An Identity Crisis

Two nights ago, I had the pleasure of having a foot bath.

No, this was not some spa experience, where you soak your feet in therapeutic salt water and then enjoy a nice massage from someone trained to relieve all of your pain.

You see, I was approached by one of our church’s priests earlier in the week, asking whether I’d be interested in participating in a reenactment of Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet during the Holy Thursday Mass.

Given the Mass was to be held in the evening in the midst of our kids’ bedtime routine, I was thankful my wife and I were able to juggle matters at home, allowing me to attend on my family’s behalf.

I was so grateful to have been present, as it was truly an honor to be part of the demonstration before the congregation.

As I shared with Catherine at home afterwards, I had taken part in such a reenactment once before, but this time was far more meaningful – and far more emotional.

Jesus Washing Apostles FeetAs the priest moved with his basin of water from one volunteer to another, I felt myself thinking of Jesus.

I imagined Him in a room, kneeling or sitting while pouring water over His trusted friends’ feet, drying them with care and ensuring each one of the apostles knew how cherished he was.

By the time the priest had reached me, I was thinking of Peter and how he asked Jesus to wash not only his feet but also his hands and head. (John 13:9)

I became so overcome with emotion that I was trembling somewhat and had tears beginning to drip from my eyes.

You see, when I look at my life and consider my sins, I know I’m not worthy of God’s unconditional love, despite whatever goodness I’ve contributed in His name.

For this reason, like Peter, I’d rather have an entire ocean of God’s holy grace showered over me, instead of a small amount of water poured on just my feet.

Yet, as Jesus reminded the apostles, only the feet are necessary, for we are healed of our sins and made pure with Him by His blessing. (John 13:10)

In contemplating my own identity and Jesus’ love given to me freely, I can easily ask myself, Who am I to receive this extraordinary and undeserved gift?

Who Do You Say I Am 1But during Holy Thursday Mass, I thought instead of the question Jesus posed to His disciples when He asked them one day after having been approached by crowds, Who do you say that I am? (Mark 8:27-30)

Having my feet washed and already with thoughts of Peter in my head, I couldn’t help but remember his answer to Jesus in that instance – You are the Messiah. (Mark 8:29)

We are challenged in our lives to decide who Jesus is to us. It is times like Easter when we can better concentrate on this question in order to be completely honest with our answer.

Shaking and tearing up the other night when having my feet washed, I came to further understand and appreciate Peter’s answer.

Jesus, You are the Christ – the Chosen One, the Son of God, our Savior.

Pope Francis recently addressed priests, challenging them to discern over Jesus’ identity in the world today and their responsibility to represent and celebrate Him.

“We either make Jesus present in the life of humanity or let Him remain on the level of ideas, letters on a page, incarnate at most in some good habit, gradually becoming routine,” he said.

Who Do You Say I Am 2As we commemorate the Lord’s Last Supper and His death on the cross on Good Friday, and look ahead to celebrating His glorious Resurrection tomorrow, may we find the courage within ourselves to also ponder more attentively who Jesus is for us in our lives.

As Jesus said He was thirsty while being crucified, may we strive to always deepen our relationship with Him, quenching His thirst for relationship with us while being invited to receive a powerful wave of God’s grace in the process.

Doing our Part

We’ve been talking a lot about community these days in my Religion classes.

We’ve been discussing what community is exactly, along with its benefits in society and what we receive from our respective communities.

My students and I have been discussing Jean Vanier and his founding and development of L’Arche, an international community fostering inclusion and integration of people with intellectual disabilities.

Geese 3We’ve also talked about the flight pattern of Canadian geese and how their Flying V behavior represents the solidarity and effectiveness of community and the support of one another within it.

However, we’ve also been talking about our responsibility to give back to our community and not just expect things from it.

At home, our sons have taken a great liking to the kids’ cartoon Paw Patrol and it was during a recent episode that I noticed how those fun-loving and life-saving pups show a lot about God’s community.

Often, the show will start off with all of the dogs playing around together, enjoying a nice break from their rescue work. Suddenly, though, their master Ryder will summon them to their headquarters to inform them of someone in trouble and needing their help.

Paw PatrolI notice there are usually just a few dogs included in each mission, simply because only certain duties or responsibilities are helpful at that specific moment.

For instance, when there’s a seal or dolphin struggling out at sea, Zuma heads out on his hovercraft to help Ryder save the day.

If there’s a cat stuck in a tree, Chase can use his megaphone to call for its attention, and then launches his net to retrieve the animal.

Rocky is the master of using recyclable material to create new tools. Rubble loves to crack jokes and is always on hand to dig out of trouble with his bulldozer. Marshall can extinguish fires with his hose and applies his medical skills whenever in need.

Skye handles crisis matters with her helicopter and harness, able to provide air rescue at any time. Everest is the other girl rescue dog, called upon for any emergencies related to snow or ice.

True to one of the Paw Patrol’s many catchphrases, “No job is too big, no pup is too small!”

