1 My Jesus Moment Have you ever had a Jesus moment? That s what a doctor said to me about my time in the emergency room several years ago. He looked at the test results and said, You know, Father, you could have died. Consider that a Jesus Moment. Take what I am saying to you seriously. Focus on your health and be well. I don t know if the doctor was a Christian, but I am amazed he used the term Jesus Moment to describe my condition. It all started very unexpectedly one early January day. I was at my physician s office complaining of chest and back pain. All of a sudden I became nauseous, sweaty, and white as a ghost. It was serious enough for the doctor to call the ambulance which raced me to the hospital. Frankly, as the ambulance was speeding to the hospital, I thought I was going to die, but thankfully I recovered sufficiently to be discharged from the hospital late that evening. Today, several years later, I am in good health, but my Jesus Moment has stayed with me. As a priest, I am well aware that at some point in my life I am going to die as we all are. Life on this earth doesn t last forever. We get sick or old, we start to fail physically or even mentally, and eventually we die. As Ash Wednesday reminds us, we are mortal and to dust we shall return. Some of us may act like we will live
2 forever, but we won t. Some of us may even think of ourselves as indispensable, but as Charles De Gaulle famously observed, The graveyards are filled with indispensable men. One of my favorite verses of scripture, one that I find myself pondering more frequently as I get older, is Psalm 90:12: So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom. If you were to do that number your days you would come up with a number somewhere around 31,025. That s assuming you reach 85 years of age which a healthy American with good medical care should be expected to live 31,025 days. That sounds like a lot, but then there are those unexpected Jesus Moments that could threaten you at any time. My Jesus Moment a real blessing in hindsight prompted me to rethink my priorities in life, my reason for being, my purpose for existence, and how I want to live the remainder of my life. Sometimes it takes a Jesus Moment to make busy people slow down and heed the advice of Jonathan Swift: May you live every day of your life. Jesus lived about 12,045 days on this earth, and yet historians and theologians agree that he was the most influential person who ever lived. From age twelve, he demonstrated that he knew his life s purpose: to do the will of God. Even when God s will for him was painful, even when his friends abandoned him at his hour
3 of greatest need, he still lived only to fulfill God s will for his life. In our gospel passage today, we read that Jesus and his disciples passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands; and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again. But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him. The reason Jesus understood his purpose so clearly is because he was thinking with the mind of God. Throughout the gospels, we read of Jesus spending time in prayer. Through prayer, he filled his mind with the thoughts of God, he filled his heart with the will of God, he filled his mouth with the words of God, and he pointed his feet in the ways of God, even when that way led to death on a cross. But it s painfully obvious in this passage that Jesus friends did not understand him. What s worse, they didn t want to understand him. They were afraid to know the truth. That s the challenge Jesus faced in our gospel today. He has used up about 12,037 of his 12,045 days. If he is ever going to teach his disciples about the purpose of their lives, now is the time. How would they be living if their plans were perfectly aligned with God s will? The answer was surprising then, and it s still a
4 challenge for us today. Sitting down, Jesus called the twelve and said to them, Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all. Jesus was telling his disciples that there is more to life than being number one. He was trying to help them put things into perspective and gain a sense of balance about what it means to live life as a human being fully alive to God and one another. Some anonymous writer put it like this: Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air. You name them: work, family, health, friends and faith, and you re keeping them all in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls family, health, friends, and faith are made of glass. If you drop any one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. Think about it. Work is a rubber ball but the other important things in life family, health, friends and faith, are made of glass. If you neglect these concerns in your quest to be number one, your life will not really be a success. Several years ago Tom Bloch resigned as CEO of H&R Block, the multi-billion dollar tax-preparation and financial-services firm. Tom left behind his prestigious job to become a teacher at St. Francis
