Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.”

Our souls may lose their peace and even disturb other people's, if we are always criticizing trivial actions - which often are not real defects at all, but we construe them wrongly through our ignorance of their motives. --Saint Teresa

Gospel Text: (LK 9:51-56)
When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled,
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them,
and they journeyed to another village.

Understandably, this breach of Middle-eastern hospitality (feed the traveling stranger) was offensive to James and John, who were moved to some feelings of reciprocal hostility: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus, however, will not go along with this reaction to the Samaritan rejection. As Luke reports, “Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.” What a great example of Jesus’ modeling his own teaching about responding nonviolently to hostile rejection!

The take-away for us is obvious.

If we consider ourselves disciples of Jesus, when we meet some form of rejection, the first thing to do is not to “get back” with some hostile act of our own but rather to take the effort to consider what is a possible source of the other’s hostility — their own sense of defending their values, their own woundedness, their own prior experience of rejection? That kind of thinking is a way of loving “the enemy.” That takes a little leap of restraint and imagination, but it is exactly what Jesus expects of his followers (see Matthew 5 or Luke 6).

In our extremely tumultuous times, when it seems things can't get much worse, we need a vision of hope. This hope was well stated by Mahatma Gandhi who said, "When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it--always."

This same hope was also expressed by J.R.R. Tolkein when he said, "All we do know, and that to a large extent by direct experience, is that evil labors with vast power and perpetual success - in vain: preparing always the soil for unexpected good to sprout in."

At times we may be tempted to put up our hands and start throwing punches in the face of the world’s hostility. At that moment the Lord may reply, "It was for this that you were born. I need you to be a beacon of hope for my people. Let my light shine through you. My power will prevail."

Monday, September 29, 2014

"I could not have made it this far had there not been angels along the way."

Make friends with the angels, who though invisible are always with you. Often invoke them, constantly praise them, and make good use of their help and assistance in all your temporal and spiritual affairs. – St. Francis de Sales

Scripture text: (DN 7:9-10, 13-14)
As I watched:

Thrones were set up
and the Ancient One took his throne.
His clothing was bright as snow,
and the hair on his head as white as wool;
His throne was flames of fire,
with wheels of burning fire.
A surging stream of fire
flowed out from where he sat;
Thousands upon thousands were ministering to him,
and myriads upon myriads attended him.

The court was convened, and the books were opened.
As the visions during the night continued, I saw

One like a son of man coming,
on the clouds of heaven;
When he reached the Ancient One
and was presented before him,
He received dominion, glory, and kingship;
nations and peoples of every language serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not be taken away,
his kingship shall not be destroyed.

What is heavenly worship like?

Today’s reading gives us a glimpse. Imagine God, the “Ancient One,” on his throne, surrounded by myriads of heavenly beings, with glory shining all around (Daniel 7:9-10). Imagine the angels of God “ascending and descending on the Son of Man,” who has put all his enemies at his feet (John 1:51). The descriptions of angelic worship in the Book of Revelation provide a window for our imagination as well. And let’s not forget the heavenly chorus that announced the birth of Jesus with joyful songs of praise and glory!

How do we enter into this joyous celebration?

While our times of personal prayer lay an essential foundation, they aren’t the only opportunity. Any time we lift our hearts to the Lord is a chance to take part in heavenly worship. When we go to Mass, heaven touches earth, and we are lifted up into worship. But our hearts can be raised up to heaven just as easily when we are walking down a busy street as when we are kneeling in church. Opportunities can come as we are cooking dinner or driving to work.

So don’t miss out on the many opportunities you will have today.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The more you pray, the less you'll panic. The more you worship, the less you worry.

“Pray, hope, and don't worry. Worry is useless. God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” - Padre Pio

R. (1) In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You turn man back to dust,
saying, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday, now that it is past,
or as a watch of the night.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
You make an end of them in their sleep;
the next morning they are like the changing grass,
Which at dawn springs up anew,
but by evening wilts and fades.
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.
Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.
And may the gracious care of the Lord our God be ours;
prosper the work of our hands for us!
Prosper the work of our hands!
R. In every age, O Lord, you have been our refuge.

