Sunday, October 28, 2007

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Pharisee and the Publican could equally be understood as the braggart and the beggar... The pharisee is in front, boasting to God all the good that he has done, and while that in itself is interesting, it is how he refers to himself as the primary source of action and God as a witness. It is all about him.

The Tax Collector (or Publican as some call it), begs for mercy. He is focused on God, open to His mercy. He makes himself small, and even keeps distant, not out of fear, but out of humility.

Jesus tells the parable to demonstrate the proper attitude of His followers. Those no exalt themselves leave little room for the All-powerful God to save them. Those who humble themselves, who throw themselves on the mercy of God are profoundly open to Him and His salvation.

In discerning one's vocation, we must become humble enough to allow God to speak and work. By telling God what we want, what we are good at, is on the verge of bragging. By asking God to help us, we submit to His power and can hear Him calling.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are asked to be persistent in prayer, not because God does not hear or is unjust, but to show our faith. The persistent widow in the parable we hear has her request heard not because of the goodness of the judge (who had little) but by being persistent. God is good, just, and loving - how much more will He respond.

Just as Moses grew tired during the battle, so too do we. Aaron and Hur provide the back up for him - they allow him to sit and they hold his arms aloft. At times, when we are worn by our praying, we should invite others to help us, to hold our arms in a spiritual way.

Even still, we can grow weary by our distractions. In my prayer, I find the distractions fall into three categories: Grocery Lists, To Do Lists, and Injury lists. With the grocery lists, I find my mind wandering to all the things I need or want. I could easily fill out a long list, but find the best way to deal with these distractions is to acknowledge them and set them behind me. The To Do lists things are more tempting - if I am not in a right place, I could easily get up and do them immediately. I find it best to ask God for the grace (and strength and stamina) to deal with them after my prayer. The Injury list, though, is the most destructive. With these distractions, I find my mind wandering to all the past hurts and people who have caused them, as well as the injuries I have caused others. With the perceived injuries, it is dangerously easy to allow them to take over and suddenly find myself brooding over them and to the brink of cursing. Instead, I find I ned to pray over the hurts, to invite Christ into them and to bring healing. When a person comes to mind, prayer for the individual, even if it is for the ability to forgive, brings my mind back to prayer.

Satan would love us to grow weary, to follow the distractions, and cease our prayer. God, however, constantly invites us back into the prayer. But we must do our part - to pray, and to keep faith.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The healing of the ten lepers is usually reduced to some statement on only 10% being grateful, but there is more to the episode than that.

This weekend, it is paired with the episode of Naaman, an Aramean commander, who is a leper himself (2 Kings 5). Having had success at battle, he is losing the battle for his health because of this contagious disease. He is told of Elisha, the Jewish Prophet, and desires to go. Elisha tells him to plunge into the River Jordan. Naaman did not wish to hear it - there are better rivers than the Jordan closer to home. Naaman's servant persuades him, and he takes the plunge. Coming out, he is clean. While he does return to Elisha to thank him, the real reason is to express his new-found faith in the God of Israel. When Elisha refuses the gift, Naaman asks for two wagons of dirt so that he can worship God on holy ground! (Perhaps this might be considered for those that are opposed to relics!)

It is interesting to note that this is the only healing miracle for more than one. While all ten were healed, the other nine perhaps felt compelled to go to the temple to be declared 'clean' before returning. The Samaritan that returns does so not to simply thank Jesus, but to worship and glorify God. There is a profound difference there! He is an outsider to the Jewish faith, and while he had no legal right to even walk into the temple area, he did understand that it was God who healed him.

It is good to be thankful, but in the end, these episodes tell us that it is worship of God is most important. Perhaps we can take a lesson from Naaman, too. It would be easy to overlook the simple commands of the prophets among us. Perhaps we should be willing to do the simple things and in doing so, as we heard last week, discover God's will for our lives.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Disciples ask the Lord to increase their faith, and Jesus responds with if they had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could say to mountains, move, and they would listen. I lack that kind of faith. But Jesus does not stop there. He moves on, though, telling them that they are to be like good servants who await their master's command, and having fulfilled the command, knowing where they stand.

So it is for us. So often, we ask for the faith to move mountains and ignore the command to "move dishes". We focus on the big things, when we are equally called to be faithful to small things, responding to the little things that we know God is calling us to do. By doing these, by moving step by step, we can do great things.

In this weekend's second reading, we hear St. Paul telling the young Bishop St. Timothy to stir into flame the gift of God he received through the imposition of hands - his ordination. The gift is the Spirit of God that is one of power, love and self control. Again, it is in the littleness of things, in the response to God, that this is lived out.