GET OUTTA DODGE!
- a reflection on John 12:24-26
by Deacon Paul Rooney
I have an unfortunate history of hospital stays, as well as an unresolved medical problem. Yesterday (August 9), three related medical issues coincided at one time, and affected my spiritual journey.
I was waiting in my vascular surgeon’s office, biding my waiting time (1-½ hours) by reading about St. (Padre) Pio. St. Pio had advised a woman in one of his letters that a cure for her medical problem “would not be for God’s glory,” and therefore he “cannot demand from the divine heart” that He heal her. I pondered how sad the woman might have felt, because God always answered Pio’s intercessory prayers. Then I felt compassion for the woman in pain, because memories of my own heavy-duty pain on an earlier hospital stay this year were still vivid in my imagination. At that point the surgeon walked into the room. He told me that my abdominal aortic aneurysm, which had been diagnosed a couple of years ago, was continuing to grow at a faster pace, and that an operation was inevitable (probably in two years).
Those three issues—the thought of no intercessory healing, my pain memories, and my future surgery—came together for me during my scripture meditation this morning on today’s gospel, John 12:24-26. This gospel pericope is chosen by the Church for use during Lent, and also on the Feast of St. Lawrence, deacon and martyr (which is today, as I write this). It speaks of the absolute need for the grain of wheat to die before it can bear fruit. Jesus immediately linked this seed-parable with the parable of hating your life in order to keep it for eternity.
What does it mean to “hate your life” in order to save it? My meditation took me to the history of the Hebrews. They had to get out of Egypt and experience the desert, trusting entirely in God. That reminded me of the old Gunsmoke series that began in 1952 on the radio (TV in 1955). It was the origin of the idiom or phrase “get outta Dodge” – a warning from the sheriff to the villains to leave town quickly or face imprisonment, possible death, or both.
Using it as a metaphor, the phrase takes on spiritual meaning when we look at our spiritual radar and see what ought to cause us to leave a dangerous environment with all haste. The sad news is that some folks decide to stay in Egypt. We all know someone like that: an older teen or young adult, for example, who chooses to remain in the Egypt of an immoral relationship. They claim their independence to think for themselves, but actually avoid venturing into the desert of reality where they must die to Self in order to find their true God-image. They “remain in Dodge,” blinded by their invincible ignorance to the perilous situation they have chosen.
Well, I also remained “in Egypt,” or “in Dodge” for a while yesterday. When I got home from the surgeon and reflected on those three medical issues above, I slipped into a time of desolation, and I allowed them to shift my focus from God to Self. I even changed a recent decision about fasting from ice cream for a month, rationalizing that my self-pity party demanded some comfort food. Oh, how fast we forget! Those of you who know Ignatian Rules of Discernment will remember Rule 5 – never to change a decision during a time of desolation. It took a few hours to remember that, and then to “get outta Dodge,” away from my pity party. Then I was able to shift from “myself in desolation” to a position of “myself-reflecting-on-myself-in-desolation.” I was enabled to get outta Dodge.
The metaphor to “hate” or “save” our life means we must die to a life of selfishness, the natural tendency to make the Self the center of our lives. Instead, we must “die” to that life—in effect, we “get outta Dodge,” a self-centered life. We choose to surrender our true inner core, our true self, to Jesus. We desire that HE be the center of our life; we desire that our will accord with His will, and we trusting pray that he will transform us into his image.
There is a true sense of freedom and peace that comes when we truly surrender our situations, our flesh pots of Egypt, to the Lord. I am a witness to that fact. The Lord is Good!
Now and Forever!