Monday, September 30, 2013

“We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.”

Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself. - Elie Wiesel

Gospel Text: (LK 9:46-50)
An argument arose among the disciples
about which of them was the greatest.
Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child
and placed it by his side and said to them,
“Whoever receives this child in my name receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
For the one who is least among all of you
is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John said in reply,
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him,
“Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

How many times do we measure success according to the standards of power, wealth or physical attributes?  Our culture extolls these qualities as if they were the only things that mattered for human flourishing.  Thankfully, the gift of faith opens our eyes to the truth of this deception. 

Today’s Gospel speaks of the significance of children in the context of disciples bickering over who is great and who is less great.  We live in a culture where children are not valued as they ought to be.  Some look at them as an inconvenient burden, to be avoided if possible, forgetting that all of us began in that state.  But in clamoring for other things we desire, grasping for our own greatness and satisfaction, there is neglect of the most precious gift, in which we also find the heart of God. 

The Gospel tells us that “Jesus realized the intention of [the disciples’] hearts.”  So, when Jesus looks at the intention of our hearts, what does he see?  This is a good question to ponder.

The Christian faith turns the world on its head, and pushes us to see beyond the limits of our merely human perception.  Asked what he hoped to see as a result of the latest World Youth Day, Pope Francis famously replied, "I hope for a mess. that we defend ourselves from comfort."  Jealousy and ambition truncate the power of Christianity.  We must leave those false values behind.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It is not enough to be compassionate; you must act.

"Make us worthy, Lord, to serve those throughout the world who live and die in poverty or hunger. Give them, through our hands, this day their daily bread; and by our understanding love, give peace and joy. Amen." ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Gospel Text: (LK 16:19-31)
Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man's table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.
When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.
And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
Abraham replied,
'My child, remember that you received
what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go
from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’
He said, 'Then I beg you, father,
send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers,
so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.'
He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
Then Abraham said, 'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.'"

Faith is not an idle or passive thing, and it requires more than simply believing. Our faith should be an active thing that shapes how we go about our days and touches the lives of others. We are often satisfied with the status quo if things are comfortable for us, but our readings today tell us “woe to the complacent” (Am 6:1A). Living out one’s faith often requires hard work and reaching out to care for those who suffer. We must consciously choose our actions in light of what will bring the most glory to God and “compete well for the faith” (1 Tm 6:12). When it comes to caring for others, we must remember that Christ dwells in all of us and let that fact guide our service to others. In today’s Gospel, the rich man should have recognized that Lazarus was made in God’s image like himself and at least given him some of his excess food to help him out. We may think that we treat others much better than the rich man treats Lazarus, but it is often times the case that we only aid others when it is convenient for us to do so. However, Christ did not just help people when it was convenient or easy for him to do so and neither should we.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"To have courage for whatever comes in life - everything lies in that."

Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew.  - Saint Francis de Sales

Gospel Text: (LK 9:43B-45)
While they were all amazed at his every deed,
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”
But they did not understand this saying;
its meaning was hidden from them
so that they should not understand it,
and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

You don’t understand why. You doubt. You hesitate. You are afraid.

But here’s the good news! Fears and doubts don’t disqualify you from following Jesus. He is the source of all wisdom and understanding, the giver of inexhaustible grace and mercy. And patience. If you balk or stumble, he has promised forgiveness to your repentance. If you worry or doubt, he offers strength and encouragement. So don’t let these things drive you away from the Lord. He is patient and kind, gentle and loving. As he did with the disciples, so he will lead you, forgive you, teach you, show you, comfort you, and uphold you. Always.

Friday, September 27, 2013

“Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow.”

My confidence is placed in God who does not need our help for accomplishing his designs. Our single endeavor should be to give ourselves to the work and to be faithful to him, and not to spoil his work by our shortcomings. ~St. Isaac Jogues

Gospel Text: (LK 9:18-22)
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude,
and the disciples were with him,
he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”
They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah;
still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’”
Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.”
He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone.

He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly
and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes,
and be killed and on the third day be raised.”

“But who do you say that I am?” 

What is your response? 

When we fail to answer this, is the problem ignorance or apathy?

Who is Jesus in your life?

The problem is that, like the disciples, we see only part of the picture, and that keeps us from imagining God’s huge, perfect plan. We think he is silent and inactive, but he is at work, just not always in the ways we are looking for.

Trust in his love and his wisdom!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.”

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”  - Plato

Gospel text: (LK 9:7-9)
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening,
and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying,
“John has been raised from the dead”;
others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”;
still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”
But Herod said, “John I beheaded.
Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
And he kept trying to see him.

Sometimes, confusion and curiosity are moments of great importance for us. In the case of the gospel today, Herod becomes both curious and threatened. Sometimes, that's what happens to us. We hear about Jesus, and we hear about various things he says and does, and we are very curious. At times, we are also confused and threatened. The closer Jesus comes to us, to our hearts, the more likely it will be that we will be vulnerable to putting up some defenses. The questions come up, "What will this cost me? What will I have to change?" Sometimes it is easy to deflect the whole encounter with a simple defense, like, "Oh, I'm doing a lot already. I pray every day. I ..."

Sometimes, we have this paradoxical attraction to Jesus and, at the same time, an arms length relationship with him. We let him be our Savior, as long as we don't get too close to that reality - that he died for my sins and won for me freedom from my sin and death, earning me the gift of eternal life. We hear what he says in the gospels, and accept it, as long as it doesn't really result in my choosing to not judge others, die to myself, loving my enemies, turning the other cheek, taking up my cross with him, for others. We turn to him in prayer, and are grateful, usually, as long as our prayers are answered, even though we rarely ask to be transformed in our loving others who don't love us back, in our giving of ourselves to dismantle unjust social structures, in our complete trust in the gift of eternal life.

This brief encounter with Herod's curiosity with Jesus can be a powerful invitation to us all to open our hearts to a deeper relationship with Jesus, right where we are, right in the midst of discovering our defenses, our fears, and our distrust.