Friday, September 27, 2019 - Updated: 2:38 pm
My guess is that you remember what it was like to purchase your first car.
For me, it was a 1970 Pontiac Le Mans, medium green with a dark green vinyl roof. I purchased it at Downtown Pontiac dealership which was located on West Liberty Avenue. The sticker price: $2,375.
What I remember most about this purchase is that my dear aunt, whom I affectionately call “Chocha” (Slovak for aunt), offered to give me a loan to cover the cost of the car. Since I purchased the car as I was entering my theological studies at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, the IOU was to be paid back to my aunt four years later, when I would be ordained a priest.
Fast forward four years. Following my ordination, I was prepared to make good on the loan. My aunt ripped up the IOU. Much more than a generous gift.
Over the course of the years, I have never forgotten my aunt’s gracious and generous gesture. While she tore up the IOU for the car, I have tried to be faithful to a much more important IOU to her.
My Chocha is nearing her ninety-seventh birthday. She is my godmother in addition to being my aunt. She lives at the Little Sisters of the Poor. I am so grateful to the Little Sisters and the staff for the great care that they give her. Over the course of the years, I have tried to continue to show my love for her by watching out for her as she faces daily the challenges of her years. But most important of all, my current IOU comes from the heart. It is an expression of my ongoing love for her.
As you and I pick up God’s love story for us, the Bible, we meet the same kind of caring, multiplied by thousands of times.
The seventy-two books of the Bible are signs of God’s deep love for us, His commitment to us and the expression of His deepest desire—that we all get to heaven when we breathe our last.
In the interest of getting His way, God sent His only begotten Son to die on the cross for us. But the cross is also a sign of God’s invitation to love Him back. The cross invites us to write up an important IOU to God within and from our hearts.
The most important reason why we as the Church of Pittsburgh are engaged in “On Mission for The Church Alive!” is so that we can do a check on our relationship with Jesus. It is important to reflect on whether we are writing up an IOU to God in response for all He has done for us through Jesus.
Sometimes when I meet people on the street or at the gas station or in the supermarket, folks will express their displeasure about the On Mission process. Some will even go so far as to say that they are leaving the Church because their priest has been transferred or because they’ve lost their favorite Mass time or no longer have their customary pew.
In response, my question is: “Do you believe in Jesus?” My question is a reminder of what the cross means, what the love story of the Bible means, what the goal of Christian life is all about — nothing more and nothing less than aiming for heaven as our final destination, through an “honest-to-God” relationship with Jesus.
In a word, it is an opportunity for us to take a good look at what our IOU to God must look like.
Yes, it does mean coming to Mass at least every weekend.
Yes, it does mean remembering to drop to our knees every day in prayer.
Yes, it does mean celebrating the sacraments, especially the sacrament of confession.
Yes, it does mean the way we treat each other, the ways we are concerned about the poor, the ways in which we seek to root prejudice from our lives, the first steps that we can take to forgive others.
But the most important reason for our IOU is the one that God hopes for from each of us — that we seek to become more like the Jesus who is our Savior, more like the Jesus whose name we receive in baptism.
As I told the story of my dear Chocha and her ripping up the IOU on my first new car, I hope you were able to remember someone who did something similar in your own lives.
But whether or not you had a similar experience, we all have the continued and constant reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary.
And so, a thought: If you haven’t done so in a while, take a good look at the image of Jesus on your favorite crucifix. Think about what Jesus did for you. Let His immeasurable act of love prompt you to write up an IOU that reflects a desire to become more like Him — to become more like Jesus.