12 February 2018

Imitation

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A picture of me in my
"dress code"
It could be said that while I was in college seminary, I had a certain dress code that was always associated with me.  It was basically khaki pants, a polo shirt (buttoned-up all the way), with a cross on a chain around my neck.  It was kind of my style.  But I didn’t realize it was so associated with me until Halloween in my junior year.  I was studying in Rome, both with seminarians and non-seminarians.  We all lived in the same house, and we tried to observe American holidays to keep us connected, even while we were abroad.  We couldn’t really go trick-or-treating, but we did have a costume party.  A friend of mine, not a seminarian, came down the party dressed in khaki pants, a polo shirt (buttoned-up all the way), with a cross on a chain around his neck.  I saw him and asked him what he was going as, and he said a seminarian.  I told him it was a great costume, not knowing that he was, in fact, going as me.  Dave and I remain friends to this day, even though he went as me for Halloween.
Dave Berthiaume, who
went as me for Halloween,
pictured with his then-girlfriend
(now-wife), Annie


St. Paul said in our second reading, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” but I’m quite sure he didn’t mean go trick-or-treating as St. Paul.  Yes, dressing up like someone is one form of imitation, but what is really meant is living a life through which Christ is reflected.  If we’re a husband or wife, it means loving our spouse and children with as close as we can muster to unconditional love.  If we’re a manager of people we treat our employees as Christ would have treated them.  If we’re a janitor it means that we clean to the best of our ability to honor God.  If we’re a student, it means we use and develop our God-given intellect to do our homework and prepare for college or a trade-school.  It is, as St. Paul also mentioned in the second reading, doing whatever we are doing for the glory of God.
When I pray with our student athletes, both from St. Pius X and from Powers, I always pray that they will use their talents for the greater glory of God and the honor of their schools.  But it certainly goes beyond sports.  Imagine if we did our jobs and lived our vocations with the glory of God and the honor of our company or family at the front of our mind!
As we prepare for Lent, with Ash Wednesday this upcoming Wednesday, that’s a great way to have a great Lent: keeping the glory of God at the front of our minds.  It can often get shoved to the back of our minds, and all the concerns of life clamor for more and more attention.  Think about illness (and we heard about it in our first reading and Gospel).  When someone is sick, it can be very easy to ostracize that person because the fear of contracting that illness moves to the front of our mind.  Last week when I was sick, I didn’t have leprosy, but I might as well have walked around shouting, “Unclean, unclean!”  And I don’t mind saying that the sick person, acting out of the love of God, probably shouldn’t want to infect others and so should take precautions to not spread the bacteria and viruses as much as possible.  While it was frustrating, it was good for me to keep myself away from my office, the school, and even limit my contact with the parish last weekend.  
But does the motivation come from what we think God would do, what would bring glory to God, or does it come from fear?  Again, I’m not saying we should ignore good hygiene practices and protect our public from preventable illnesses, but in our Gospel, Jesus is not scared by the leper, but treats the diseased person (and a very contagious disease at that) with respect and love.
There are always people that scare us that we can be tempted to not treat with the love of God, or not act in a way towards them with the glory of God at the front of our mind.  I remember in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s learning about AIDS and how, at that time, there was a lot of fear that even being remotely close to someone with AIDS could mean getting what was at that time a very scary and deadly disease.  But that didn’t stop John Cardinal O’Connor, the late Archbishop of New York, from opening clinics and even working with people who had AIDS to make sure that God’s children, no matter how scary AIDS seemed, received loving medical care.
There are probably people that scare us today, too.  I won’t hypothesize what situations or people scare you.  But I invite you, as I challenge myself, to truly consider in prayer if I treat the people or situations that scare me as an opportunity to imitate Christ and glorify God, or if I act out of my fear.  God does not call us to be na├»ve, but He doesn’t call us to be jaded, either.  

St. Paul invites us to be imitators of Christ.  No, that doesn’t mean we wear a tunic, grow a beard, and wear sandals.  But it does mean acting like Christ would in each of the situations that life presents to us each day.  If we all did things with the greater glory of God on our minds, I think our world would be a much better place.