Monday, January 27, 2014
I Need To Change My Life --- NOW!
This is one of those blog posts I feel compelled to write; the thoughts have poked at my mind for days, yet the subject is one I don’t see as benefiting me right now --- but it may you.
Some of us are fat; some are simply physical wrecks. Some of us are addicted to drugs or alcohol or sex, and we know we need to change: everyone has been telling us so, or avoiding us --- even those we love. But then, there are some of us who know that we need to …, we need to --- we need to do what? What do we need to do? We don’t exactly know, but we do know that somehow we need to change our life.
It’s not easy to describe this feeling that you need to change, because it is a feeling totally within side you. No one sees the real you: they don’t see you as fat or addicted or as anyone bad in any way. They may even look at you and see a very good person. Or --- they may look at you and not see you at all; you seem no more important to them than a shadow. But you are not troubled by what others see or don’t see in you, you’re troubled by what YOU see in you. And what you see makes you sad.
Maybe you express your sadness by saying: “No one loves me” --- I have a post with that title; it is Googled often. Maybe you express it by saying: “Is this all that life is?” Maybe after your spouse slams the door as he leaves, or after your kid says “I hate you” (again), or perhaps even after it snows --- yet again --- and you then express it by thinking: “Is my life worth anything? Am I making any difference in this world?”
And perhaps after putting those feelings into some type of words, you just sit there and feel sad. You can’t think of answers to those questions or any next steps to take. You just sit there.
This post, I think, is one I may be meant to write for you.
A certain priest I met seems fixated on the Gospel of Mark. He’s been telling us lately that we’ll be hearing Mark’s Gospel a lot at the masses between now and Lent. He said Mark’s Gospel is generally agreed to have been the first one written. Unlike the other Gospels which followed it, he says, it was not written with a particular purpose or audience in mind. He says Mark just wanted to write down the facts about Jesus. “This is what happened.” Splat! There it is.
The priest encouraged us to sit down at some point in the coming weeks and read the Gospel of Mark in one sitting. He said it’d help us know Jesus. And so I did.
Well, to be honest, I didn’t set out to read that Gospel; it kind of was one of those “God-happening” moments. I went to the chapel for my usual two hour slot on Saturday night, said my rosary, prayed my Night Prayers, spoke with the Lord for a bit, and then picked up the book I had brought with me. And opening it to the bookmarked page, I found that I only had 10 pages left to read. And so 5 minutes later I put the book down and looked up at Jesus on the altar. And then for some reason I asked Him: “Well, is there something else you’d like me to read?” And “immediately” there came into my mind the words the priest had said. And so for the next 45 minutes --- that’s all it took --- I read the Gospel of Mark.
“Immediately” --- that’s the first thing which struck me about the Gospel of Mark. In the first chapter Mark uses the word “immediately” nine times (and in some translations you see it more than that). After the first few it began to grate on me a bit: “Sheesh, Mark! Can’t you come up with any synonyms for immediately? And surely Jesus didn’t really run around doing everything “immediately,” did He?” I didn’t pause to dwell on my irritation then, but the memory of it stuck with me.
The Gospel of Mark, as the priest said, was just the facts. In the Gospel of Matthew there are two long chapters describing the birth and genealogy of Jesus, because that Gospel was addressed to the Jews, many of whom were concerned with: “Is He the Messiah, the One who would be a son of David?” Yes, He is, Matthew shows through the genealogy. But Mark addresses that same topic thusly: “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth.” Period! Splat!
In the Gospel of Luke, we see the risen Jesus appearing to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and taking all day to explain to them how all the words of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Jesus, and then He sat down and ate with them, at which point they knew who He was, and He disappeared. Wow! And so how does Mark address this great event? “He appeared to two of them as they were walking in the country.” Splat! Just the facts; nothing but the facts are given in Mark. He doesn’t go into great depths to explain things, to convince the reader of Jesus’ teachings.
