Friday, May 3, 2013
Weekend with the Guys Making Ham Omelets...
Point well made. Christ told his disciples (us) to love one another as He loved them, and for those who may have made the sound that Scooby-Doo does when he’s confused, He went on to say, “there is no greater love than to give our life for a friend.” You wanna talk about commitment! I mean giving up my life for my wife and children? I can see it (although in my wife’s case, it might depend on the day! Just kidding, honey!) However, I got some pretty shady friends!
Unfortunately, the point is that, as Christians, our level of commitment shouldn’t waver, since our salvation may be determined by what we do for the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, the imprisoned and lonely (and that doesn’t just mean in physical terms) and the least in the Kingdom of God (whether we liked them or not!).
Last weekend, I got another chance to attend a men’s retreat with some of my closest friends; many of whom, despite their many flaws (and boy can I tell you stories!), are the type of guys who would volunteer to make the ham omelet, even if they were the pig (although some may be more inclined to make pan con lechon instead!).
It’s rare in today’s culture to see men giving up their comfort and leisure time with their families on a weekend to help other men grow closer to God. But, as one of them pointed out, if we don’t do it, who will? And if men of good will don’t stand up for righteousness, who will take care and guide our children, if we’re gone?
As Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
Unfortunately, we’ve become a culture of doing nothing. We have the easy life from microwave ovens to smart phones (because we have to think less) to plastic surgery instead of working out. We have grown so accustomed to the good life that we even try to mold God into what we want Him to be, instead of adjusting our lifestyle into what He wants us to be.
It’s the reason there are more than 35,000 Christian denominations in the world, all claiming to be inspired by the same Bible, and why many people are rejecting religion altogether. We’re not losing our religion as some polls suggest. We’re becoming more self-centered!
Regrettably, as the saying goes; at the center of sin is I. Anytime, I put myself ahead of God, there is sin.
In any event, my weekend with the guys is called the Emmaus Retreat, which I have written about before (see here and here) and have been a part of for the past seven years. It is a wonderful opportunity to disconnect from all the noise, stress and distractions in life and concentrate on introspective, praying, bonding with other men and focusing on our relationship with God. We laugh. We cry at times (especially me) and eat well (too well, if you ask me, since I always end up putting on a few pounds).
But, most of all, we help other men, eighteen in this case, from a wide spectrum of spiritual backgrounds, from those that have no concept of God to those who are very devout and are well formed in their faith, to grow closer to God by experiencing the love of their fellowman.
Over the years, we have made an impact, however small; marriages have been saved (including those of many of the men, who have become close friends), families have been restored and hundreds of lives have been turned around for the better (including mine).
We always say that if we reach one man, all the hours of preparation, the time away from our families, the expense required and effort involved were all worth it (Of course, it would be better if we touch three or four men!). Since, when we touch one man, we don’t just affect the person, but also his family, loved ones and friends. It has an organic effect that grows and flourishes and may even pay dividends generations down the line.
Our priest once told us a story about a pious couple that had five children. They prayed fervently that one of their kids would have a vocation and become a priest or a nun. Well, the first child fell in love and got married, the second child fell in love and got married and then the third fell in love and got married. They kept praying. Then the fourth child fell in love and got married and they were down to their final hope. They kept praying.
As fate would have it, the fifth child also fell in love and got married and the couple, although a bit disheartened, accepted God’s Will and trusted in Him. It turns out that the first child had a son and that son became a priest. The priest was talking about his grandparents.
Ironically, during the retreat, I was asked to talk about trusting God. I shared the story of my son, who the doctor told us might never been born due to an injury my wife suffered during a previous miscarriage. By that time, I had already attended my first retreat and truly put God at the center of my life. Like the pious couple in the priest’s story, I kept praying and putting my trust in God.
To make a long story short, not only did I keep praying but I asked for intercessory prayers from my friends, family, the Blessed Mother and every-and-any saint I could think of.
We had several scary moments, including during a trip to England for our niece’s Baptism, where my wife started bleeding, but through it all I trusted; and not that anything bad could happen, since sometimes no matter how much faith a person has, bad things will happen, but that I would be strengthen and be able to accept God’s Will.
Well, five (and a half, as my son would say) years ago, our son was born healthy and safe.
Anyway, as I stated previously, the idea is that through a weekend of love and fellowship, the men start experiencing the love of God.
In the first letter of John, the beloved disciple writes, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
As our pastor pointed out, it’s about commitment; commitment to God, commitment to our faith, which includes learning, practicing and passing it on to our children, and commitment to trying to make our world better place. In other words, its about pigs willing to sacrifice to make ham omelets.
Maybe, we are not giving up our lives, as the early Christians had to. But, we are not standing idly by and doing nothing, and, at the end of the day (literally speaking), it is all about the love we share, as Jesus told His disciples and as St. Paul wrote that the entire law can be summed up in one command, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
When I got home on Sunday, my youngest daughter came up to me and gave me a couple of gifts that she bought with her own First Holy Communion gift money. They were bookmarks because, as she said, “you have so many books!”
One of them stated, "Keep Calm and Pray." The other said, "Keep Calm and Trust in God." It's amazing how God communicates with us, even by using the gentlest little messengers to get His point across...