Thursday, September 8, 2011

This is the Start

I’ve been to a number of groundbreakings in my life. No, no one has ever asked me to turn over that first shovel full of dirt, but I’ve enjoyed participating in those celebrations. Often after years of planning, something you could physically see was finally happening.

In my career, many of the “groundbreakings” were actually the signing of contracts, contracts which we had spent many long months, sometimes even years, negotiating. I was never at those contract signings, but on the final day of negotiations the negotiating team members invariably celebrated. Any difficulties, any bitterness along the way, were forgotten. The fruits of all our preparations were going to start to blossom. We could envision good results in the future.

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Birth of Mary. Destined to be the Mother of God, she was special from the start, for she was “The Start”. She was the beginning of God’s promise to mankind. She was the beginning of a unique contract between God and man, a contract that once existed in the Garden of Eden, but which was broken by man. Yet God so wanted this contract that he did something that no earthly negotiator would ever do, He made it a totally uneven agreement. He put on the negotiating table something far more valuable than anything man could offer Him; He offered His only Son. It was an offer no man, nor even no god, could not accept. He offered EVERYTHING so that we could again be in agreement. And with Mary’s birth, the contract was physically started.

I wonder if the heavens celebrated.

Yet with Mary’s birth there were many more physical things to be done, just like the first shovel full of dirt doesn’t mean the building is done. Much work remained, often difficult work, often dangerous, even deadly work. And while there was joy along the way, there was also sadness. But as the rosary prayers remind us, while there were the Joyful and Sorrowful Mysteries of Mary and Jesus’ life, oh, there were the Glorious too.

Mary’s birthday is a feast day in the Church. In truth, it was the physical start of the Church, the groundbreaking of the agreement between God and man, and the Church which would spread throughout the world, as Jesus said it would. I wonder when God was planning for this great work, what were His thoughts? Was He seeing the great results, or was He seeing the hard work necessary to achieve them? But He was God, and He knew the work started would yield great results; it would be worth the effort, even the great pain.

Sometimes I think that is part of our problem in life, in that we are not like God in this regard. We can envision things being better for us, our lives having more joy, and we can see the work necessary to achieve that “happy ending” but, unlike God, we are not at all sure that we can achieve the result, that we can handle the pain along the way. And that’s where faith comes in.

The contract between God and man is a done deal. You can read about it. Jesus, God, as one of the terms of the contract said: “I will be with you always.” We look at so many of the difficult choices we have to make in life, and we have fear: “This is difficult. Can I do this?” But in this, we are thinking the wrong thoughts. We forget the contract we have with God. The real question isn’t: “Can I do this?” The question is: “Can WE do this?” And the answer is: With God, all things are possible.

So what are the things you wish were different in your life, the joys that you can envision if only some difficult task were done? Can you envision finally being sober, or not addicted to drugs anymore? Can you envision your family not arguing anymore? Can you envision yourself being happy in the Catholic faith, as so many, like me, are? Can you envision yourself retired?

Whatever it is that you can envision will bring you greater joy and peace, you can do, with God. Oh, it will take plans and perhaps negotiations between you and God --- you need to talk to Him in prayer – but at some point you’ll have to do the physical part. Like the groundbreaking, like the birth of Mary, all good on this earth must begin with a decision to do something, and then the start of action.

Even if the road be long, and perhaps painful, have faith that God will keep His end of the contract and be with you. And then start.

And who knows, perhaps someday I will hear from you or meet you, and together we will celebrate your birthday, your great start. Wouldn’t that be grand?

I love a good party.

Happy birthday, Mary. Happy birthday. Oh what a great start you were.

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