DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     June 24, 1999     vol. 10, no. 122


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
          Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

          Today Pat addresses the age-old dilemna of the axiom, "God helps those who help themselves." But he doesn't refer to the selfish aspect of helping themselves, but rather utilizing the God-given gifts we have been given to give back to God all that He expects of us. It reminds one of the passage in Luke 11: 13 and Luke 12: 48, "But of everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and of him to whom they have entrusted much, they will demand more."

Give and Take

          A fellow who was in danger of losing his home and family prayed for help. God told him not to worry, that he would win the lottery and save his home and family. Relieved, he waited. One week, two, a month, two months, three. Nothing happened. Frustrated, he complained. "Lord, you said I'd win the lottery and all would be fine." "My child", he heard the Lord respond, "You have to buy a ticket."

          This is one of two ways of looking at the way Christ interacts with us. We were promised such and such, so there is no need for us to do anything. Imagine a farmer who relies on the Lord and doesn't plant his crop. Not only will his field remain devoid of any plant life (save weeds), but the people needing the crop will go without.

          The other is the "The Lord helps those who help themselves." Now we have the farmer who plants his crop, diverts the river to water it, lays down tons of pesticides to keep insects away, and other measures to keep mice and rabbits from eating it. But soon, the rain comes and washes the crops away because of too much water (while the community which relied on the river is lacking water). The crop is tainted from the pesticides, while rot and decay claim the rest. Both extremes miss something important. One says, "Let God do it alone." While the other said "God won't do it so I better."

          "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah 31:31-33).

          "Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God" (Jeremiah 32:37-38).

          The notion missed is that of a covenant, an agreement. We follow the Lord in our lives and in our heart, and He cares for us as a loving Father. We bind ourselves to Him and He cares for us.

          "Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:29-30). A yoke is a burden. We used to put a yoke on an ox to plow the fields. Christ is asking us to place His 'yoke' on ourselves. A burden which He uses to guide us.

          "And He said to all, 'If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me'" (Luke 9:23).

          God asks little of us. Consider the painting of God and Adam in the Sistine Chapel. Adam is reclining, almost relaxing, holding a finger out, but just barely. Yet, it is God who is stretching out His arm to Adam. His angels are supporting Him, helping Him reach Adam. With just a little more effort on Adam's part, he would be 'touched' by God. God is doing all He can to reach Adam.

          While he was the Archbishop of Krakow, Pope John Paul II said how God doesn't ask the impossible of us (that's His department). We do what we can and He accepts that, uses that. Could the miracles at Lourdes have occurred if St. Bernadette hadn't done what our Lady asked and dig into the soil, releasing the spring? To our eyes, it would be too simple, too foolish. Could the miracle of the Incarnation have occurred if Mary hadn't said yes? In fact, no miracle could have occurred without some human involvement. In fact, if it weren't for the involvement of the priest, we would not have the miracle of the Holy Eucharist with us each and every day.

          In fact, doesn't it seem that so few 'miracles' do occur precisely because we either do nothing or want to do everything. We either don't buy the ticket, or try to buy them all. We either sit back and figure God will heal all wounds, mend all schisms, and we need to do nothing. Or we go off trying to get laws passed, revoked, etc. that God works through political action committees.

          To each of us, God gave a gift. For some, it's merely to teach their children. For others, to teach a parish's children. But whatever our calling, business, home, politics, military, whatever, the heart is the place we need to place God. Trusting in Him (even if it looks as though we've been abandoned), hoping in Him (even when things look hopeless), and relying on Him. When we do this, and people see that we do this, then what miracles (great and small) might God perform through us.

          God makes the plant grow, but we plant the seed.

      Pax Christi, Pat

June 24, 1999       volume 10, no. 122


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