August 09, 2020
Have you ever experienced tears of joy as you watched someone be transformed from abandonment, sadness, and despair to total relief and joy? I would like to tell you a story about exactly that.
A number of years ago I was at the Catholic Men's Conference. About a thousand men, all there to pray together and to learn more about how to live as Christ taught us. One of the speakers was Justin Fatica. He talked about what people see in our youth today. He pointed out that we see some kids getting into serious trouble, making bad decisions, and doing bad things. He then told us that he had been at a local high school the day before to give a presentation to the students. He had asked the kids to tell what caused them the greatest frustration, pain, and difficulty in their lives. He asked them what hurt the most.
And he said that what these kids told him would make you cry. Then he told us that three of these young men were sitting in the front row with us at the conference that morning. He asked them if they would come up on the stage. One by one they came and told us what caused them the most pain and difficulty in their lives. A teenaged guy named Mike stood in front of a thousand other men and explained that when he was 4 years old, his father left his mother and he and his sister. And, while he understood divorce, it upset him that his father lived in town but never made any attempt to get together with him. He had grown up without this man. He wondered what was wrong with himself that his father did not want to be around him.
This young man said that the other kids at school talked about doing things with their dads like going to ball games or camping, but he never had any of that and it really bothered him that his dad would have nothing to do with him. And then Justin Fatica told Mike that one thing that he was certain of, was that Mike was not alone in his pain. He asked all the men gathered there at the conference that afternoon, if they had ever been in the situation of not having a father present in their lives like young Mike. Then he asked if they were willing to stand up right now to show their support. The auditorium fell silent, but just for a split second. Almost immediately, about 40 men stood up. Then Justin asked them if they were willing to come up onto the stage and say a few words to Mike. Suddenly these 40 guys of all ages proceeded down the aisles and up the stairs to the stage. Each told Mike he was not alone, offered words of support, and gave him a hug.
And you knew that for that kid, this was a life changing event. He learned that he was not alone in bearing his pain, and that many others felt it too, and they survived. And he saw that there are men who have guts and enough interest in him to come up on a stage and let him know that they supported him.
This weekend, in our reading from the Old Testament we hear that Elijah is looking for God. He looks to the fierce wind, an earthquake, and a fire, and does not find God. He does find God, however, in "the tiny whispering sound" that came after. And in our Gospel, the disciples see Jesus, in the dead of the night, walking on the water in the raging sea in a fierce storm. Jesus calls peter, "Come." And Peter does. He is walking on the water and moving towards Jesus. But then he began thinking. He lost focus on Jesus and his faith which had served him well. And he plunged down into the water.
And as I think back now, I wonder about that Men's Conference, "what was it that caused these 40 men to stand up? What gave them the courage to walk to the isle, go up the stairs and onto the stage, in front of a thousand men, and hug and support this young man?" Could it be that they knew that they were experiencing the presence of God in the "tiny whispering sound" of that quiet moment? Was it a courage that Jesus placed in them that pushed aside every thought in their mind that was saying, "stay in your seat, someone else will do it?" Was it the voice of Jesus saying, "Come?"
Someone like young Mike will be needing you one day. You WILL hear the voice of God in the silence. You will see Jesus and hear his call to you to "Come," to walk on water and help this person. To walk with courage, focused on Christ and trusting. And through your faith and courage, transform them from abandonment, sadness, and despair, so that along with you, they experience tears of Joy!!! Amen.