we have struggles with a parent or a brother or sister, perhaps it’s a failed marriage, or even an abusive relationship. All of us in some way have messy relationships and they remind us of the scary truth, that to enter into a relationship with someone requires that we take a risk. When we enter into a human relationship, we take a risk, it may not work out very well. Yet it is not that way with God because when we take that risk and step out towards Him we recognized that He has already taken that risk and reached out to us. It’s a historical fact that He died for us. He took the risk, He threw His arms out and said I am here for you. The challenge for us is to take the risk in return and say I am ready to throw myself into your arms and to allow you to love me, allow you to be that rock and that anchor in my life whether my life is good or bad you are the same.

     A relationship with Jesus Christ is possible. I have hinged my entire life on this fact. If we can’t have a relationship with Christ, the priesthood makes no sense at all. The challenge is for each of us to live our lives in whatever way God calls us to with the belief that we can actually have a relationship with Him. He wants to come into our lives if only we will let Him.

      When I was younger and was getting into competitive swimming the hardest events to learn to swim was the butterfly events. For those of you who are familiar with swimming, you know that the butterfly requires you to keep your feet together, but how do you train a first grader to keep his feet together? While perhaps not the best method, they taught me to swim butterfly by pulling me out of the pool, sitting me down in a chair, tying my feet together and throwing me in the deep end of the pool. While this is probably not the best way to teach it, I quickly learned to keep my feet together. Sure the scene was not pretty and I remember bobbing up and down in that pool with nowhere to go and since I was not strong enough to kick myself back to the wall, I was stuck in the middle, but I learned pretty quickly.

      Friends, the challenge for us is to jump into the pool. We are told in today’s Gospel that if we have the faith the size of a mustard seed we can move mountains. Faith is first and foremost a gift from God. At its core, faith is a personal encounter with Christ which demands that we radically reorient the way we live our lives. The only proper response to the man who hangs on the cross to save us is to jump into the deep end with both feet. So where do I have to jump into the deep end? What risk do I have to take in my life so that I can have that relationship with Jesus? It is possible to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and it will radically change our lives for the better, if only we are willing to take that risk to allow Him to love us.

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