Showing posts with label Scripture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scripture. Show all posts

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A secret

I want to share a secret: the Church is filled with sinners. I admit that it is not a very good secret. At times, though, we can pretend that it is a secret or that we are not really sinners. We act like this statement in itself is scandalous, ignoring that is the sinful behavior that is cause of scandal, not that the members struggle with sin. From the first apostles until now, this has been the case. Call to mind the original 12 apostles. They were not perfect. Time and again, they bumbled their way through life. Consider St. Peter, patron of our fair city. He sometimes got things so right - making the bold profession that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and having courage to take the first step onto the water, only to display complete ignorance to God’s will or take his eyes off our Lord. Or think of Judas, the man who could follow Jesus for three years, but sold him out for thirty pieces of silver, then to commit suicide in despair. The other apostles who ran, hid, or were skeptical. No, the Church, as beautiful as she is as a whole, is filled with sinners in her members. But that is good - the Church is a hospital for the sick, not a shrine for the perfect. We as members are not perfect, but the Body of Christ, united to Christ as head, is. While the vile acts of some priests have certainly challenged us, the message of the Church remains - that Christ is our savior. But we still act in such a way that suggests we can keep this secret. First, we members and leadership attempt to be “Nice”, and to avoid anything that would not be seen as ‘nice’. We become too accommodating, allowing bad behavior because we are in the Church (a problem that also plagued the early Church as some rejoiced in the freedom to sin) . We do not want to offend anyone, so we allow sin to go unchallenged. We too often allow unprofessional behavior in the workplace lest we come off as mean. We are members of the Church, after all, and we are supposed to love and accept everyone, right? The opposite of this being nice is also prevalent - we can be done right mean. We disparage those who do not meet our ideas of perfection, and we become too demanding. Specifically, we might look at incidents of members condemning a unmarried woman who is pregnant, or groups protesting funerals as God’s punishment. Neither of these extremes (nice or mean) reveal Jesus. Jesus is merciful, certainly, but He is also just. He spent time with prostitutes and tax collectors, but did not confirm them in their sins but called them to conversion. We need to be kind and loving, but the most loving thing we can sometimes do is challenge someone to be better, to respond to grace. Too often the charge of hypocrisy is thrown around when we do so, however. It is not hypocrisy to be a sinner seeking conversion, but it is hypocrisy to pretend like we do not sin, or to hold others to standards we do not apply to ourselves, however imperfectly. Only when we get beyond the fear of being called hypocrites, only when we stop fearing that we are sinners to be discovered, will we find the grace to move forward in the Lord. The truth is that there are sinners in the Church, but we are sinners who know our savior is Jesus who loves us and calls us to repentance.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spring-cleaning

Despite the difficult weather patterns we have experienced, Spring is here. I love seeing the lawns green up, and even the yellow of the dandelions and daffodils provide a much-needed contrast to the white and gray hues of winter. The trees bud forth in glorious array, and the birds are chirpily building their nests and laying eggs. Even the children, not so long ago bundled-up to avoid the dread cold now are running free and un-encumbered.

What is not to love about Spring? Nothing, except my now distant memories of dreadful consigned service to household tasks called “Spring-cleaning”. As children, my brother and sisters and I were assigned our tasks to washing walls and floors, cleaning drawers and carpets, and in general to throw out all that was no longer useful or needed. It was so nice outside, but now we were trapped inside, not by necessity caused by the weather, but the results – dirt. Knowing now what I did not then, I might have asked why we were continuing a outdated tradition started when walls would get soot-covered by a winter’s worth of burning coal. I might have suggested to do the dreaded tasks on the inevitable rainy day. In obedience, I simply did it.

Looking back, now I see the wisdom in my mother’s tradition, all the same. Without spring-cleaning, we collect too much stuff, to the point that many have storage units that could fill-in for dumpsters. We hold on to things we do not need, all just because. Spring-cleaning helps sever those ties, and in the end frees us.

