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Pay it forward

April 10, 2015
Deacon Michael Murphy

“Pay It Forward,” a movie which came out several years ago, tells the story of a seventh grader who receives the unusual assignment to go out and change the world. He takes the challenge seriously and has the idea to reach out and help three people, asking nothing in return other than that they go out and help three additional people. Each person would be expected to continue the pattern, and good would spread throughout society. To the surprise of everyone, it works beautifully, and the world becomes a much better place.

I think this happens far more often than we realize. People just like us step up and make a difference, changing lives and even changing worlds. It happens on the big stage, when a regular person like Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the back of the bus, or when a young girl like Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai stands up to the Taliban to ensure the education of women in Pakistan.

Yet it probably also happens all the time in many smaller but equally significant ways that most of us are not even aware of. And, of course, it definitely happened 2000 years ago, in a very unexpected and wonderful way, with the followers and disciples of Jesus.

The Apostles, as we see in this week’s Gospel, were also ordinary people who did extraordinary things. They were regular guys, tax collectors and fishermen, people who often had a strike against them. Tentative, uncertain, and making a ton of mistakes, they still went out and changed lives, affecting the world as few ever have. They are our role models, as it’s now our job to go out and spread the good news of the Resurrection and to make a difference, as we become those ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

We may resist, believing we’re not up to the task. However, the Apostles once felt much the same way, as they cowered in that upper room following the death of Jesus. Then, as our Gospel shows us, into the middle of their loneliness and darkness walked the risen Lord, saying those wonderful words, “Peace be with you.” Calming their fears, returning their hope, He sent them boldly into an uncertain world. Filled with the Holy Spirit, motivated by love for God and for each other, these very ordinary Apostles went on to do some incredible, mind blowing things.

The good news of this Easter season is that the resurrected Jesus comes into our midst right now, saying to us, “Peace be with you.” He understands our fears and uncertainties and seeks to take them away. No matter how overwhelming things might seem today, He assures us that we will triumph and rise above them tomorrow.

The Resurrection promises us that. What’s more, Our Lord sees the tremendous potential inside each of us: He knows what we can do, even when we don’t. And now, promising to always be with us and by our side, he sends us out, just as he did the Apostles, to change the world.

The Apostles and early disciples weren’t any different from us. They weren’t supermen or superwomen. They also were afraid and didn’t know what tomorrow would bring. They persevered and they thrived because they trusted a loving God. And now we, like them, can go out and change the world. And don’t sell yourselves short. You may think it’s no big deal, but everything good and holy and loving you do will send out ripples that will grow and grow and echo throughout eternity. And that same Holy Spirit that moved in their lives now moves in ours as we, some very ordinary people, go on to do some very extraordinary things.

Deacon Murphy serves at St. Charles Parish, San Carlos, and teaches at Sacred Heart Schools, Atherton.

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