You see, each dog has gifts that he or she uses to better society around them. While Ryder recognizes each pup can’t solve every problem, he knows they’re all able to contribute in some way and holds them as valuable members of the group – ensuring that collectively, they accomplish their goals.

In other words, as I have shown on a poster in my classroom, no one can do everything but everyone can do something.

No One Can Do Everything 1I think that in so many ways, our world is like the Paw Patrol and God is calling on every one of us to live out our vocation of serving His will by helping His people.

God has given each of us talents, and it’s our duty to apply them for the greater good in order to realize His plan for us and His world.

For example, a hockey player may not be the best goal scorer, but he can focus on his backchecking or penalty killing abilities to help his team win, knowing there are others on the team more gifted offensively.

While not every student is a talented actor or actress, a high school theatre production is always in need of a good stage crew, make-up artists, program designers and souvenir vendors.

Personally, I would never challenge my wife to a cooking or baking battle. But I do know I can make up for my lack of culinary expertise in other areas, which is why I work so hard to tidy up after meals by doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, wiping the table and taking out the trash.

As taught in Jesus’ parable of the talents, God has given each of us gifts and expects us to use, develop and share them with those around us. (Matthew 25:14-30)

No One Can Do Everything 2Doing so makes others better while we learn and grow from them in return, enriching our community in the process.

So as we live each day seeking to find our purpose on earth, may we discover opportunities to give God glory and to give back to His community by simply doing our part the best we can.

Adding Salt (& Light) to the World

Those who have eaten with me know how much I love ketchup.

They can attest to how I squirt oodles of it on practically every meal I eat.

Certainly, with a history of Diabetes in my family, I am very conscientious of my ketchup consumption.

Despite that, though, I just can’t seem to get enough of the condiment.

Loaded with sodium, you’d think I would be worried about my salt intake each time I put ketchup on my food.

Well, I might be taking this a little too far and I’m not saying God is telling me to add significant amounts of salt to my diet, but doesn’t the Bible at least encourage me to act like salt?

Salt of Earth & Light of World 1Recently, I was teaching about Jesus’ Beatitudes featured in His Sermon on the Mount, and as an extension, I shared with my students a subsequent passage – Jesus’ comparison of humanity to salt and light. (Matthew 5:13-16)

 

This is one of my favorite Biblical selections, as it evidences how Jesus often took something so vast and complicated – such as our purpose on earth or His Kingdom in Heaven – and related it to something so small and simple.

You might recall the passage, which shares how Jesus invites us to be salt of the earth and light of the world.

The verses – if taken literally – can be a little perplexing, however.

I’m supposed to be an ingredient found in ketchup or shaken from a tiny glass cylinder?

I’m being compared to a lamp post or a night light plugged into an electrical outlet in a bathroom?

Salt of Earth & Light of World 2As I explain with my students, it’s only when we step back from the literal sense of His teaching that we can appreciate Jesus’ message and understand our vocation and mission.

You see, salt is an additive used frequently in meal preparation to enrich a food’s flavor.

Whether it be adding a pinch of salt into a soup to remove any bland taste or sprinkling some on your eggs or French fries, the right amount of salt can enhance the savor of whatever it is you’re eating.

Additionally, salt serves as a preservative, preventing food from spoiling and guarding it against decay.

Like salt, we are called to add flavor to the world, contributing our best in order to preserve and nurture all that is right in society while combatting anything that can cause harm.

As for being a light for our world, we are charged by God with the responsibility of illuminating society around us, bringing clarity to those who may live in a state of darkness or confusion.

Through striving to display virtues and a constant search for truth, we can shed light on the world every day in so many ways.

Light of the WorldA humble demeanor, respect towards all people, complete and genuine effort in all that we do and a sincere investment in our relationships can all help us serve as torches or flashlights, blazing a path of understanding for others so desperate to know God’s shining way.

As Jesus teaches, we should be mindful to do this with no hesitation or shame, instead providing an inspirational beacon of hope, recognizing the need for God’s light in the world. (John 8:12)

But what about the expression adding salt to the wound? Wouldn’t salt intensify the pain?

Well, as Jesus tells us, in living as salt of the earth, we act as an antidote for any suffering the world may experience.

While filled with blessings, today’s world is also undeniably wounded.

Child neglect, discrimination of all sorts, violence and abuse of physical, mental and emotional natures are just some examples of what fills our daily news coverage, leading to an increased sentiment of despair, pain and hatred – the antithesis of God’s plan for His creation.

But if we live out our salt-like vocation of enriching society’s goodness, preserving our world’s beauty and highlighting its potential, we can protect one another from all that is wrong and harmful.

Doing so can light the path to God’s Kingdom, restoring our community from brokenness and brightly guiding us to eternal paradise.

Salt of Earth & Light of World 3Of course, you can accept all that you’ve read here or disregard it, as is your God-given free will.

All I ask is that you take it with a grain of salt.