1 John 3:1-2
Growing up, I was a bit of a picky eater. Generally it was poptarts, meats, cheese, bread, ketchup, and french fries. So basically, poptarts, cheeseburgers, french fries. Thankfully as I’ve grown in age, I’ve also grown in my tastes and willingness to branch out. In recent years I’ve gotten into the habit that if I’m looking over a menu and find an item with the description including the phrase ‘just trust us.’ I usually get that thing. Saturday morning I went to Denham Springs to celebrate my nephew’s baptism. Afterward we went to a local restaurant, Big Mike’s, for a bit to eat. Looking through the menu there were several things that sounded good when I came across the Peanut Butter Bacon Cheeseburger. “8oz black angus hamburger topped with peanut butter and bacon. Served on a sweet sourdough bun with a side of french fries. Just trust us.” So... I got. And it was delicious!
The thing about it is that most of the items that have the ‘just trust us’ statement are either too good to be true or too weird to be good. Either way, customers might need that extra encouragement to be willing to take the plunge.
As we come this weekend to celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, we recall the fact that God is ever-watchful of us, the flock. As members of the flock, it is our role to follow the shepherd which means first and foremost being able to trust the shepherd; and this is the hard part for most of us. I don’t know about you, but if I were to look at the Lord Jesus’ life as a menu, nearly every item on it would require that extra push to ‘just trust us’. Think about it: God became a human person, bearing our own flesh and enduring every trial and temptation we do. Eh…that sounds weird. “Just trust us.” A virgin gave birth to a baby boy? That doesn’t sound right. “Just trust us.” The same baby boy, who is also God, grew up and walked around almost unnoticed for 30 years. Really? “Just trust us.” After 30 years He up and becomes one of the most famous people of his day? That just sounds made up. “Just trust us.” At the end of His 33 years, He willing climbed a hill with His cross in order to be killed? Whoa. That’s just crazy. “Just trust us.” Then the dead man came back to life three days later. Seriously. That’s just not even possible. “Just trust us.” Then that dead man who came back to life ascended up to Heaven and opened Heaven for us follow after Him and be united to God forever. This madness has to stop! “Just trust us.” Over an over again the life of Jesus Christ challenges us trust in God that things are what He says they are, despite the fact that those things just don’t happen…and yet they did.
This past week we celebrated the feast of St. Anselm, who was a great philosopher and theologian. One of the great axioms he gave to the Church was his little phrase ‘credo ut intelligam’ – I believe so that I might understand. Often times in our world today we have to seek to make sense of something before we place our trust in it. And if you’re waiting to fully understand the life of Jesus Christ before you put your trust in Him, then good luck with that! St. Anselm shows us that in the ways of faith, the first step isn’t understanding but rather the step of faith. We take a step out in faith first and trust that God will help to unveil things and bring us to a deeper understanding as time goes on.
Celebrating First Holy Communion this weekend, it strikes me that one of the best places to start with this ‘credo ut intelligam’ approach of faith is right here in the Eucharist. We can seek to understand all sorts of things, but the life of God only comes alive when we first make that act of faith and let the Lord Jesus and His grace come alive within us. And so I want to reflect for a brief moment on how we are able to act in faith first and let the Lord open up the gift of the Eucharist to us in the time that follows.
The first question that came to mind was ‘How do I show my belief that the Eucharist is really Jesus Christ?’ The little actions we do – genuflecting, praying on our knees, visiting the church when it’s open, making the sign of the Cross as we drive past – are all ways that our body speaks something to our soul. By actually going through the motions, we help to inform our soul that something special is happening.
The second question is ‘How often do I receive Jesus in the Eucharist?’ If we don’t come often, it tends to lessen the value we place on the Most Blessed Sacrament. But if we came each weekend and made it a point to come each weekend, or even during the week, our actions show that what we’re here for is more important than all the other things on our schedule. How often do we receive Jesus?
And lastly, ‘How do I prepare to receive Holy Communion?’ It’s easy to get caught up in so many concerns and worries that when we get to Mass we’re not even there. Or to listen to music on the way and the only thing that’s in your head after Communion is that catchy beat (guilty!). Or are we even spiritually ready to receive the Lord at all? Maybe I have things on my heart that I really need to seek forgiveness for first before going up to the altar. How do I prepare?
In all the times I’ve gotten the ‘Just trust us’ special at a restaurant, not once have I been disappointed. And if it’s true of burgers and strange foods, it is even more so about our God. Today He comes once more and invites us to come and follow more closely. It’s a strange invitation and sometimes we shrink back from giving Him everything. But there’s no need to fear. Just trust me.