Chapter Five: “A Contrite Heart” (continued)

“Oh My God”

The best model we have for prayer, most would agree, is the Lord’s Prayer; after all, it’s the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to pray.  It begins by acknowledging who God is, “Our Father.”  When we acknowledge God by saying “Our Father” or “Oh my God” we are telling him that we are aware of our unique and personal relationship with him.  Jesus himself used this formula when he prayed to the Father from the cross, in agony and despair saying, “My God, My God why…” By beginning our prayer in this way we’re telling God that we want his involvement and that we know he is in a unique position to do something about our circumstances.  It’s the foundation for what happens next.  So how does this apply to healing a broken relationship between two people?

When we are estranged from someone, the relationship that previously existed is either gone or has been mortally wounded.  The thought is that if things are going to move forward, a new relationship must be built of new materials.  But the reality is, your previous relationship may have been lost or forgotten but it has not been expunged from your memory.  So whatever you build going forward, the old thoughts and emotions are still with you and can come to mind when you least expect it.  This is often the cause of what we call feelings of guilt and remorse. It’s like the experts say about your computer’s memory, you may think you have deleted something, but it’s still there, deep in the recesses of memory.  So if it’s there anyway, why not use it to your mutual advantage.

I was thinking last night Mike, how things used to be between us, people used to describe us as being more like brothers than just close friends. And they were right, we were not like brothers, we were brothers.  We could say most anything to each other, even if was wrong or hurtful, yet we could always find a way to get by it.  Why?  It was because we were brothers and nothing was more important or worth protecting and preserving than our relationship. I want it to be that way again, Mike.”

Just as in the Act of Contrition when we say “Oh my God”, our efforts to rebuild, based on forgiveness and reconciliation, begin with remembering and acknowledging the relationship that once existed and that has only been lost for a time.  It’s still there waiting to be reborn and become stronger because it was threatened. Not weakened by failure and sin, but strengthened for having endured and overcome its consequences.  It’s not a new construction, but one that has been rebuilt from the materials that were already available and in easy reach.

In 1896 a group of dedicated parishioners voted to construct a church in Milwaukee, not any church building, but a Basilica.  What’s a Basilica?  Let’s just say, for the sake of simplicity, it’s in the style of ancient Rome and would be today, nearly impossible to build due to the cost and availability of craftsman.  It’s one thing to decide to build, it’s quite another to come up with the how.  The first challenge was the cost, which in today’s dollars would be millions upon millions.  At the turn of the 20th century, the estimated price tag was still a number that would have been staggering and impossible to raise.  So was their dream of building something that would be for the glory of God unrealistic; just a dream and a hope?  Perhaps, but one man saw it differently.  The man’s name was Erhard Brielmaier, the architect and construction manager.

Although his original plan was to construct the magnificent basilica from scratch, using new materials, when Erhard became aware of a beautiful old Federal Building about to be demolished in Chicago, he realized that maybe; just maybe, there was a way of accomplishing what on its face seemed impossible. New materials would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, a sum that was well beyond the reach of the congregation.  Erhard surveyed the available materials in Chicago and concluded that it was possible, but only with God’s help and the dedication of individual parishioners.  It’s as the Angel Gabriel said to Mary when she questioned her ability to conceive the Christ child, “Nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).” The price for the salvaged materials was a mere $20,000 and were delivered to Milwaukee on over 500 railroad flat cars; over 200,000 tons of material in all.  As the cars lined up to be unloaded, stacked and organized, who was it that provided the labor?  It was accomplished by the combined efforts of hundreds of volunteers from the surrounding community.   Every piece of salvaged material was used; every stone, piece of wood and metal scrap; even the salvaged railroad ties and rails were used were used to construct pillars and footings.  Every piece of granite, metal and wood had to be refashioned and restored; a visible testimony to God and those who labored on His behalf.  What about the craftsmen and laborers that would be required, where did they come from?  Nearly all of what was required was provided by unskilled but dedicated members of the congregation.  In less than five years the Basilica was completed and the dedication service was attended by over 4,000 people in the community.  The Basilica of St. Jehoshaphat still stands today as a testimony to what God’s people can accomplish when their hearts are set on the Lord’s work and are done for his glory, not here own.  Nothing more is required, only the materials that already are at hand and are waiting to be rebuilt and restored according to God’s will and his purposes.

When we say and pray, “Oh my God” we are telling God that we know and value our relationship with him and if we truly trust in that relationship, nothing is impossible; nothing is beyond God’s ability to rebuild and restore; no matter how impossible it may seem at the time.

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