Onward – Br. Luke Ditewig
In high school, college, and seminary I played in a hand bell choir and also as a hand bell soloist. Many people knew me as “the bell guy.” When returning to California to visit my parents, I keep being asked about bells though I stopped playing years ago. That memory, that name sticks.
People leave, change, and return with memories of who we once were jostling up against who we are now. Memories may be neutral or fun like the bell guy. Memories may be of embarrassment, shame, or guilt. We may be treated with aggression, evasion, or suspicion. People may restrict us, zeroing in on what we did—even if we only did it once—focusing on the past instead of acknowledging who we have become.
Jesus experienced this. When Jesus returned home for a visit, his neighbors said:“Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power?”Is this really the son of Joseph and Mary? Jesus was no longer the boy they remembered watching grow up. Jesus had become a powerful, prophetic teacher. They took offense at him. Jesus knows what it feels like to be dismissed and restricted.
Much of how we hurt each other stems from taking offense at change. We easily cling to sticky memories, trapping people in the past.
“I keep putting him at a distance because he hurt me so much.”
“I keep treating her as a child in order to not lose my identity.”
“I keep telling him what to do because I fear he’ll leave me.”
We also resist change in ourselves. Complacency, dejection, and fear can hold us back.
“Why take the risk? I can make do with what I have now.”
“It’s never worked before. This can’t get better.”
“I’ve fought to create this. It would be like joining the enemy.”
Yet such changes may be exactly what we need and what God enables.
Jesus demonstrates a hopeful, abundant life marked by change and transformation. Jesus welcomed all kinds of people as beloved of God including women, children, foreigners, tax collectors, prostitutes, those sick and outcast. Jesus challenged cultural and religious labels and limits by loving everyone freely and inviting them further into life.
Following Jesus informs how we view people and ourselves. Rather than restricting people and taking offense, following Jesus invites respecting people, supporting and encouraging their development.
What sticky memory or label is problematic for you today such that you are taking offense at someone or at yourself?
Who are you becoming?
Richard Meux Benson, SSJE’s founder, wrote that in the Eucharist God grasps us and pulls us onward. God does not simply give us sustenance for today. God reaches out a hand and pulls us onward into the future, to change, to becoming more.
Who, by God’s grace, are you becoming?
Please support the Brothers work.
The brothers of SSJE rely on the inspired kindness of friends to sustain our life and our work. We are grateful for the prayers and support provided to us.
I have had to deal with a hip increasingly painful because of developing Osteo Arthritis. I need to take acetaminophen several times a day. Still sometimes the pain comes. It sets me on edge. We can go on.
My husband and I got to the Episcpal Church,m The Church of the Good Shephard in Asheboro, NC. Father Joe prays for me. I have health problems and am 68 years old. Osteoporsis, Type 1 Diabetic, Diabetic Neuropathy, balance problems and Carpel Tunnel in my left wrist. I am positive, the Lord helps me and with my husband John, and Father Joe I can handle it all.
Thank you for this Bro Luke. This Sunday I have chosen to preach from Romans 12:1-8 where St. Paul challenges them and us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. I take that to mean, be transformed by changing the way we think. Transformation and change – a constant theme in the Bible isn’t it? This past week, I celebrated a big birthday – 75! I am so grateful for my life and for how blessed I have been and it has been a time of reflection. I want to be more open, to avoid hurting people and to learn more in the years I have left. Thank you so much for this – you will be quoted in my homily. God bless all of you at SSJE.
The concept of God reaching down and pulling me onwards in the Eucharist is so energizing and positive for me. That image will be before me when I celebrate mass on Sunday. Thanx Br Luke
This says so much in a few words. And reminds me of many of Paul’s messages, e.g., Philippians 3:12-14. Jesus always challenges us. Thank you.
The end is a startling question! At my ripe old age, surely I have reached my maximum in who I am. But, not necessarily so. I pray everyday for God to make me his servant. I have been and am, but I know He has more for me. Sometimes I am judged by who I was before I retired, before I changed some values in my life, before my children grew up, before my husband died, but now I know I must be who I am in the here and now. I pray that I have risen to a new height, a more peaceful and loving person. Thank you for these challenging thoughts today. May God bless you, Brother in Christ.
As what I can give diminishes, I pray that I might recognize the new ways I am invited to serve.