Jim Mayzik SJ                   Everything Matters
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Current homilies

Good Shepherd he, little lambs all, we

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4th  Sunday Easter C 5/12/19 MOTHERS DAY Acts 13;Rev 7;Jn10:27-30   JMayzik SJ  

Oreo  was a big, happy three-legged old mutt of a dog, who lived with my sister and her family up in Vermont.   In her prime she would fight the good fight with the dastardly squirrels, who taunted her constantly, but they were too clever and she was too dumb and she rarely won the good fight.  She was always a good dog—friendly, gentle with children, a great tail-wagger—and like all dogs, always ravenously hungry.

When I visited her in Vermont, once or twice a year, she would go crazy the minute she heard the sound of my voice.  It was a very strange phenomenon.  Over the 12 or so years of her life, I spent very little time with her, but each and every time I did, she acted as though I am her sole reason for being—aside, of course, from chasing those nasty squirrels.  All I’d have to do would be to call her name, talk to her like humans talk to dogs—yes, you are such a goooood dog, aren’t you, Oreo, yesssss, you are---and she started whimpering and moaning, almost singing to the sound of my silly dog voice.  I could whip her up into a near frenzy by speaking to her that way, I could get her to do anything—even make her forget her food, at least for a moment.  Something about me, about my voice—she went nuts.  And everyone in the family watched on in awe.  It was pretty funny, but also a little daunting to have that kind of effect on her.

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Sometimes, when she was asleep on her bed in the corner of the kitchen, she whimpered and cried, and I wondered who she was seeing in her dreams, who she heard then, if not me.  Maybe it was her mama, maybe she was recalling some moment when she was a little pup.

Like a baby’s dream, don’t you think? Like the baby I was holding in my arms recently.

She was a week old, just one week in the world, and her eyes were so heavy with sleep she couldn’t keep them open more than a rolling flutter, and good for her, that: if she had been able to pry them open for even a few seconds she would have had to endure the sight of my gigantic nose and toothy smile, a fright no child deserves in the first week of her life.  Nestled in my arms, this little life: miniature fingers, button nose, itsy bitsy transparent ears.   I was holding her, or was she holding me?  I whispered to her:  “Before you were born, sweet child, there was a world… with leaves in it… and people whispering… and dogs leaping for joy… and, you were not there… .  Then, blinding, dazzling crash of light!  You are born, baby… and you are… here.”  Welcome, child.   Welcome to life. 

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She slept on in my arms, unfearing, oblivious, secure.  All around her the world was spinning: garbage trucks roaring, computers humming, pizza flying in the air.  Out there, beyond the cradle of my arms, politicians scheming, neighbors screaming, refugees teeming.  Inside, in my arms, this child dreaming, dreaming, safe, untouched. The voice that spoke to her said:  All is well, all will be well.    

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb… Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went… everywhere that Mary went,

her lamb was sure to go. 

She was 95, just 95 years in the world, and her eyes were shut to the light of the world, tighter than a drum, and she slept on beside me in her hospital chair, and good for that too: no need to be disturbed by my worried and saddened face.  I held her hands—wrinkled, warm, soft hands---hands that had held me, tousled my hair, tickled my chin.  I held her as she held me, and she clasped on gently, urgently.  I whispered to her: “All your life, sweet aunt, you made a world… with love in it… and children laughing… and pennies dancing… Then, slowly, surely, descending darkness, declining brightness, increasing silence: you are, still… you are returning.”

She slept on, her hands locked on mine, clinging to love as the night slowly descended upon her life.  All systems slowly shutting down, the blanket of Alzheimers closing out the light, and the best I could do was hold her warm soft hands to assure her of my love.  Outside, the world was spinning: supermarkets stocking, safety deposits locking, millennials rocking.  Inside, within the Virgin Mary blue walls of the nursing home, this child clutching, our hands touching.  It’s all right auntie: all is well, all will be well.

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, litlle lamb… Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow.

And everywhere that Mary went, Mary went, Mary went… everywhere that Mary went,

her lamb was sure to go. 

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Sometimes late at night, when even the sirens fade and the city finally quiets down, I will awake with a startle, chasing the echo of a voice from my own dream—a word, or a phrase, or perhaps just a sound.   It catches me at times, mid-response, my voice breaking the dark silence of the room.  Huh?  What?  Where are…? But I’m not…  I lie there in my bed, my heart sometimes strangely racing, excited by…what?  The possibility?  The presence?  The Providence of my dream?  Listening like the pup, the baby, the aunt, for the voice, the words we need to hear?  Who calls me in mid-night slumber? To whom am I speaking, and who am I with?  After many years, I know one thing:  I am being  spoken to.   There are whispers and murmurs, still, small voices singing to me, inviting, summoning, naming.  I am a child again, an infant, a pup, and at my most fundamental level, I am completely dependent. 

I don’t know who I am, what I’m good at, what I should be doing, sometimes I don’t have even have a clue about how to survive.  But I know someone is speaking to me, softly, tenderly, like my mama. 

It’s at times like that, late in the night, that I gather into my arms the sleeping infant of myself, all limp in my tattered blanket, and offer myself up, lifting wobbly head and arms up to the moonlit sky, to receive the Word that is spoken just for me, the voice of the Good Shepherd.

He speaks, not in words.  When I am most dependent, He speaks to me and you heart to hear,.   Yearning, on both sides.  His yearning to be in and with you, your yearning to be complete.    The Good Shepherd, his voice, our hearts.

And so it is, and so it has been, and so it will be.  From the very beginning to the very end, we remain… little lambs, little lambs.  And from the very beginning to the very end, through all the moments of our lives, within every day and every hour, we remain nestled in His love.  The Good Shepherd he, little lambs all, we. 

Through all our struggles--all the wrangling, all the vanities, all the greediness—we hunger at our deepest center to be held in His love, to be secure, and safe, and untouched.   And we are--despite our unseemly tantrums, our bitter arguments, our boastful taunting, our selfish hoarding, our lustful sexing, our petty jealousies---we are safe, and secure and unharmed and untouchable in his love. 

The Good Shepherd lays down his life on it, no matter our ingratitude or our indifference to him.  That is what a mother is, it is what a father does, and the Good Shepherd feeds his flock and gathers us into his arms, and leads us all home, where it is warm, and lovely, and bright.

“After you are re-born… there is a world… with light in it… and peace surrounding.  Then… wonderful, happy, incredible joy!  You are… in Him… always and forever, in love.”  

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JAMES MAYZIKComment