Friday, April 21, 2017

Keeping Our Eyes Fixed On Jesus

Saint John Bosco worked tirelessly with the youth of Turin, Italy. He had a special passion for children who were delinquent and who were often in trouble. His loving and playful disposition would often win them over and save them from a life of crime.

One day, he saw a tightrope walker and was fascinated by how the young man could walk on such a small rope without falling. He asked if the tightrope walker would teach him how to do the same. So they took a rope and tied it between two trees about three feet off the ground. Saint John Bosco stepped on the rope and steadied himself by holding on to the tree trunk. When he let go, however, he lost his balance and fell off the rope. Never one to give up easily, he climbed back up, held on to the tree to get his balance and started walking. This time he was able to take one step but, once again, he lost his balance and fell to the ground.

The tightrope walker told him, “Your problem is that you are so afraid of falling that you are looking down at your feet. The trick to mastering this skill is to not look down or not look to the side. You must look straight ahead and put one foot in front of the other with confidence.”

Taking the advice to heart, Saint John Bosco climbed back on the rope and forced himself not to look down but to look straight ahead. With that he was able to make his way across the rope to the other side.

When talking to young people, Saint John Bosco would often tell them this story, sometimes even climbing up on a rope to show them that it worked. He would tell them that, if they kept their eyes always fixed on Jesus, they would be able to make it through the challenges of life without losing their balance and falling.

Saint Paul tells us in today’s second reading, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

We so often lose our balance and fall because we are looking at everything else except Jesus risen from the dead.

We often are looking at other people and wondering what they think. We are too busy measuring ourselves up to their expectations rather than seeking what pleases God. When we do so, we get so wrapped up in what our friends, co-workers, classmates or family want that we do not even know what we want for ourselves. Focused on what others demand from us rather than what Jesus does will lead us to lose our balance and fall.

Other times we have our eyes focused on our own weakness. Looking to the past, we see how many mistakes we have made and lose our confidence in the future. We think our sins are too great for the Lord to forgive and that our weakness will make it impossible for God to work through us. Sometimes we get so down on ourselves that we think we deserve it when others mistreat us. When we take our eyes off Jesus and His merciful love, we lose our balance and fall.

Oftentimes we take our eyes off Jesus because we become enchanted with the things of this world. The pursuit of power, pleasure and possessions can become all-consuming. We believe that positions of authority, money and status will fulfill us. When chasing the things of this world, we can lose sight of what our hearts truly desire - communion with our Risen Lord. In short order, we lose our way and lose ourselves in the process.

If we are to keep our balance in this life and not fall, we must constantly keep our eyes fixed on our Risen Lord.

By dying on the cross and rising from the dead, He has conquered sin and death.

We do not have to be focused on our fears, then. Our Risen Lord has conquered death. We do not have to be focused on our weakness because our Risen Lord has conquered sin. We do not have to be focused on what others think because the only standard we need to measure ourselves by is the love that Jesus has shown by dying on the cross for us. And we do not have to focus on the fleeting things of this world which always disappoint us and leave us feeling empty. Our Risen Lord has shown us the way to the eternal life our hearts desire and the friendship with God for which our spirits long.

Saint Paul says a curious thing in today’s second reading. He says, “If you have been raised with Christ..”. What can he mean by that? The people he was writing to hadn’t died yet.  How could they be raised with Christ?

He is talking about baptism. Through baptism we die with Christ and are raised to new life through the Spirit. The waters of baptism, in effect, drown our egotistical selves and we rise up with the hope of everlasting life with God. That everlasting life is not just something we will experience in Heaven. We experience it already today when we choose love over hatred, when we overlook what we want to serve the wants of the poor, when we choose forgiveness over revenge and when we work for justice rather than for our own benefit. That everlasting life of Heaven which we experience already today is what we should be keeping our eyes focused on if we want to keep our balance through the trials of this life.

This Easter Day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. He rises from the dead as the conqueror of sin and death. His victory can only make a difference in our lives if we decide to take our eyes off  what others expect, off our own sinfulness and off the things of this life and focus on Him. Then we will be transformed by His love and share in His victory over sin and death. We will not lose our balance but can walk with confidence, step by step, up until we see Him face to face in the everlasting glory of Heaven. 

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