Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Feast of St. Matthew

Though I spent a lot of time at Catholic Retreats in high school, it was often just a social event. As far as past times go, it probably saved me from getting into other trouble...I was a magnet for trouble back then-- but it was not particularly beneficial spiritually. I began reading the bible seriously in the early '90's. I left my full-time job in anticipation of motherhood, working on my MPA,  and helping my girlfriend who was terminally ill with cancer. In helping Anne to die peacefully, I had to come to terms with my own beliefs and it drove me to the bible. After her death, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and my search for answers continued. I was reading the New Testament and searching for more and I started at the beginning with Matthew. When about a year later, Shawn and I had the opportunity to pursue a private adoption, we explored names. When we knew the child was to be a boy, we found the entire process of naming a baby to be more complicated than we would have thought. We decided on Matthew because he was a wonderful and strong saint who immediately chose to do Gods will when asked, though it was vastly different from his own. We chose Martin as his middle name because Matthew would be bi-racial and we wanted to name him for the strong black leader and man of peace, Martin Luther King. Matthew also means "gift from God" which we totally believed him to be on so many levels. Matthew's birth mother made a difficult choice in allowing us to raise him and completely supporting us in the entire process. She is another gift that came along with being allowed to raise this child.

Even before he was born, we prayed for Matthew. We wanted a Saint. A man who would stand up for others, have the heart of Jesus, and be able to share that love. Tall order for a young boy. While he was an amazing quiet and compliant child, he began to show a back-bone of steel. I remember when we explained to him that the dentist was making us take away his beloved pacifier, mookie. He handled it well...until after the first few nights. Then he became angry. One morning, he grabbed the phone in a burst of energy that would soon become familiar saying he was calling the dentist. In his sweet little voice he said, "hello dentist, uhuh, uhuh, uhuh. OK. goodbye dentist." Curious, since I knew he could not actually call the dentist, I asked, "what did he say?" Matthew burst into tears and said, "the dentist said no more mookie!!"

That pattern has continued to play out as we head into adulthood--though not usually not so funny. Matt will turn 16 this year. As we prayed, he has a backbone of steel, a gentle heart and giving spirit, and strong loyalty to those he deems worthy. He will hurt himself to fight a fight he believes in, though his judgement in choosing his battles is not always as mature as we, the adults in his life, would like. I hope and pray that in the years to come, we will be able to watch him mature and fully support his endeavors. 15 is such a difficult age and you can really go any way...we will try to guide him carefully and pray that other adults in his life will nurture the positive traits that have been planted in him.

From the time he was a little boy, Matthew has been curious about abortion. When he was little, he stood in the narthex of our church and  stared at a pro life poster day after day...a poster depicting a tiny baby in utero, but slightly enlarged with his little hand held out. Eventually, the poster became worn and developed a hole. My heart almost stopped the day I saw him slide his own small hand in the plastic and, comparing his hand to the babies, and seemed to give him a hug. I was snapping pictures that day for our parish, and shot one off. It has since disappeared from my library :o( but I will never forget that amazing moment. As he grew older, Matthew began to support abortion. Like many teens, he questions his parents beliefs and is unsure when life actually begins, so he is still trying to work it out in his own mind. We continue to talk with him, but hope to let him come to this decision on his begins at conception, and that means even tiny embryonic babies still have the right to life. For now, we just pray...

I mention all of this today as I reflect on next Sunday's first reading from
Ezekiel 18: 25 - 28


25 "Yet you say, `The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?

26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die.

27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life.

28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

In PA, today, leaders are meeting to discuss abortion issues at 3:00. Senator Casey will be there, among others. Sen. Casey has a long history in politics, following his father, the former Governor of PA. Bob Casey was an amazing man of God, first, but also an outstanding father, and a strong politician. I witnessed much of this first hand at the aforementioned retreat house (yes, I am long-winded and boring, but there is usually a method...). His children, maybe in particular, his boys, have tried to follow in those footsteps. Possibly because of their early exposure to politics though spending the teen years in the governors mansion, they have held senior level positions when a more senior politician like Rick Santorum, also a strong man of God that I know from my earlier days (Penn State frat house; told you I would always find trouble!!) might have been able to stand firmer on hard issues. However, Pennsylvanians voted Mr. Casey in. His father was widely popular and loved--it carried over to his boys. But now there are some spiritual repercussions to these votes. Today at three, I will be praying for Sen. Casey. Yes, the fate of unborn babies are on the line. Other precious souls will be there as well. Souls who have the ability to make a decision that will impact hisor her eternal life. Only God knows a heart, but all of PA will see the votes. On this Feast day of St. Matthew, a strong man of God who walked away from everything to follow Jesus, save souls, and his own eternal soul, Bob, we are praying for you...

Father, it is not always easy or popular to do the right thing. You tell us that babies are alive from thier conception and that life is not a choice. Many believe that there are no absolutes and that we do not have the right to impose beliefs on others. That is not true. While only You can judge a person's heart, their actions can lead us to believe we know them, too. Please keep us from judging  others. Help us to be strong in our faith and beliefs. Please be with the babies that have been murdered. Help your children, both young and old...both powerful and powerless, to stand up for what is right and good...amen.

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