Knowing the Father…
There once was a boy…a school-age boy…who was constantly late coming home after school. His parents tried everything to get him to come home on time, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, out of frustration, one morning the father gave his son a stern warning. He looked straight into the boy’s eyes and said, “Son, if you are late today, all you will get for dinner tonight will be a single slice of bread and a glass of water.” He made sure his son understood the warning, and after agreeing to be home on time, the boy ran out the door for school. That same afternoon, the boy came home later than ever. At dinnertime, the family sat down to eat. The boy looked around to see everyone’s plates filled with delicious food…but in front of him was a plate with a single slice of bread…and a small glass of water. The reality of the consequence of his action began to sink in as tears began to well up in his eyes. He knew he had no excuse. His dad had clearly warned him. But, as he was trying to keep from crying, he noticed that his plate was being slid away…and his father’s plate was being set before him. His dad had switched plates with him.
The father would eat the slice of bread for dinner, in place of his son. He would take the punishment upon himself. He would pay the consequences of his son’s action.
When that boy grew up, he used to say that he always knew what God was like, because of the example set by his father.
This was a story told by Fr. Jason Charron, to our 40 Days for Life team during our team mini-retreat on Monday. Fr. Jason began by asking, “Why did God choose such a terrible way to redeem us?” “Why the CROSS?” He is God, after all…he could have chosen any way that he wanted! Why suffer in such a horrible way? It is a question that I often wondered myself. But I think that this story illustrates the reason. After all, if the dad had simply given in to his feeling of compassion for his son and withheld the punishment…if he had just given his son a plate of food…the boy would not have learned the important lesson that actions have consequences…and he would have continued to come home late. But, seeing his FATHER pay the consequence that HE should have paid himself…seeing his father SUFFER because of HIS actions…now THAT taught him a lesson that he never forgot.
God knows our weakness. He knows that we are a lustful, greedy, selfish, prideful and ungrateful bunch. It required something RADICAL to make us change our ways. What could be more radical than the cross?
Fr. Jason also said that people naturally want to follow someone who is doing something radical. He gave the example of the diabolically evil organization of ISIS. As terrible as they are…they are certainly disciplined….and people follow them. So, if an evil organization like ISIS attracts followers because of their radical nature…how many more people would the CHURCH attract if it were living out the RADICAL teachings of Christ? The Gospel is radical…but do we live it? Do we truly love our enemies? Do we truly bless those who hurt us? Are we truly willing to give everything away in order to follow Jesus? Fr. Jason said that whenever someone who has absolutely nothing to gain, gives himself away for the good of someone else…it has a powerful impact!
That is what we do on the sidewalk, he said. The work we do is redemptive. Not that Christ needs any help from us…he explained…mankind’s redemption was completed IN FULL by Jesus’ death on the cross! Nothing can be added to it! However, in Colossians 1:24, Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church…” Now Paul certainly was not saying that Jesus’ work of redemption was lacking anything. Fr. Jason explained that what St. Paul meant is that, although the work of redemption was completed on that cross on Calvary 2,000 years ago…what is lacking is the TIME and SPACE of 2,000 years! After all, how are our neighbors to KNOW about it, unless they see us living it HERE and NOW???
So, he went on to say that when a couple enters the doors of Planned Parenthood, forsaking their own flesh and blood…WE are there to claim their child for them.
As they are unwilling to sacrifice 9 months of their time to bring their child to term…WE are willing to sacrifice OUR time to pray on the sidewalk.
As they want to avoid the anger and threats of their family members or boyfriends…WE lovingly endure the occasional (and sometimes frequent) angry rants from people on the sidewalk.
As they are seeking to avoid the shame of an unwanted pregnancy…WE willingly accept the shame and humiliation of being mocked for our witness.
As they try to avoid the pain and discomfort that they fear a child will bring to their lives…WE are there to take on their pain and discomfort by enduring the bitter cold, freezing rain and snow.
They can’t….we can. They won’t…so we will.
Redemptive. Filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.
Now, for today’s reports from the sidewalk…
Charlene was the shift manager from 7-9 and wrote:
Today was rainy and snowy at 7AM. PP looked dark and foreboding…the way we on the sidewalk see it always. A scary place. As we stand and pray, we want to reach those entering. On Tuesday, Fr. Dave Pivoka from Redeemed on Line and Matthew Kelly from Dynamic Catholic both spoke of fear…fear we all feel at times in our lives…the fear the apostles felt in their boat in the storm. The Lord said,”Have no fear. I am with you” Not I will fix it…calm the waters…I am with you. We on the sidewalk know God is with us and that’s what we try to convey to those entering,”God is with you in this storm and he can help you calm the storm…the right way”.