But …, but wait a minute. Unlike all the rest of his gospel, why did Mark so obviously overuse the word “immediately” in that first chapter? Everything else was just a big “splat,” but here he deliberately seems to want to emphasize something. What? Surely he must have thought it important. Why? I perceive the reason that Mark used the word “immediately” so often in that first chapter is because in the first chapter he sets the stage for the rest of his Gospel, and that setting of the stage is important, and needs some type of emphasis.
In that first chapter, John the Baptist appears, Jesus appears, the Spirit of God appears, the apostles appear, Jesus begins preaching, unclean spirits appear, Jesus’ healings appear and He becomes famous, Jesus commands demons who obey Him, and crowds come to hear and see Him. And all this is just Chapter 1!! Mark sets the stage here for the rest of his gospel; Chapter 1 says that a change has come into the lives of all the people involved. Their lives have begun a change, now, immediately! And one other thing you notice in this chapter, if you think on it, is that the people were ready for change. It’s almost like they were waiting for a change, and they followed Jesus immediately, wondering: “Is He the One? Is this the change I need to make in my life?”
It’s almost like that feeling you have, isn’t it?
The people in the Gospel made an immediate change in the focus of their life. No, all weren’t immediately converted. No, all weren’t immediately healed. No, they all didn’t immediately make sense of it --- heck, three years later those closest to Him, the apostles, still didn’t understand it all.
But then they did, eventually. They made that immediate change in focus in their lives, and then they could begin to see and understand the workings of God, and what He wanted them to do. Read the sidebar on this blog about the time when I made that immediate change in my life. It happened to me; I made a change in the focus of my life. And in the 25+ years since, many things have gotten better in my life. And during that time I’ve grown closer in love and understanding to that Jesus-guy, and what His life meant, and what mine means.
“No one loves me; is my life worth anything; am I making a difference in the world”--- sadness. I’ve been there. I know those feelings. I know that feeling that I need to make a change in my life, but not knowing how or where to begin. What I’m telling you with all these words, my friend, is not how to change your life, but that I’m encouraging you to start. Immediately! I am encouraging you to start, with a great resolve. Mark’s first chapter set the stage; perhaps reading these words is setting the stage for you. The people then heard great words and saw great miracles, which helped spur them on. The words they heard are still there for you to read. The miracles still happened, you can read about them, and perhaps your reading of these words, right here, right now, is one for you, too.
You life can be changed. Happiness, now and eternal, is there on the horizon. The path to focus on is there before you. If you take this path, will you find perfect happiness tomorrow? Of course not! Will you still be worried about your life tomorrow? Well there, my friend, I’ll let you in on a little secret, something it’s taken me years on my own journey to really learn: if you read and try to understand those words and actions of Jesus, it will suddenly become clear to you that despite all the bad things that happen to Him, despite all the powerful people who hate Him, and despite the horrible death that awaits Him --- and He knows is coming --- despite all these troubles in His life, you come to realize that (unlike you) He is not worried about His life. He is worried about the lives of others, not His. And you come to see how much joy is in Jesus’ life, when He brings joy to others.
That’s the big secret. It’s a great turnabout to realize that worrying about your life doesn’t change it; worrying about others’ lives does. You don’t really become happy by actively seeking happiness, but by giving it. I mean, who would have thought it? No one, I guess. That’s why we needed the Teacher.
So if we are going to learn how to make our lives better, we need to set the stage: schedule the time, get out the books, go to school, follow the Teacher, and listen. Really listen. And then ponder and try to make sense of what you read and hear, and then you too will “increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Lk 2:52). You may be troubled now, but look around: the country is troubled; the world is troubled. Many a man of God has said: The world needs more saints.
The world needs you. And you, and your life, will make a difference.
And, you can end your sadness.
It starts with a commitment to change your life’s focus, and as Mark so eloquently arranged it: If you are going to take those steps forward, you need to set the stage, to begin your story of change, and you need to do it immediately. Just make that commitment; get it over with. Immediately --- and then the important stuff will follow, like the rest of his Gospel.
You have that feeling that you need to change your life. What are you waiting for?