January 17, 2024, 6:00 AM

Franciscan Fractals: “Reconsidering”

Contemplating today’s culture with the wisdom of Jesus and St. Francis.

The appointed time has grown short. For the present form of this world is passing away. I Corinthians 7:29a, 31b

Large merry-go-rounds fascinate me, especially the ones with the large painted, undulating horses and winterlike sleighs that offer refuge for those who wish not to ride the dashing steeds. As the music starts, the horses and sleighs slowly move out of site, as though they are going on a long journey. The line of moving horses disappear only to reappear again from around the far side of the platform.

Grown-ups as well as children seem to like the swirl of a turning merry-go-round, at least for a short period of time. It is a safe journey, since riders are caught up by the merry-go-round traveling a redundant path over and over again, until the machinery finally stops. Getting off, they step into the same world from which they began. In time, they purchase another ticket, and repeat the same ride over again.

Despite the rhythmic ride of the merry-go-round, few people consider its construction, builders, or the creator of the ride. What was the merry-go-round’s original purpose? Was it to create a hypnotic, if not soporific event, or was it an event to allow the riders to expand their experience of this world – one that might go beyond their present imagination?

Jesus seems to have encountered a “merry-go-round” experience when he called his first disciples who were fishermen. They loaded up their nets, rowed out their boat, cast the nets, and, hopefully, hauled in the fish. They did the same the next day, and the day after that. It was an around-and-around event for them, that is, until Jesus stopped their routine, and called them to repent and follow him.

Repentance in Greek is thought of as “changing one’s mind” or “reconsidering.” It is not always connected with sin. The first disciples had to “reconsider” or “change their mind” about what they were doing and how they were living in order to get off of their fishing merry-go-round.

Christ’s call for us to “reconsider” and “change our minds” is profound. Too many of us use the church as a merry-go-round. We enter the church doors, hop on board by picking a pew, ride through the service, and then exit having paid for the ride with an offering. The next week we do the same. The pattern soon becomes mistaken for a ritual that make us “holy,” over the years for some and decades for others.

We think that we have really gone somewhere, only to find that over the years we are simply in the same place where we began. forget that the Christian life is about following Christ by “reconsidering” and “changing our minds” about a LOT OF THINGS. Many of those things can be upsetting, including our use of money, our self-centeredness, our loyalty to certain political affiliations, our displaced anger, our avoidance of others, our sporadic and intermittent prayer life, and our escape from intimacy with God.

The church does not have a magic ritual or formula to get to Heaven. The call of Jesus is to “reconsider changing our mind,” especially about the beliefs that you and I may have held for decades about sacred things. We need to travel outside of our comfort zones in order to get clear.

Christ appears in our lives when clarity reveals itself through silence and contemplative prayer. The result is that we are moved to change direction so that we become more and more engaged in restoring the world to goodness. Without doing so, the merry-go-round” of our lives continues to go around and around holding out only an illusion of a life well lived.

Remember, Heaven will never be found by offboarding at the same place that you and I began.

Prayers and Blessings,

Fr. John