An October 2020 Reflection written by John Houk
While Joan is “busy with many things” I have time to reflect, and October is my favorite month. I remember another October when Joan was invited to participate in the ordination of a new bishop that would take place in Stuttgart. She asked me if I would like to go along. My response was Germany in October? Of course, I want to go, and I want us to go a few days early so we can enjoy Oktoberfest, and so we did.
The room in our motel was average size, but the exterior window was huge, floor to ceiling almost wall to wall so we could look out on the world with, of course, the world looking in on us. The bathroom with its shower was set off with walls. The shower wall itself faced the living space, with its great glass window, and the shower wall was clear glass.
“Adam and his wife, Eve, heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to Adam and said, ‘Where are you?’ Adam answered, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked.’ God said, ‘Who told you you were naked?’” The Lord God’s question continues to echo down through the ages. Who told Adam he was naked?
October is the month we remember Saint Francis. I love the story of his conversion from rich kid to poor man, and the freedom he experienced and now shares with us 800 years later. He was free to be. Francis, the poor man, was free to be himself. In the October of our lives, can we be free to be ourselves? Walk with me as we reflect on these two questions.
Adam was a creature of the natural world, then, suddenly it seems, he wasn’t. The story says that he had “eaten of the tree of good and evil.” Adam has now become a judge between good and bad. Well, yes, of course, that’s what we descendants of Adam do; we judge between good and bad. But wait! What happens next? Adam became afraid. Someone told him he was naked, and now that he was a judge between good and bad, he made the judgement that being naked before God was a bad thing. So who told Adam that he was naked? He did. Adam would now need to make judgements concerning his behavior and the morality of situations, but just being Adam did not separate himself from God. That was Adam’s mistake. Adam was still Adam, and God was still God.
Now let’s reflect on the second question. Can we, like Francis, be free to be ourselves? Legend tells us that Francis didn’t have a lot going for him. He was small, not particularly attractive, had no money and only one old brown robe. He was one of God’s creatures in God’s world, not separate from it. He was comfortable in his skin, as they say. Francis was a non-judgmental person. That was his conversion from rich kid to poor man. He didn’t judge others, he didn’t judge the world in which he lived, and most important of all, he didn’t judge himself.
That’s nice for our little poor man, Francis, but it is not the real world we live in; at least it’s not my world, you may want to say. O.K., but it is God’s world. Two worlds are set before us in stark contrast in the two stories we read in the book of Genesis. First we read about creation from God’s point of view – God’s world. Then we read about creation from Adam’s point of view – Adam’s world. Which world is the real world? Jesus tried to answer that question.
Jesus, the Messiah of God, insisted that God’s world was the real world and God’s world was not a meritocracy. Our sense that we must earn God’s love is an illusion. In God’s world there is no need to judge ourselves as good or bad. Do not be afraid. God loves you. Jesus said it over and over. There is no reason to fear God. God does not judge us. We are God’s children. Later, take a moment to read again the first creation story where the word “good” is used seven times – the perfect number. That includes us. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” Jesus lived it. Francis tried to live it. October is a great month for us to remember it. In the October of our lives we remain God’s children even with, especially with, all the accumulated grit of our lives.
In our Stuttgart motel room with its great glass window and its clear glass shower we showered off the grit of our overnight flight and became refreshed for a new day. Showers are like that.
The next time you shower, step out of the shower and stand in front of the mirror then do two things, drop your towel then sing this little song from our childhood.
Jesus love me this I know
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong,
I am weak but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me,
yes, Jesus loves me,
yes, Jesus loves me,
the Bible tells me so.
Pax et bonum,