Every now and then when I am having a bad day, I try to remember what I was worrying about a couple of years ago, or even a couple of weeks ago.   Then I think of how trivial my worries and problems really are when you look at them in context to the psalm above which states, “a thousand years…are as yesterday.”  Who knows what was happening  a thousand years ago? Or better yet, who really dwells on it.

Psalm 90 gives me a sense of peace because it leads me to reflect on the God of eternity and to put things in perspective. Today we all have our specific worries to the state of life we find ourselves in but by Christmas many of those same concerns will be long gone (I hope), replaced by new issues. And God will still be God.

How many thousands of years did God's creation of the earth exist before people
appeared? And what of the vastness of the universe? When I’m troubled,
it helps to envision my life as a grain of sand against the background of
the cosmos

Thinking of the eternal God to whom a thousand years are as yesterday
also helps me to let go and trust that my transitory stresses are
part of God’s larger plan for me.

So let us take a deep breath, and contemplate the wonder of God and his creation.
Then we can turn our worries and fears over to God and find them seeming
much smaller.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

“How soon will we accept the opportunity to be fully alive before we die?”

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God's] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree” ― Fr. Thomas Merton O.C.S.O, New Seeds of Contemplation

Scripture Text: (ECCL 3:1-11 )
There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

What advantage has the worker from his toil?
I have considered the task that God has appointed
for the sons of men to be busied about.
He has made everything appropriate to its time,
and has put the timeless into their hearts,
without man’s ever discovering,
from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

I think one lesson from Ecclesiastes is that we don’t control time, God does. God has made everything “appropriate to its time.” The author in Ecclesiastes expressed a spirituality of time that transcends our daily concerns with the mundane. There isn’t just a time to plant, or seek, or build, or laugh – there is an appropriate time for all things. God has set in motion the seasons of our lives and “put the timeless into [our] hearts.”

It is our task to discern whether the timing of what we face is “appropriate” in God’s grand creation. WE may think the time is right - to build, or to embrace, or to be silent, or to love - but what is God suggesting to us when we reflect more fully on what we are about to do? WE may feel this is the right time, but what does the quiet whisper of God tell us? WE may want to do something, and may be able to do so, but is it the appropriate time in God’s timeless call to us? And when our life draws to a close, WE may want to hold onto the many gifts of this wonderful creation, when God tells us the time is right to let them go.

Jesus admonishes His disciples at several points throughout the scriptures when he would say “it is not my time,” or that the time was not right. Holy people have the great gift of awareness, of being able to challenge whether what they are doing in every moment is connected with God’s call to them. Time becomes not a clock measurement, a calendar entry, but an elemental oneness with the Creator. It seems to me that the author of Ecclesiastes was able to put aside our human restlessness and anxiety about the future and received the gift of peace, of knowing the true meaning of time as God intended it to be. I think the author understood what the “timeless” was in our hearts – a yearning to connect with God the Creator, our great lover, the one with whom we belong for all future “time.” I suspect the author was able to accept the ebbs and flows of life as gifts from God, with hidden treasures of meaning and importance that could only be fully understood in the timeless gift of God’s love.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

“But the vain man did not hear him…….. Vain men never hear anything but praise.”

“Nothing is so at odds with prayer as vanity.” - Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German Lutheran pastor, Martyr and anti-Nazi dissident)

Scripture Text: (ECCL 1:2-11 )
Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!
What profit has man from all the labor
which he toils at under the sun?
One generation passes and another comes,
but the world forever stays.
The sun rises and the sun goes down;
then it presses on to the place where it rises.
Blowing now toward the south, then toward the north,
the wind turns again and again, resuming its rounds.
All rivers go to the sea,
yet never does the sea become full.
To the place where they go,
the rivers keep on going.
All speech is labored;
there is nothing one can say.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing
nor is the ear satisfied with hearing.

