As I just mentioned to the children I now open up to all of us: We have a choice every day to live the authentic Christian life. Or we can give in every moment to pretend that we're living the Christian life. All of us, at one time or another or several times a day have to say, “You know, sometimes I do pretend that I am Catholic. I know the difference. I know when I am pretending, and I know when it's really coming from my heart.
“And when it comes from my heart I have nothing to hide. I don't have to make up any stories. I just know that these are my blessings, and these are my gifts, and these are my strengths. But if I don't believe that, then I will give in to pretending and I will try to make something look good, I will try to fool someone else. But in the end I know that's not me.”
So Jesus is saying to all of us, “The challenge is that for every moment in your life to be honest with yourself, and when you are honest with yourself only the good things are going to come forth. And people will accept you, people will love you, and people will believe in you.”
To give you an example: There was a young boy who was born a few years ago and when he came into the world he was minus one hand. As he became older he began to realize that he wasn't like his sisters and brothers and other kids. They all had two hands, but he had one hand. His parents never made an issue of it, and he didn't think he was different. He didn't look at himself as being handicapped. He just thought, “God made me with one hand, so if I've only got one hand - I live with one hand.”
His parents encouraged him to accept the situation - that this was normal. When he got old enough he saw other kids playing ball. He was trying to figure it out and thought, “How do I do this if God gave me only one hand? The other kids can pitch the ball and hit it with the bat.”
He watched them and finally figured it out. He would put the ball in his mouth, and put the bat in his one hand. He would spit out the ball and hit it using his one good arm and hand. He did it often enough that he became very good at it. He learned that when he got up to bat, he didn't need two hands, he only needed one hand.
For most kids today, there is so much to be involved in. And for everything they do there is some trophy attached. So if you walk into a kid's bedroom today, no matter what sport or activity he or she is in, you will see all kinds of trophies and medals and everything else. If you walk into this kid's bedroom, the child with only one hand - you find out his bedroom is no different from any other child's bedroom. He's got trophies and medals all over the place. And when he goes out to play he's one of them. He's not any different. He likes who he is, and his parents have taught him to believe in himself.
It's a powerful message for all of us. You and I may have two hands, but there is something else that we don't have.
Something that we are doing now in our parish is a program called “Living Your Strengths.” Some of you have participated in this program, and I hope many of you will take the class in the future for your own good. If I walk through here today and I ask you, “Are you a good singer?”
“Oh, no,” you answer. “Just ask me to do anything but don't ask me to sing. Don't ask me to get up there. If you think I'm going to take Denny's place you've got another thought coming! I mean, I can't carry a note.”
But if I walk around and I ask each one of you, “What is it that you really do well and you love to do?”
Someone might answer, “I love to play poker.” Another may say, “I love to bake cookies and give them away.” Someone else might say, “I just love kids. I could be around them all day long.”
Well, if there's something you have a passion for - that is what you should focus on. Maybe you are not gifted enough to sing the whole scale and to get up and cantor, and do things and get on the stage, but then take that person and support them. And do what you can do best. Jesus says, “It all comes from within. I want you to know one thing - when I created all of you I never made a mistake. Never once have I made a mistake. You are all made to my image and I want you to know that.”
We baptize Kyla, and she is just a beautiful child. She is going to learn that some things in life she is going to do just so easily. Maybe there are some things that will be difficult and God's not going to give her that blessing - and she doesn't need to worry about those things. She just needs to be that beautiful child of God doing things that come so natural.
That's why Jesus says, “Don't spend your whole life pretending. It's a waste of time. But learn to live what you have inside of you.”
Jesus reminds us, “We all have laws. And we need to abide by them. But the real meaning of a law is that I take the spirit of that law and I make it my own.” There is a street sign in town that says, “Go 30 miles an hour.” If I'm a kid I don't care how many street signs say “30 miles an hour” because I don't get behind the wheel of the car and drive.
Then there's another sign that says, “Please don't litter the street.” And there's a basket there to put the litter in. Kyla can't read that sign, but most of us can. And most of us pretend. Have you ever noticed, you do something and then you look around to see if anybody was watching. Beware now, with all the cell phones you may be on U-Tube. You may say, “Oh, I never did that.” Then someone comes back and shows you a phone and says, “This looks like you. And I'm sending it all over the world right now.” Jesus says, “You know, we didn't have U-Tube back in the days when I preached the Gospel.
But you really haven't changed - it's all from within that makes the difference.”
So today may you and I think about our lives, and when you and I find ourselves pretending, we may look in the mirror and say, “Who are you kidding?” And God says, “When you look in the mirror you will see that beautiful person that I created. Remember, in my eyes you are perfect. So strive for that perfection.”
Leave the pretending to the amateurs, the people who are desiring to know who God is. Because once we know who God is, there is no reason to pretend.
Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.