Ezekiel 18:21-28 (Is it God's way that's unfair, or rather, are the ways of man unfair?)
Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-7a, 7bc-8 (If the Lord marks iniquities, who can stand?)
Matthew 5:20-26 (First be reconciled to one another, then bring your offering to the altar of God)
Let's start the day off with a song, shall we?
I was eight years old
When I decided to follow Jesus
I started down that road
Somebody told me that
This path that leads to Heaven
Will not be the easy way
Well I found that, too...
I found that to be true
But I also found,
Yes, I also found...
(Does anybody want to know what I found?)
I found out there's...
Okay, enough of the singing for now. We'll come back to this later, but not today.
You want to know just what I found?
Well, when I was about eight years old, I kinda decided that following Jesus was something you were supposed to do. I was a student in a Catholic elementary school; the good Religious Sisters of Mercy as well as my parents and my grandmother (mentioned a couple of days ago) all wanted it that way. My life as a Christian kid was more like the John Powers novels The Last Catholic In America and Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? In short, they were more or less normal. There was the stigma of being among only three families in my sixty-five home subdivision that attended a parochial school. There was still the buzz that Catholic kids shouldn't hang out with “publics” because, all too often, they led to near occasions of sin.
At age eight, the last of my siblings had been born, and the first of my uncle's and aunt's brood was about to be born. I was the first born of the generation. In those days, the days when Mass was still prayed in Latin, there was also the unwritten hope, supported by Old Testament theology, that the firstborn was to be “consecrated to the Lord.” If you were male, that meant the priesthood. If you were female, that indicated life as a nun.
Good Catholic that my grandmother was, from the time I made my First Holy Communion until I was out of school she would drop hints that I should consider entering the seminary at the appropriate time. That was her duty. I think it stopped when she realized that there was literally no way it could be afforded, even if I had expressed an interest to do so. But her impression of all those years of suggestion never quite left me.
I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life. If I had thought then I'd be writing all this out now for anyone to read, I would have been ready for the mental institution that was four miles away from home. I really didn't have a career goal until the last days of high school.
I had wanted to get into music or theater. Those things attracted me, and I discovered I was good at music. But I was the oldest of six children, it was hard to arrange schedules to manage anything, money always seemed to be tight in the family. My father left me with the impression that this was too shaky a career. He was a salesman for office equipment and worked on commission. Now that was shaky to me. It was revealed to me many years after childhood that my grandmother had to assist Dad financially one year to get the tuitions paid and to have some semblance of a 'normal' Christmas holiday. Not too long after that, we transferred to public schools, and as my baby brother was finally in school, Mom landed a job as a school bus driver.
When I was in junior high school I had the opportunity to be part of a large music concert that was put on locally. One of the pieces in the program utilized a children's choir selected from the five junior high schools in the district. Being selected for that event 42 years ago changed my life forever. It was there I met the choir director of one of the district's two high schools, who also happened to volunteer his talent to the local parish and directed that choir. It happened that this was the same parish my parents attended, the one with the school where I'd spent six years being educated.
Somehow in the process of learning who we were, Charles, the director, made the connection between me and the kid who was part of that children's choir. Perhaps it was because I wasn't afraid to sing when the hymns were played at Mass. I really don't recall. But Charles found me two years later and asked me if I would be willing to join the parish choir. I did, and I never looked back.
I would never be the same again.
Even though I walked in the valley of the shadow of not knowing what I wanted to do, I had willingly put my foot in the door of ministry – though it wasn't generally called that at the time. I started paying more attention to what was being preached. In addition, I was praised for my ability to sight read well and had nearly perfect pitch. God was indeed with me, but not in the way I saw him at the time. And my grandmother's impressions were still in my mind. Maybe not as a priest; but as a respected and important part of the Church. I had to learn more, and it seemed in childlike innocence that the Church knew all there was to know about following Jesus on the road that leads to Heaven. This is what I wanted; everything else would come naturally. I was an intelligent kid, I could do this.
But every journey towards the Promised Land must come to the outskirts of Calvary. That part of my story is yet to be told. Ultimately I managed to find God in the manner He wanted; but what it cost me as well as those nearest and dearest to my heart, I wish I could have undone sooner.
Good God, forgive me of the crass stupidity of my mind. I realize I was destined for what happened because I didn't understand, nor was I willing to listen to anyone other than my inner talking self.
I have come over time to forgive myself, and I am doing my best to seek forgiveness from those I hurt through lack of reason.
Yet in all of this there's....
No better place on earth
Than the road that leads to heaven...