A Near Death Experience

On Friday I thought I was going to die!  My plane, coming back from Spain, was nearly on the ground when a gust of wind blew it off course, and the pilot in the emergency took off again! As you can tell, because I am here to speak about it to you, he landed safely the second time with me (and probably many others) praying very hard indeed! “Into your hands O Lord, I commend my Spirit. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.”  My goodness, it didn’t half remind me, how easily we take life for granted ; how easily we forget to thank God every day for his precious gift to us. Everyone clapped once we landed safely and I clapped too, but also I quietly gave thanks to God.

One of the things that makes me really sad is when people say that they have stopped coming to Mass because they don’t get anything out of it. Why does that make me sad? Because, as we heard in our 1st Reading (Isaiah 55;10-11) God is always at work, the great life-force that gives “growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating” God gives us everything. He gave that pilot the skill to save all of us on that plane from dying. He is working now through the East Africa Appeal to feed those dying of hunger because of the drought there. We moan about the rain, another gift from God, but without it all of us would die, not just people in Africa.

So we should not come to Mass to get something from God, because if we do we have missed the point. Everything we have got comes from God, family, friends, food and fun. We come to Mass not to get but to give – to give thanks and praise to the God who made us. It is all too easy to think we are thankful for life without really being thankful, so God has given us this one special way (less than an hour each week) in which we can do this for him. Hopefully this 1 hour then reminds us to go on being thankful for the rest of the time, rather than just taking it all for granted, or even worse,  being moaners!

But of course life isn’t always easy. Sadness and suffering are around too, but we Christians believe that goodness and love are stronger even than death itself, and so, we know that even when times are hard, being glad for what we have got is very important indeed. Or as St Paul said in our 2nd Reading (Romans 8:18-23) “I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us.” That’s why so many of those people suffering in Africa believe in God much more firmly than we do. When you are just hanging on to life by a thread, you learn to be grateful for every tiny bit of food that someone gives you. Moaning about how hard life is, is really only something rich people like us do.

Today in the Gospel (Matthew 13:1-23) Jesus tells us about the different things that stop us from responding to God, by saying that we are like the earth receiving seed from the sower. If we respond with thanksgiving, if we have a positive attitude even to the smallest good things that happen to us, then we are like the good soil in the story producing lots of fruit. But Jesus warns us that some people are sadly not so responsive to all God does.  Some people are so choked with thorns, either the worries of the world or their selfish desire to get richer, to have more things, that they have no time to remember God at all. Others are like the plants growing on rocky ground. Up they shoot, full of life, very enthusiastic about Mass and God, but they have no root, no staying power, and so when some difficulty appears their faith just withers away. And then there are some who somehow never get the point. Like the seed sown on the path and eaten by the birds, they sadly never see all that God is doing for them, even when he is at work all around them.

Let us pray that it won’t take a near death experience like the one I had in the plane, to remind us that we need to respond to God, and not just take life for granted, if we are to be fully human.

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