1. Back in the mid 90's our nation was in love with an idiot.
a. And no, it wasn’t a presidential candidate.
2. It was an idiot named Forrest Gump
a. whose movie won six Oscars in 1995
b. including Best Picture.
3. And yet while so many people focused
a. on Forrest’s mannerisms,
b. On his sayings,
i. like, “Life is like a box full of chocolates”
ii. or “Stupid is as stupid does”
c. On the way his goofy simplicity could bring out the best in people,
4. People tended to neglect the other characters in the film.
5. and that is a shame;
a. because there is one character who was every bit as important as Gump, especially nowadays.
b. And that was lieutenant Dan, played by Gary Sinese.
6. Early in the film, Forrest saves Lt. Dan during a battle in Viet Nam.
a. The Lt. survives
b. but loses both his legs.
7. You might have thought that Lt. Dan would be happy to be alive.
a. But he was not.
b. Lt. Dan was angry at Forrest for having saved him.
8. However later in the film,
a. when we see Lt. Dan as a drunk in a wheelchair living on skid row,
i. we realize that he was not just angry.
b. For he had come from a long line of soldiers –
i. all of whom had died for their country.
1. All of them heroes.
ii. And now, instead of being a hero
iii. he was a survivor, a failure, a cripple.
c. Lt. Dan was not just angry – he was guilty –
i. guilty that out of so many who had died, he had survived.
9. Now Lt. Dan is a character in a movie - but not only in a movie.
10. In fact, we meet him all the time.
11. We see him in the survivors of natural disasters such as the growing number of massive fires brought about by our warming world.
12. We see him in the survivors of man-made disasters such as the Pandemic,
13. We see him in the faces and the lives of generations of Lt. Dan’s,
a. veterans languishing in military hospitals such as Walter Reed
b. or wandering our streets and sleeping our subways.
14. We ARE him
a. whenever a coworker loses his job,
b. or a best friend dies of breast cancer.
i. We might feel the fear of seeing loss up so close.
ii. We might feel the relief of having been spared.
iii. But what we also feel . . . is the guilt of having survived.
15. Tell me - where does that guilt come from?
a. We might think it comes from mommy and daddy
i. telling us that Santa won’t come if we’re naughty not nice
b. We might think it comes from Father or Sister
i. teaching us that good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell
c. We might think it comes from religious leaders and televangelists
i. Preaching to us that disasters
1. Both natural and man-made
2. Are nothing more than God’s punishment for our sin.
16. But really it comes from the fact
a. that deep down we know we are no better nor worse
b. than the friend who dies or loses his job,
c. than the soldiers suffering after their tour of duty
d. Than all the tens of thousands who have died in disasters,
i. both natural and man-made, throughout history.
17. And thus we do not understand why,
a. in a world where everyone
i. from Santa to God
ii. is supposed to punish the evil
iii. and reward the good.
1. Why we were spared.
18. But Jesus does.
19. For people in his day also believed that
a. When accidental disasters
i. like the collapse of a Tower in Siloam happened
b. When man-made disasters
i. such as the slaughter of pilgrims from Galilee by Pilate happened.
c. When people were blind or lame, fell sick or even died
d. that this was because they were bad.
e. and that God was punishing them for their sins
f. (And of course, they also believed that was why they had survived.
g. God was rewarding them for their goodness.)
20. In short, they believed what all of us were taught to believe.
21. But Jesus knew that all too often
a. it is those who are good who suffer,
b. while those who are evil who flourish.
22. He knew that because
a. he knew human nature.
b. Was familiar with the history of his people
c. And also because that was what would happen to him.
23. But he says something today that many of us might have heard
a. If we listened closely to his words this morning/evening.
24. And that is that
a. while towers fall and disasters happen
b. While people sicken and friends die
25. Such things are NOT God punishing the evil and rewarding the good.
a. Not because there are not evil people and good people.
b. but simply because that is not the way God sees us.
26. God does not see us as sinners deserving punishment,
a. but as simply needing time.
27. Like that man with the fig tree
a. who wants to cut it down.
b. But is told to wait,
i. God is the one who gives us time.
28. Jesus does not answer all our questions this morning.
a. He does not answer why bad things happen to good people
b. and why there is injustice in this life.
29. No what Jesus tells us is what God does NOT do.
a. God does not punish us and reward us like Santa.
b. God does what Forrest Gump does for LT Dan.
30. In the course of the movie
a. Forrest gives Lt. Dan support,
b. gives Lt. Dan a job,
c. gives Lt. Dan a business
31. Until finally on Forrest’s wedding day, LT. Dan arrives,
a. walking on two new artificial legs,
b. With his new wife in tow.
32. and we see what Forrest really gave him.
a. time to heal physically.
b. time to heal spiritually.
33. Forrest does for Lt. Dan what God does for us all.
34. God gives us time.
a. Time to heal
b. Time to repent,
c. Time to deepen the practice of our faith if we’ve neglected it
d. Time to return to the practice of our faith if we’ve left it.
35. Lent is that time when we Catholics remember this
a. But it is also the time when our Church invites us to practice it.
a. By learning Jesus’ lesson
b. and following Forrest’s example
i. stop judging, start supporting.
ii. stop rejecting and start accepting.
c. give people time to forgive,
i. time to heal
ii. time to grow
iii. time to return.
37. Give people what God gives us all this Lent: time.
38. And maybe just maybe
a. ALL of us will find new legs,
39. And in the midst of this dark, disaster-plagued time,
a. walk the way God calls us all to walk
i. and be the people God call us all to be.