The same is true in the spiritual life. As we go through life, we collect pains and hurts, grievances, grudges, and gripes. They accumulate like the soot and clutter, little by little, until we just get accustomed to them. Regularly setting a time to address them is good for us, and how good it is when we truly do so. When we take the time to do so, even if it takes us out of the cheer of the outside world, we find that our interior world - our spirit and souls - experience a true peace and tranquility that comes only from God.

As Catholics, we have a great means of “spring-cleaning” in the sacrament of Reconciliation, but all Christians have access to the forgiveness of Christ. Invite Him in – ask the Holy Spirit to come and clean our heart and mind, and then to occupy it and not allow anything else to fill it (Mt. 12:43f). After all, Jesus Christ is raised from the dead to set us free. He gives us life, and life more abundantly, that we may live in the newness of life that this great season of Spring only begins to emulate. I am so thankful to my mother for teaching me the value of spring-cleaning.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Second Sunday or Lent: Adoration

The Narrative of the transfiguration is read every Second Sunday of Lent. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up Mount Tabor. The landscape is not just a nice description or mere historical fact. Mountains are places of encounter, symbolically due to their closeness with the Heavens, one was expected to encounter GOd. There, Jesus reveals Himself to the apostles,giving them a glimpse of His divinity. They are transfixed by the vision. The evangelists struggle with find the words to describe the encounter with the Lord, probably because the three witnesses struggled. Moses, the one through whom the Lord gave the Law, and Elijah, the Prophet, are speaking with Him - these two began what Jesus was going to accomplish - calling the people back to the Lord our God. The apostles were caught up in praise of the sight, and though they struggled to understand, they knew that it was good. St. Peter proclaims it, along with stating his desire to remain there. This encounter with the Transfigured Lord is one that so moved them that St. Peter writes about it years latter as giving a proof of the Gospel in his second letter (2 Peter 1;16-18): "For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” They had already encountered Him day after day, understanding Him to be human, but when He reveals His divinity, it changes them. They we in true adoration of the Lord - they were praising Him for who He truly is. That is another aspect of our prayer. Like complimenting a friend on some quality, we too need to ‘compliment’ God in who He is. It is adoration and praise. God does not need our praise, but we need to give it, because when we do, we submit ourselves in love to the our loving, all-powerful God who is three Persons in one divine being. We need to remember that just as we are loved sinners (contrition), that we are invited into a loving relationship with the Holy Trinity, and that when we truly adore the Lord, we stand humbly in His presence not by our own merits, but by the grace of God.
Added to this aspect, we have another ‘adoration’. We are so removed from the Transfiguration. We do not have the privilege of walking with Jesus in the flesh, but we know that Jesus is the Son of God because of the witness of the Apostles. Just as we know that Jesus is God, we, too, need to place our trust in the apostles in other areas - especially of the teaching on the Eucharist. We too easily see the bread and wine, but do we see the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ? Are we just as caught up in adoration when we are in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist? When we take time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, especially when He is exposed in the monstrance for our adoration, we are in the presence of the same Lord who was present on Mount Tabor. He invites us to adore Him, to praise Him for what He has done. Indeed, when we adore the Blessed Sacrament, we are drawn in to praise of God, and should declare “Look what Love has done!” by becoming food and drink for us, that we may be saved through Him!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

Lent is a blessed time in the Church year. The season was first experienced by the Catechumens (those who were to be baptized at the Easter Vigil) as that they entered 40 days of intense spiritual preparation before their sacramental entrance into the Church. The time-frame of forty days was not haphazardly chosen, but because of Jesus’ own 40 days in the desert, the 40 years of the Hebrews being purified in the desert through their wandering, and Elijah’s fast of 40 days on Mount Horeb. It was a means of remembering that they were uniting with the Lord and of being purified for their encounter with Him in the sacraments. Eventually, the preparation of 40 days in the season of Lent was offered to the Church in general as a means of recommitment, association with the catechumens and a preparation of their own hearts to celebrate the joy of the resurrection.

