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At the very end of the Gospel for the great Feast of the Epiphany, St. Matthew tells us that the Magi, having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, departed for their country by another way. The presence of Christ can--and ought to--be disruptive at times to our life. When the angel appeared to the Blessed Virgin Mary and she conceived by the Holy Spirit, her life was dramatically interrupted. St. Joseph's life was interrupted. The Magi, who saw the star had their life interrupted. When Christ appears in our life, we are meant to be changed. Something different is supposed to happen. Our plans are altered. We must, in the words of St. Matthew, go "another way."
Recently in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the State Legislature enacted a brutal and grotesque expansion of abortion "rights." I presume that many of those who voted for this had at some point in their life considered themselves Catholic. How is it possible though? How is it possible that anyone who has encountered the Presence of Christ, who has knelt before His crib, and received Him in the Eucharist could gleefully and calculatingly support the violent destruction of innocent human life? Their vote actually happened on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the day when Catholics commemorate the martyrdom of the victims of Herod's homicidal slaughter of babies.
It was a reminder to me that we can become so comfortable and complacent in our life that the Presence of Christ no longer moves us or changes us. Being Catholic becomes merely a meaningless moniker. Catholicism can be the "regularly scheduled program," but not the "breaking news." It can become the equivalent of belonging to some sort of club that requires nothing of us except paying dues occasionally or attending an occasional meeting. We've all wound up getting on some email list that we theoretically have some interest in, but whose emails we never actually open. If we are not careful, this can become our Catholic life. We can feel vaguely connected, but it doesn't actually shape everything about our life. God did not send His Only-Begotten Son into the world so that we could all belong to another boring club or another email list. Either Christ interrupts my life and changes everything or His Presence is of no import to me.
Over the past few years, a program has become fairly popular among Catholic men entitled Exodus 90. It is, as the name suggests, a 90 day spiritual program.Day 90 coincides with Easter. The 90 days are fairly intensive in terms of various ascetical practices. A couple of years ago, a group of men at the Boston University Catholic Center did it and--in order to be spiritually close to them--I adopted most of the practices as well. At the time, I remember being a bit reluctant, because I'm not usually a big fan of programs and kind of "Rah, Rah!" spiritualities. In the end, however, I found the program to be spiritually fruitful.
One of the hesitancies I have about doing the program again is that it is disruptive. it requires a lot of daily disruptions, including fasting, leaving social media, and (and this is definitely the worst part), daily cold showers. I cannot adequately convey how much I despise the cold shower thing! Now do cold showers, abstaining from various foods, alcohol, and social media make someone a better Catholic? No. But, these annoying disruptions into life can awaken within me a reminder that the Presence of Christ should disrupt my life. It is a good reminder to me that I should be different because of Christ's Presence.
The danger of complacency in the Christian life is real and it can lull us into a spiritual death spiral. The gospels, on the other hand, are replete with lives that were interrupted and radically changed by the Presence of Christ. The pages of the gospels are filled with men and women who, having encountered Christ, went "another way."
So, for me, setting out on Exodus 90 is not really done with any sense of conviction that I will do it perfectly or that I will do it completely. It is done with a recognition that I need--once again--to experience the interruption of Christ in my life. I need something that will daily and intensely remind me that to be a disciple of Christ means that the path of my life must be altered by Christ or I am not really His disciple. Even if I fail along the way (which I likely will), this time is a good moment to once again be moved by His Presence.
So, the hope is that for the next 90 days, I will be off of social media. I think I will still blog, but I won't be posting the blogposts on social media. I think there is someway you can sign up to have blogposts emailed to you, but I don't really remember how that works! Also, I may try to post some podcasts which can be found by clicking here Podcast.
Lastly, if you have some sense that the Presence of Christ isn't interrupting your life and dramatically changing the way you daily live, perhaps think about adding some daily "interruption" to your life that would remind you of Christ and that would encourage you to go "another way." The Magi were profoundly moved by their encounter with Christ. They worshipped and opened up their treasuries. And, they went another way after this encounter. May the grace of this Epiphany awaken in all of us the need to be more intentionally and intensely transformed by Jesus Christ. Let's all go "another way" together.