What has been, that will be;
what has been done, that will be done.
Nothing is new under the sun.
Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!”
has already existed in the ages that preceded us.
There is no remembrance of the men of old;
nor of those to come will there be any remembrance
among those who come after them.

Most scholars today believe that Ecclesiastes was written some time in the two to three centuries before Christ. The author wrote under the name “Qoheleth,” which means “preacher” in Hebrew, but it’s not certain who he was. One thing is certain, however: he didn’t mince words when he considered the state of human life!

Qoheleth was brutally honest when he described the cycle of life. He didn’t sugarcoat the sometimes meaningless labors and injustices that we face. He didn’t smile and pretend that everything was fine. He confronted life’s inconsistencies, acknowledged them, but continued to believe in God and to trust him to make sense out of things. Now that’s a heroic example of faith!

The fact is we are kidding ourselves about how important we are in the larger scheme of things. Our purposes are just too trivial and the calendars we keep can be downright petty.

It seems to me that if we number our days in terms of God’s plan, we will make wiser choices in our labors. And that matters. We won’t be wasting so much time. So instead of checking our calendars in the morning and asking God to prosper “our” labors as if they really are ours, we should ask for God’s kindness that we may shout for joy and gladness for the work we have before us because the “work” belongs to Him and should be for Him and not us alone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I do not know why God does some things, but I am convinced that nothing is accidental

“Do not be afraid to abandon yourself unreservedly to His loving Providence, for a child cannot perish in the arms of a Father Who is omnipotent.” - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Gospel Text: (LK 9:1-6)
Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority
over all demons and to cure diseases,
and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God
and to heal the sick.
He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey,
neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money,
and let no one take a second tunic.
Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.
And as for those who do not welcome you,
when you leave that town,
shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.”
Then they set out and went from village to village
proclaiming the Good News and curing diseases everywhere

“Be prepared.” That’s the motto for the Boy Scouts of America. Can’t you just picture a pack of young boys on a camping trip, loaded down with supplies, ready for whatever nature can throw at them?

While this may be good training for ten-year-olds, it isn’t always the best advice when it comes to living in the Spirit. Jesus offers an alternative vision to his disciples in today’s Gospel reading. As he sends them out to preach and heal, he says, “Take nothing for the journey.” Nothing!

Think about the disciples Jesus sent out. They still had a lot to learn. Some of them were hoping for personal glory. Others were lacking in courage. One would go on to betray him! But Jesus sent them out anyway. Sure, they would make mistakes. But that’s how they would learn and grow. And while they were learning and growing, they would also do a lot of good.

What risk is the Lord calling you to take for his kingdom? Is there something that you have been waiting to do but just haven’t felt prepared for yet? Ask God if now is the time to go through that door. And then trust him to teach you as you go.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“You are what you do, not what you say you'll do.”

“The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Scripture Text: (PRV 21:1-6, 10-13 )
Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the LORD;
wherever it pleases him, he directs it.

All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes,
but it is the LORD who proves hearts.

To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

Haughty eyes and a proud heart–
the tillage of the wicked is sin.

The plans of the diligent are sure of profit,
but all rash haste leads certainly to poverty.

Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue
is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.

The soul of the wicked man desires evil;
his neighbor finds no pity in his eyes.

When the arrogant man is punished, the simple are the wiser;
when the wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.

The just man appraises the house of the wicked:
there is one who brings down the wicked to ruin.

He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself also call and not be heard.

Very simply put, today’s lesson emphasizes the importance of listening, not just hearing.

This certainly reminds me of something our beloved Pope Francis has called to our attention. One must not only hear, but respond to the cry of the poor. We must remember that the poor aren’t only those who lack in material things, but those lacking security, self- esteem, and the feeling of being loved to name a few items that we take for granted. We must listen, and be prepared to respond to the needs of each other. Sometimes we are just too busy to do this, or we presume that somebody else will also hear, and take care of the response part so we don’t have to.