When we truly enter the spirit of the season, we follow the Lord’s command to pray, fast, and give alms and three practical means of Lenten preparation. These are things that go against our fallen nature. We too often remain in broken relationship with our loving Father, and like Adam hid from Him in our shame. Prayer seeks to stand before Him, as venerable and spiritual naked and impoverished as we are. When we fast, we avoid the comforts that the world offers and reminds us of our reliance on the Lord. Our almsgiving is a means of seeking to become generous and to connect with those who have so little, that we can share in their poverty.

This season of Lent is for us who follow Christ to grow in faith, to empty ourselves of all that is not Christ so that we can be ready to receive Him who died and rose again for us, to give us eternal life. This season is not one of self-directed improvement, but of allowing the Lord to grasp us, grace us, and guide us to Himself. May these days of Lent be days of intense preparation for us!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who Is Jesus Christ?

In the Gospels, Jesus asks a seemingly easy question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Mt. 16:15, Mk. 8:29, Lk. 8:20). It is not that Jesus is having either a moment of amnesia or an existential crisis. His reason to ask seems to be more of a PR question – do people understand who He is? St. Peter answers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. His answer is correct, but Peter’s understanding of the answer is flawed, as he later reprimands Jesus on His prediction of His death and resurrection.
The question remains for us to answer, too. Who do we say that He is? If the claims of the Gospel are correct, we are commanded to answer. Jesus makes some bold statements! He claims to be the only way to God, that He is the Bread of Life that gives life to the entire world, that He and the Father are one. How can we understand Jesus’ proclamations? CS Lewis gives a wager, of sorts, that we can use to help answer both questions of who we say Him to be and who He is. If what He taught is not true, but Jesus believes it to be, Jesus is crazy, proclaiming false truths. If, on the other hand, Jesus knowingly is teaching what He knows not to be true, He is telling lies. But, if Jesus is telling the truth, He really is who He says he is. In short, Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or truly the Lord. He cannot be just a wise man, or a good teacher, or a sort of guru… He is either Lord or nothing at all.
So my answer to the question, “Who is Jesus?” He is Lord. He is the Savior of the world, and He is the Father’s loving offer of eternity. He is the one who offers Himself to the Father for us and is ever present to us. He is the Son of God made flesh. When we encounter Him, we encounter God, and Jesus reveals the Holy Trinity (the eternal union of the three Persons – Father, Son, and Spirit – in the one God). If this is true, how can we go about our lives unchanged, failing to see everything through the eyes of faith.
As CS Lewis also wrote, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.” It is a bold claim! We must allow Him to be God, and allow Him and that faith inform our decisions and activity.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lord teaches us to pray, but in the end, seems to say it is not as much about how we say it, but rather that we be persistent and it be in line with God's will. God is good, and He desires us to be in relationship with Him, so we continue to grow in prayer.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus raises the widow's son and gives him back to his mother. Perhaps it was because He knew the grief that His own mother would feel as she would stand beneath His cross, and wanted to give her a sense of hope. He looked with compassion on the widow, no matter the reason. The young man must have lived his life differently because of Jesus' compassion. We, too, have been snatched from death by Jesus - do we live differently?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Lent

The prodigal father is an extravagant lover of both his sons. But both sons have a fatal flaw in their thinking. The first son, the youngest, asks for his inheritance which is akin to wishing the father dead. He takes the wealth, and squanders it. When it is gone, he realizes his flaw: he forgot his dignity, and though he knows he does not deserve it, he prepares to ask forgiveness and returns home. The Father restores that dignity after running to him. The older son, however, comes in from work. He refuses to recognize his brother. The Father goes to him, begs him. The son complains that he was never giving anything, even after following ever command. He does not know his dignity as son.
The question to us as the listener is not which son we are, but are we able to receive with joy the dignity that the Lord longs to give us, to know that He comes to us to redeem us!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Third Sunday of Lent