Today I shared the sidewalk with Peggy and Vicki and had a quiet time in prayer… no clients going in…no storms.
Cathy managed the vigil from 9-11 and wrote:
Fr. Chris and Dolores from St. Raphael’s came today to pray and witness, as did Therese from St. Barbara’s, and Bill. It was a fairly quiet shift. However, one man did stop to talk and tell his story. He said he was in agreement with us and had always been prolife. But in his past he had had an affair and the woman got pregnant. While she wanted to have the baby, his first thought was “We can’t have this baby!” The thought lasted just a few minutes and he came around and they had the baby. Now he looks at his little girl and wonders how he could have ever thought that an abortion would have been the right choice.
Hank was in charge from 11-1 and reports:
What a wonderful day! Most of the shift there were 17 people praying. The Guardians For Life were there in full force and praying for the full 2 hours. Theresa from St.Barbara was there for the 11-1 shift warmly greeting people passing by and praying. Also 5 individuals from St.Bernadette did one hour shifts 11-12 and 12-1. While it was cold, it was not snowing or raining and the only thing coming down were the graces from our Good Lord in response to all the prayers being offered to end the sin of abortion. There were only a few individuals that entered PP it was not an abortion day. There did not seem to be the usual street traffic today, but there were a few good encounters. Terri spoke at length to two different couples and gave them literature. We received many good responses to our presence and no negatives. Blessed be the Lord our Savior.
Chris wrote from the 1-3 shift:
What a joy to have so many prayer warriors with me today! Sal, Diane and Sue joined me from St. Bernadette’s; Iris joined me from my parish, St. John Neumann, and Sheila came from Mother of Sorrows parish. Ed prayed during his lunch hour from his job downtown. Father Tony, pastor at St. Bernadette’s, came for the second hour and led us in the Rosary. We had a few positive comments and many passersby looked at the new fetal models. There were two negatives worth mentioning. First, a late-teen woman walked by and said, ”It’s not alive!” I responded that the baby’s heart starts beating around Day 18. She kept on walking. While I wasn’t looking, a man spit on the largest fetal model in the enclosed display. Please pray for both of them.
Barbara and Richard managed the vigil from 3-5
This afternoon Richard and I were joined by Bill, an Evangelist and preacher. Bill has plans to go to DC to see the new Bible museum. He is a long time prolife supporter.
George came just as Joe, shift manager, was getting there. Both are Knights of Columbus in McKeesport. In between times, we stood alone, each choosing a different side of the front door.
It always seems that more people speak to you when you stand praying alone.
One woman saw the unborn baby models and her face fell apart. She looked at me.
“They told me my baby was just a bunch of cells…not a baby. I believed them. The first time I saw these babies, I almost had a nervous breakdown.”
She thinks about this baby every day. She thinks the baby was a girl and decided to call her Elizabeth. She now has a another daughter.
So many people thanked us for being there.
The killing of a baby by abortion is silent and invisible. The dead baby parts are counted and quickly wrapped out of sight.
Killed dead babies did not cry. Only the staff at the abortion site can see the baby body.
I pray that the horror they see and do will break their heart, and that they will ask God for a new one.
Joe K. 5-7
Arrived for the shift and received the usual warm greeting from Barbara. My brother Knight Mike P. was there from St. Patrick’s in McKeesport as well as Jim (who usually stops on his way home from work). I was then blessed as Mary Catherine and her daughter Ann from St. Scholastica joined us. It amazed me that that mother and daughter didn’t flinch at the weather – which the breeze made it feel much colder this evening – two tough customers! Sidewalk Advocate Jim also stopped by on his way home to say hello and lend support…
Overall, the evening was fairly quiet, not even much comment, though most was positive. …and..Hooray! one week without any cigarette incidents!!!
We admired the beautiful new fetal models which were expertly secured / displayed (Thanks Tom, Diane, and Penney) and shared.
Mary Catherine and Ann shared stories of their involvement in the Pro-Life movement – Mary Catherine back to 1969 and how they once met Bernard Nathanson’s (Silent Scream) wife at a trial in Pittsburgh back a few years…
Before the night ended a brief, but beautiful snow squall came through and snow-globed us… It felt very Christmas-y… and what a beautiful way to summarize this evening!