As we struggle to do God's will in our lives, we come closer and closer to Him. Just as Jesus can see us in connection with Him, we are called to broaden our vision, and see others as connected to us. What would happen if we and all others of good will who strive to "hear the word of God and act on it," were to come together and work for the kingdom? What if we were to nurture and care for each other as the best families do? What if we let go of the family and tribal and racial hatreds that have given rise to genocide and destruction in our world? Jesus calls us to follow Him as sisters and brothers in loving the world and working for the kingdom. May we hear the word of God and act on it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that”

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” - ― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Gospel Text: (LK 8:16-18)
Jesus said to the crowd:
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear.
To anyone who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not,
even what he seems to have will be taken away.

When he turned fifty, folk-music legend Bob Dylan was asked by Rolling Stone magazine if he was happy. He replied, “These are yuppie words, happiness and unhappiness. It’s not happiness or unhappiness; it’s either blessed or unblessed. As the Bible says, ‘Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly.’ Now, that must be a happy man. Knowing that you are the person you were put on this Earth to be—that’s much more important than just being happy. Anyway, happiness is just a balloon—it’s just temporary stuff.”

Do you understand how much God wants to bless you? He wants it so much that he died to pour out his blessings. The fruits of his Spirit—things like love, joy, peace, patience, and gentleness—are what make for a truly happy life, and they are what God delights to shower on you. It’s up to you to accept them and to cooperate with his grace. So follow the wise words of Scripture and become a generous, open-hearted receiver of everything God wants to give you!

Friday, September 19, 2014

“Writing a check was easily done, and easily done with. It allows us to do "charity" while keeping at bay the inner tug that urges us to give more of ourselves and our time, rather than our possessions.”

All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully. As a result, we ought to appreciate and use these gifts of God insofar as they help us toward our goal of loving service and union with God. But insofar as any created things hinder our progress toward our goal, we ought to let them go.” - St. Ignatius of Loyola

Gospel Text: (LK 8:1-3)
Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.

Jesus was an itinerant preacher. He proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom of God. He had followers which included women who supported his mission. All of his followers were flawed. We know that the Apostles fought among themselves, one sold him out, another denied him, all doubted him and none understood his mission and message. The Apostles became great leaders, yes, even martyrs. The women were ordinary people who had had their problems and challenges. Yet, they overcame them when they encountered the forgiving Jesus. Their gratitude for this transformation led to their generosity.

We are invited to sit with these insights that are imbedded in the Scriptures for today's Mass. May we too be transformed and may we too be generous with God's gifts!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Do not try to excuse your faults; try to correct them

Do not put off any longer confessing all your sins, for death will soon come. Give and it will be given you; forgive and you will be forgiven. . . Blessed are they who die repentant, for they shall go to the Kingdom of Heaven! But woe to those who are not converted, for these children of the Devil will go with their father into everlasting fire. Be watchful, therefore. Shun evil, and persevere in well-doing until the end."-- Saint Francis of Assisi

Gospel Text: (LK 7:36-50)
A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him,
and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table.
Now there was a sinful woman in the city
who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.
Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment,
she stood behind him at his feet weeping
and began to bathe his feet with her tears.
Then she wiped them with her hair,
kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself,
“If this man were a prophet,
he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him,
that she is a sinner.”
Jesus said to him in reply,
“Simon, I have something to say to you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
“Two people were in debt to a certain creditor;
one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty.
Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both.
Which of them will love him more?”
Simon said in reply,
“The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.”
He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”
Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon,
“Do you see this woman?
When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet,
but she has bathed them with her tears
and wiped them with her hair.
You did not give me a kiss,
but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.
You did not anoint my head with oil,
but she anointed my feet with ointment.
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven;
hence, she has shown great love.
But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The others at table said to themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
But he said to the woman,
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

We have to get the sequence right: forgiveness first, then loving service. The woman’s response in today’s gospel passage was not so much to Jesus, as to the Pharisee’s abominable behavior. Her response was for Jesus because she accepted what He had told the village that day about God’s forgiveness. She didn’t wash Jesus’ feet to gain that forgiveness, for she realized all she had to do is ask and forgiveness would be given to her.

