Friday, October 31, 2014

The Leaders Sat in Silence

"But they kept silent."

These words describe the response of the scholars of the law and the Pharisees to the question of Jesus about whether it was "lawful to cure on the sabbath."

These men, these leaders, sat in silence.  I figure that when someone sits in silence, it is either because they do not know the answer to a posed question, or they are afraid to answer for fear they will get it wrong.

The scholars and Pharisees knew the technical answer to that question.  It is grounded in the Ten Commandments' "Keep holy the Sabbath."  Jesus knew the answer too.

By curing the man with dropsy on the sabbath, Jesus was showing them something many of us need to learn today:  the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.  Both the letter and spirit play an important part in the exercise of our faith.

We need the letter of the law to keep us on track, to help us become disciplined disciples and obedient followers of our Shepherd.

But we also need to understand the spirit of the law, because the exercise of it keeps us from becoming rigid, narrow-minded and judgmental.

In this example, Jesus shows those gathered that there are times when helping another is a higher priority than following the letter of the law. 

Ask yourself . . .

Do I practice my faith as if everything is black and white?
Do I judge the actions of others by my own standard?
Do I try to bully others into practicing religion MY way?
Do I recognize God's will and try to follow it?

Take some time this week to reflect on the passage below.  Do a little self-evaluation and see if your heart needs to be opened to the ways of Christ.

God bless,

 Luke 14:1-6

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.
Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking,
“Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?”
But they kept silent; so he took the man and,
after he had healed him, dismissed him.
Then he said to them
“Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern,
would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”
But they were unable to answer his question.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Are you a busy, holy person?

Are you a busy person?  Do you have your fingers in lots of pots?  Do you pride yourself in all that you do?

Sometimes we can mistakenly think that being busy is equal to being important.  But there are other times that we simply keep saying yes to God and others out of a sincere desire to do what we can.

No matter what our intentions are, there is great danger in this if we find ourselves recounting for others all that we do.  And while pride may be the culprit here, it goes much deeper because it goes against what Jesus asks of us.

In today's reading from the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 10:17) the disciples that Jesus had sent our earlier are returning.  They are excited.  It seems they are almost giddy with excitement as they discovered, perhaps while they were out on mission, that they have been given the power to overcome demons.

They said to Jesus, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name."  They recognized the power to do this work came from Jesus, which is a good thing to recognize, but Jesus responds quickly.

He basically tells them that he gave them the power to overcome the enemy and promises them they will not be harmed, but--and here is the key--he tells them not to rejoice because of their ability to do this, but because their "names are written in heaven."

In other words, you are chosen, you are doing what I have asked, and for that you will have the reward of heaven.  Don't be so focused on what you have been called to do, or how much has been asked of you. Don't recount for others all of the things you are accomplishing in my name.  Your real concern should be simply that you are doing what you have been asked to do and for that you will have eternal life.

So, whenever we start thinking we are "all that" because of all that we do, it would be wise to reflect on this passage and in true humility, thank God for the opportunities that he gives us to participate in his work, and for the grace to do it.

One last thought on this passage . . . if you read a little earlier in Chapter 10 about the sending of the Seventy-two, notice that they went without having received the promise of power.  Why do you suppose they were willing to go?

Hopefully, for the same reason each of us does what we do--out of a love of God.  Anything less than that will leave us burned out and frustrated, because, while working in God's kingdom may bring rejoicing, it can also bring suffering.

As St. Paul liked to say, discipleship is about finishing the race.

God bless,

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pope marries couples at Vatican

Okay, so Pope Francis married 20 couples at the Vatican and everyone is in an uproar.  Their dresses were inappropriate, their living situations sinful and one of the women even had a child out of wedlock.

Gasp!  What a shocker!

I heard a news report say that these were no ordinary couples.  My thought was that these are absolutely ordinary couples. 

What Pope Francis did was stop pretending that every couple that gets married is living the sin-free life they should be.  Of course, that could be said about all of us when you think about it.

The biggest thing that riles me is that, far as I know, the critics have not sat in on any pre-marital counseling sessions with the couples.  Do we know all of the details of each bride and groom?  Do we know that they did not have contrition for their arrangement?  Do we know that they were not living a platonic lifestyle prior to their marriage, that they hadn't been to confession?

I don't know any of the details and I suppose very few other people do as well.

How scandalous were the marriages? I don't know and neither do you.

Think back to how Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).  He told the woman that he didn't condemn her and instructed her to "Go and sin no more."

It seems to me Pope Francis was helping these couples move toward more virtuous lives, making it possible for them to try to go and sin no more.

Maybe today's stone-throwers could use a little help in that department as well.

God bless,

Friday, July 25, 2014

Can we trust God?

Often when I read scripture, I will run across a passage that jumps out at me.  Then, it seems like for days I keep going back to it, gathering encouragement from it.  In the Second letter of Paul to the Corinthians, Chapter 9, verse 8, this happened again.

Here is the passage:

"Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work."

Wow!  Paul is making quite a claim here!  And why would he do that?  Because he had a lived experience of this.  As he traveled around, he met with all kinds of obstacles and he endured much suffering, yet the spreading of the gospel prevailed.  If Paul can have this kind of confidence, then surely we can too, for God never runs out of grace!

Imagine yourself in a position where your need is great and you simply cannot conceive of how it is going to be filled, and you come across this passage.  Maybe you are a program director in need of volunteers, or a parent without job prospects, or you are down on your luck altogether.

These few verses are a powerful reminder that we should never give up.  Do we imagine that God is on vacation and not paying any attention to us?  Paul isn't saying that God simply walks with us, but that he is involved in our lives.  Paul isn't saying that God gives us a little help.  He is saying that God's grace is overflowing, it is more than we need!

What is this good work that God provides an abundance for?  Our work has many layers to it, ministry and vocation being significant ones, but certainly one layer is our ability to trust in God and express our confidence in him, to those around us, even in the midst of our fears.

This is good work because it builds up the Body of Christ by drawing others into our joy and confidence, especially when they, too, are struggling.

As Christians, we live with many trials, but we do not despair, because our hope is always in God, who is our loving Father, who cares for us and provides for us.

You may ask, then, where the Father is when we are lost or despairing.  He is there.  In the middle of it, just like he was when his only Son died on the cross.

We must always look to the resurrection, to the joy that will one day come to us, when we face God and can say, "I have been a good and faithful servant."

It is not about being faithful in good times, but in difficult times as well.  If we can manage through those by counting on God's abundant graces, joy will be our password throughout life.

God bless,