Tuesday, February 27, 2018

When the Voice of the Lord Says: "Don't Be A Jerk."

Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus Carry the Cross
During the Lenten Season one of the antiphons for the first psalm of the day is, "Today if you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts." I used that antiphon for my morning meditation today. The text basically presumes that God is going to speak today. The question is not so much whether or not He will speak, but rather whether we will hear it and receive it. Am I ready to hear the Lord's word? Do I live my life in a way that is receptive to the Word of the Lord? Am I too distracted? Too rushed? Too preoccupied? Too obstinate? Is my heart hardened? This morning when I finished my meditation, I asked the Lord for the grace to hear His Word clearly today and to respond to it. 

When I made that prayer, I had in mind a certain kind of word that I'd like to hear from the Lord.  Some warm assurance of His closeness or some deep theological insight that would make me feel spiritually advanced would have sufficed. You know, something that makes me feel good. Oh, the Lord answered my prayer, but not in the way that I anticipated. I heard His voice alright, but the script was not the one I provided to Him. Instead, His voice humbled me.

This morning I took public transportation to a local shrine in order to go to confession. As I was riding along I did a pretty serious examination of conscience and wrote down--as best as I could recall--all of my sins. When I got to my stop, I started to move. I'm a pretty fast walker and, without even thinking much about it, was weaving in and out of the slower folks who were making their way out of the station. As I got to the escalator, there was a young guy just about to step on the escalator. I weaved around him quickly too.  I felt his cane hit my shoe, but safely in front of him, I didn't bother to turn around. I just kept walking up the escalator, past all of the people who just idly ride the escalator.  When I got outside, I had to wait for the cross light (another nuisance). As I got to the other side of the street, I heard a voice say, "You almost knocked me over."  I turned around and it was that young guy. He was clearly angry, and I was clearly guilty.  I apologized to him several times (and I sincerely meant it). He simply said, "You know, there's a reason I have to walk with a cane."

And there it was. The voice of the Lord spoke. What did His voice say?  It said, "Hey, stop being a big jerk." As soon as that man spoke to me, I felt convicted. Not just for my incident with him, but for a thousand other ways that I've been rude, impatient, or self-centered. I'm grateful that I heard His voice before I went into confession rather than on my way home! 

It is important in life to have time set aside every day for quiet prayer. This quiet time is not to limit our time with God to a specific period, but to dispose our hearts to hear His voice whenever He speaks. The people that the Lord places in our path each day are not annoyances to be circumvented or avoided, but are opportunities to encounter the Lord Himself. And in case we forget that, every so often the Lord might remind us by using one of them as His voice. 

Several years ago, I walked the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem and prayed the Stations of the Cross. As our small group prayed, I was struck that the rest of the city was going about its daily routine: people going to and from work, people eating, shopping, greeting friends, and going about life. It made me think of how this must have been the same as the day that Jesus carried His Cross. Very few people probably paid too much attention. The most important moment in the history of the world was taking place in front of them, but they did not take notice. Or, if they did take notice, they moved on quickly. Perhaps they were annoyed by this event because they had important things to do and places to be. 

When I prayed to hear the Lord's voice today, I didn't expect that the words he spoke would be, "You know, there's a reason I have to walk with a cane." Two thousand years ago a man named Simon was walking hurriedly along the streets of Jerusalem. He was busy. He was trying to get somewhere, but was pressed into service to help Jesus carry His Cross. Perhaps he was annoyed because He had important things to do. Maybe, who knows, but maybe Jesus said to him, "You know, there's a reason I have to walk with this Cross."

1 comment:

  1. Many years ago, before I had MS, I was late coming back to work after lunch, and I pretty much pushed an elderly man out of the way to get to the entrance to the building first. I was not as humble and made up some excuse. Now that I use a walker, I am very conscious of maneuvering around other people. I have to say that here in Beverly, most people are very gracious to me and assist me all the time with opening doors, etc. I sometimes feel guilty because I don't ever remember helping a handicapped person. I almost have never had a situation where a person let the door go in my face or was rude to me because I was taking a long time, but this is not downtown Boston. The only true irritation is when people park in a handicap spot while they run in someplace to do an errand. I have learned to forgive a lot. Whenever people help me, I do thank the person very much, and in my heart, I think of the words of Jesus, "You did it for me."