When faced with evil, we might be tempted to blame God, or say that evil happened because the person sinned. Jesus, however, states that this is a cause for conversion, that we will all perish as they did. We need to live our lives prepared. We sometimes play the spiritual game that I only have to be better than 'the other person', but what we really need is to be better, period. We need to respond to the call of God.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

We do not know when, but we do know that this world will end. It will be a day beyond all comprehension, awesome and terrifying. But for the faithful, of those that do the will of God, it will be a day that does not bring horror, but of confidence. We need to live our lives in conformity to that day, that when it comes, we can stand before the Son of Man with hearts free from sin and attachment to sin.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

The love of God is always first, and requires all of us, but once we love God above all else, we inevitably learn to love our neighbor with a pure and holy love, a love that seeks their true good, always tempered by morality. Love of neighbor is meaningless without love of God, just as love of God with love of neighbor is vain. Let us love God first and foremost, and with that love, serve our fellowman.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Bartimaeus, a man born blind, has the courage to call out to Jesus for help, calling him the son of David. Despite his blindness, he sees more clearly than the rest. Jesus calls him, and asks him what he wants. Bartimaeus answers immediately - I want to see. May we be as ready to ask Jesus we want to see our vocations as this man.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Be Strong! Fear Not! Be Opened! The Lord opens the ears of the deaf, the eyes of the blind, and strengthens the legs of the cripples. If He can do that, can He not cast away every shadow of fear, wipe away every stain of sin, calm every sting of death? We come to worship Him, because He does all things well. But do we allow Him to do it in our lives?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Be doers of the word, not just hearers. Jesus takes the scribes and Pharisees to task for setting aside the law for traditions, failing to worship the Lord, but holding fast to temporal things. We, too, might find it easier to hold to temporal things, instead of listening to the Lord who speaks to us in the silence of our hearts. We must be willing to listen and to obey Him, allowing Him to purify us and our hearts.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life that has come from the Father, and He gives life to the world. But the crowds take offense at Him. They think that they know Him, because they know His human history. They cannot see that Jesus is God, and that He is providing for their needs.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

THe Multiplication of the Loaves is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels. It contains a great power - it reveals that Jesus Christ is God, and that He provides for His people. It is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. More importantly, though, for those who are discerning a vocation, the miracle reminds us on our own we can do nothing - not even 200 days wages would be enough! But when we give, even as little as five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus Christ makes it enough for the vast crowds.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Lord sends His apostles, two by two, into the countryside to prepare the people for His message. While they are told to travel light, they are not to travel alone. Following Christ, it would seem, is never an individual task but one that requires companions.
We, too, are called by Christ and sent by Him. We do not travel alone, either. Rather, we follow our vocations with others, even if our particular vocation is individual. We work best when we work together.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Because they knew His human history, the people of Jesus' hometown did not allow Him to be active as God in their lives. They thought they knew everything, and could not get past the fact of His teaching with authority and power. They hardened their hearts, not allowing Him to work miracles in their lives.
God is powerful, but he will not act in our lives with that power unless we invite Him to act. We, of our own free wills, either cooperate with Him, or stand against Him. But God continues to call us to conversion, inviting us to open our hearts to Him, and when we do, we can see more fully the good that God does and is.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The readings for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time remind us that God does not create or desire death, but seeks to give us life or healing. Consider the crowd, though, pressing in on Jesus. Tens, if not hundreds were pressing in on Him, most likely jostling Him, but none where healed but the woman who had suffered hemorrhages without any healing for 12 years. She touched Him with faith, and was healed. Jairus' daughter, alive as long as that woman suffered, is dead, but Jesus raises her. Both tell us that Jesus can heal us, but we must have faith like the woman or like Jairus and his wife.

All are called by God to love Him.

All are called to serve Him.

Some are called to special lives of service,

to give witness to God's love through being a priest, religious brother, or sister.

Is He calling you?