If we really understood that we could be forgiven, would we let anything stand in the way? Perhaps we don’t realize this gift that is there for the taking? All we have to do is ask for God’s forgiveness and the only obstacle that stands in our way is our pride!

For us, the listeners today to this gospel story, we can take great comfort in the sure knowledge that this is how Jesus looks upon us - he sees within to the levels of intention and desire not to the outer trappings and history of any failure or limitation of ours.

While we are faithful and we try our best, we know we are not always worthy, but if we love we can all confidently wait in hope and longing for Jesus to say to us also "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things.”

"There is no place for selfishness—and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice” --Pope John Paul II

Scripture Text: (1 COR 12:31-13:13)
Brothers and sisters:
Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.

But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues
but do not have love,
I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.
And if I have the gift of prophecy
and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge;
if I have all faith so as to move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give away everything I own,
and if I hand my body over so that I may boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, love is not pompous,
it is not inflated, it is not rude,
it does not seek its own interests,
it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury,
it does not rejoice over wrongdoing
but rejoices with the truth.
It bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.
If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing;
if tongues, they will cease;
if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.
For we know partially and we prophesy partially,
but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.
So faith, hope, love remain, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.

Love is a choice. We make thousands of choices a day but the most important decision we will make all day is the one to love.

As St. Paul says in his letter, "If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing." 

Love is the greatest of all things and is the force with which the world turns. However, the type of "love" that we see most often today is not the kind of love into which Christ calls us.  This type of love is an even exchange, 50/50. You should only love someone who can give you something in return. This kind of love leaves no room for human brokenness. The minute we falter, we become open to the fear that we will no longer be accepted.

The love we are being called to in Christ is a selfless and inclusive love - a love that knows no bounds and is not "self-seeking". St. Paul gives us a list of the characteristics of love that we should strive to emulate. These are not just instructions for a married couple, but for all of humanity. This list shows a variety of ways we can exemplify this love: being kind, patient, and selfless; this kind of love never fails. 

Yes, we are human and our love is not perfect. That does not mean we should give up hope. We are called though to shine forth a facet of Christ's light and love. To strive for the unconditional love that we are given every moment. In that intention is where we exemplify that love. Our greatest example of this kind love is Christ crucified where He poured out Himself for us. All things lead back to Christ, especially our love for one another. 

"There is no human love that is not broken somewhere. When our broken love is the only love we can have, we are easily thrown into despair, but when we can live our broken love as a partial reflection of God's perfect, unconditional love, we can forgive one another our limitations and enjoy together the love we have to offer." - Henri Nouwen's Bread for the Journey

Sunday, September 14, 2014

There is power in self-sacrifice

“When you love you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.” ― Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Scripture Text: ((PHIL 2:6-11)
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus did what He did out of obedience to the Father and love for us!

If we are to follow Jesus, we need to be willing to empty ourselves of the desire to be the center of everything, in other words, to be the "God" of our own lives. We need to empty ourselves of looking at others and at all of creation in terms of what we can get from them. In the words of Alcoholics Anonymous, we need to be relieved "of the bondage of self."

As we follow Jesus, and become more for others and less for self, we find we cannot isolate ourselves from the world, as tempting as that is today. God did not "give his only Son" so that we would turn our backs on the world that He loves so much, as soon as we believed in Jesus! The world, in such pain and distress, needs what has been given to us in Jesus Christ!

Obviously, we can't do this on our own. I know I need grace in order to get outside of myself, and let go of being only concerned for myself. But the great thing is that God's grace in Jesus Christ is always available! God's grace is poured out on us continually!