5 Xavier middle school in Kansas City, Missouri. His annual salary suddenly dropped to less than $15,000 a year, about three percent of his old salary. But Bloch knew his hectic schedule as CEO had been interfering with his top priority: his wife and two sons. The hardest part was telling my father, Bloch says, referring to H&R Block chairman Henry Bloch, who co-founded the company in But I didn t want to look back on my life, Bloch continues, and say, Gee, you had an opportunity to play a bigger role in your children s lives and didn t take it. Tom Bloch knew which ball was made of rubber and which was made of glass. Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, says that many of us are torn between the compass and the clock between what s deeply important to us and the way we spend our time. The clock represents our commitments, appointments, schedules, goals and activities how we manage our time based on the demands of our lives. The compass represents our vision, values, principles, mission, conscience, direction how we lead our lives based on what we feel is important. The tension comes when we sense a gap between the clock and the compass when what we do doesn t contribute to what is most important in our lives. You probably have heard someone say to you, I feel like I am
6 being torn apart. My family is important to me; so is my work. I live with constant conflict, trying to juggle the demands of both. And I wonder if it is possible to be really successful and happy at the office and at home. Or another person will say, Everyone tells me I am highly successful. I ve worked and scraped and sacrificed, and I ve made it to the top. But I m not happy. Way down inside I have this empty feeling. And I keep thinking of the song that says, Is that all there is? Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys is one of the most successful quarterbacks in professional football. He is now retired and a football announcer on television. He recalled the night of his first Super Bowl victory. He delayed attending the party with his teammates, instead ordering a beer from room service and sitting alone in his hotel room for a couple of hours. He said, I kept thinking back to the time when I was a teenager how I thought that all my problems in life would be solved the moment I turned sixteen and was able to get a car. Well, here I was at the top of professional football, and I found myself thinking, Now what? Is it possible to feel so empty at the pinnacle of success? Can we identify with any of that? We painstakingly climb the ladder of success rung by rung only to discover as we reach the top rung that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. Absorbed in ascent, we leave a trail of shattered relationships and missed moments of deep living. In our race up the ladder, many of us
7 simply do not take the time to do what matters most. Troy Aikman discovered that success wasn t enough. There are other things that are more important in life family, friends, health and faith. These are glass balls. Someone has said that we should imagine what people say about us at our funeral. Many of the things we think important may not be mentioned, but the little things like our caring, our compassion, and our concern for others will surely be mentioned. The point in life is to love to give love, to share love, to be loved and to love others. The more loving we are, the more caring we are, the more we share ourselves with those in need, the brighter, better place our world becomes. Sometimes it is children who teach us the most important lessons of life. Thanks to Allison I have learned so much, not only about Down syndrome, but about what it means to be a loving human being. You will notice that almost always Allison has a smile on her face. She loves life, but she is the most non-competitive person in the world. Winning doesn t matter to her. Loving is what matters, and that s something she knows how to share with others. In her own way, she is making this world a brighter, better place.
8 I remember a story about a young man with Down syndrome who took part in Special Olympics. His name was David. He had trained very hard for this race and had a good chance of winning. David was running toward the finish line, about to win the race. The crowd was cheering him on. Suddenly a teammate stumbled and fell. David stopped. His face twisted. Then he bent down, hauled the other boy to his feet, wrapped an arm around him, and dragged him forward. Beaming, they finished the race together. Yes, it s true love wins! My Jesus Moment taught me that we have only so many days on this earth. I hope I get to 31,025 days, but if not, I want to live whatever time I have on this earth well. I want to be the servant that Jesus expects all his disciples to be. In fact, when I retired from parish ministry after my Jesus Moment, I took as my motto, Following Jesus in service to others. Whether as a lawyer or a priest, I ve tried to be true to that calling and live as if each day matters because it does. The question for all of us is: How will we make the most of the time we have left? Time is running out. Use your days wisely. Do the best you can with the gifts God has given you. Realize your full potential. Be the best you can. There is nothing wrong with any of that. But keep in mind: we are all juggling balls in the air.
9 One ball is made of rubber; the others are made of glass. Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls family, health, friends and faith are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. They will never be the same. Dr. Gary Nicolosi September 23, 2018 Text Mark 9:30-37 Proper 20, B