IF… 09 July 2017

Back in 7th grade, Sr. Dymphna, (yes, Dymphna is a 7th century saint from Ireland) wanted us to experience some classic literature by challenging us to memorize several poems. I accepted her challenge and am ever thankful to her to this day for so many of those classic lines that are still embedded, although incomplete, in my psyche. Her challenge helped form the person I am today. Many of those rhythms, rhymes and words are like threads that weave together a fabric for strong moral living. A special poem to me is Rudyard Kipling’s, “If,” which is a litany of challenges that concludes with a promise. Here is a sample:

If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master…

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim…

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Even though it came 1800 years later, Kipling’s “If” seems to echo Paul’s letter to the Romans, today, in which four times he shares with us an “if” promise:

If only the Spirit of God dwells in you…

If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you…

If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Paul’s words, and perhaps Kipling’s as well, in turn echo the promises of Jesus in today’s Gospel:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you… and you will find rest.”

Jesus doesn’t use the word, “if.” His words are more direct but we can still hear the invitation that recognizes our freedom of choice. Jesus does not force Himself on us, nor does He promise automatic salvation. We must accept his invitation. We must choose His Way. It’s up to us.

Life is a series of choices. It contains the word, ‘if’: (life). Every promise of Christ recognizes our God-given right to Life… and our freedom to choose it.

Deacon Richard

 

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