Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Believe 3:16

So did you pick up a ticket for the recent powerball drawing?  As a general rule I'm not a lottery player, but I found myself in a gas station the night of the big drawing with a couple extra singles in my pocket and ended up getting one. 

On my drive home, like many Americans, I started musing about what I would do if I won:  What if I suddenly received a windfall beyond all imagination--how would my life be different?  What if I had the opportunity to use millions of dollars to help make the world a better place--where would I start? 

Then it occurred to me that powerball-mania might just be a metaphor for that longing we all have for more.  At some level, we all want our lives and our world to be transformed--to be made new and truly improved.  As I drove along, my question became:  What if my life already has the potential to be completely transformed?  What if I've already been given a gift which surpasses all imagining?  What if I already have the power to make the world the better place it could and should be? 

In a verse that's sometimes referred to as the "Gospel in miniature," Jesus famously proclaims: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16).  What if the simple act of believing in the Incarnate Son has the power to change everything?  Rather than rushing to check whether my numbers had come in, what if all I had to do was open my heart to God's ultimate Gift?

There are so many superstitions we buy into and false gods which we easily idolize on any given day.  We put our trust in things that will bring us wealth or health; we pursue pleasure and center our lives on fulfilling our almighty self.  But none of this ultimately gives us the fullness of life for which we long.  No, there's only one ultimate Gift:  It is a Gift which does not remain silent but which speaks in and through the Scriptures. (The podcasts in the links to the right offer weekly reflections on the Sunday readings.)

And, above all, it is a Gift which keeps on giving--a Gift offered anew each day in the Sacrament of Sacraments.  In fact, in the middle of John's Gospel, when Jesus further elaborates on this gift and on the fullness of life that comes from eating his flesh and drinking his blood, many of his disciples refuse to believe.  They abandon him and return to their former way of life.  Jesus then asks the Apostles if they were going to leave as well. 

Peter's response is spoken on behalf of all of us who want more in life:  "Master, to whom shall we go?  Who have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God" (Jn 6:68-69).  This is the Power that continues to change the world.  This Holy One of God who we look for each Advent is the one who comes to us each Christmas--as he does each day and as he will at the end of our days. 

Powerball jackpots come and go, but the offer of eternal life is present here and now.  Today.  As it turns out, the power-number is 3:16, and believing in the Incarnate Son is the ticket!