Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, September 21, 2014: Seek the Lord...

How often do you find yourself looking for God?

Though we will certainly never really understand God – For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, the Lord tells Isaiah – we certainly can appreciate the wonderful benefits of relationship with the God who loved us into existence.  And while we may turn our back on God, shutting ourselves off, forsaking God, God, for his part, encourages us always to return:  Seek the Lord while he may be found, Isaiah reminds the people of Israel, for it is with God that we ultimately find life and love, mercy and forgiveness.  Psalm 145 reminds us of God’s qualities that make this so:  The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness… To sing God’s praises in this way is to make a confession of our acceptance of the terms of covenant, recognizing our desire for relationship, allowing the connection, restoring it if need be.  God wants us to seek that relationship, one in which we will find compassion and justice on our journey.

Yet it is not necessarily ours to understand God’s justice either, as our gospel reading from Matthew demonstrates.  When a vineyard owner pays the workes who arrive an hour before closing time the same wage as the workers who arrived in the early morning, our human hackles start to rise.  That’s not fair!  But again, my thoughts are not your thoughts:  God makes it possible for all to live, the first to come to God as well as the last.  Is it up to us to begrudge the on who comes at the last hour, or will we rejoice because they love the Lord?  After all, they are following Isaiah’s directive:  Seek the Lord…  And God’s love is open to them as well.

God’s love is a free gift – wherever we might be.  Paul tells the Philippians that whether he lives or dies, his desire is that Christ be magnified in his body; he has dedicated himself to the love of God revealed in Jesus, and spends his every waking hour sharing that Good News, fruitful labor that helps Paul to maintain his connection with the God who created him.  Through obedience – conducting himself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, Paul demonstrates how to seek the Lord while he may be found…  We, too, are called to seek the Lord through our attention to relationship, with God, with other, preaching the good news so long as we are able, magnifying Christ with our bodies, so that those who seek him may find him in the love we share.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source

Monday, September 15, 2014

Do you wear a cross?

Do you wear a cross?  Why or why not?

As we pondered this weekend the profound symbolism of the Cross of Christ, a sign of the ultimate humiliation yet also the consummate sign of Jesus's victory over death, I began to wonder.  Looking around me, I often notice the people who wear a sign of their Christian faith -- although here in Marin County, that can be a rather unusual thing to do.  I have noticed the glances of secular co-workers focused on the cross I sometimes wear on my wrist -- surprise? appreciation?  suspicion?  And I remember that there are governments in other countries who try to ban crosses and other religious symbols in the workplace.

And so I began to wonder:  who chooses to wear a cross, and why?  Or why not?   We'd love to hear from you:  please share your thoughts (here or on Facebook)!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Where did I triumph if not on the Cross?

Where did I triumph if not on the Cross?  Are you [so] blind as ... to think that Golgotha was my downfall and my failure?  Do you believe it was only later – three days later – that I recovered from my death and climbed up laboriously from the pit of Hades to appear among you once again?  Look:  this is my secret, and there is no other in heaven or on earth:  My Cross is salvation, my Death is victory, my Darkness is light.  At that time, when I hung in torment and dread rushed into my soul because of the forsakenness, rejectedness, uselessness of my suffering, and all was gloomy, and only the seething rage of that mass of teeth hissed up mockingly at me, while heaven kept silent, shut tight as the mouth of a scoffer (but through the open gates of my hands and feet my blood bubbled out in spurts, and with each throb my Heart became more desolate, strength poured out from me in streams and there remained only faintness, death’s fatigue, infinite failure), and at last I neared that mysterious and final spot on the very edge of being, and then – the fall into the void, the capsizing into the bottomless abyss, the vertigo, the finale, the un-becoming:  that colossal death which only I have died.  Through my death this has been spared you, and no one will ever experience what it really means to die:  This was my victory.
--Hans Urs von Balthasar, Heart of the World

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, September 14, 2014: Death on a cross...

Imagine the reaction of the first followers to Jesus's choice to die crucified, nailed to a wooden cross, stripped of his garments – the ultimate humiliation... yet, ultimately, salvation.  From this ostensible place of death and defeat, a place of humility chosen by Jesus, the Son of God, comes the most remarkable healing transformation in the history of the earth:  the redemption of humankind from sin.

This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross, a feast that acknowledges this profound paradox of our faith.  In our first reading from Numbers, Moses raises the saraph serpent on the pole, and those who eagerly turn back to God as they gaze upon it (Psalm 78) are healed from their suffering. This sign was a prefiguration of the final act of the human Jesus, willing to suffer, lifted on the Cross, defeating both sin and death, and gaining everlasting life for those who eagerly turn to him.  As Jesus tells Nicodemus in John’s Gospel, Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.  To believe in the victory of the Cross is to know that God’s love has no bounds, no limits; Jesus is the revelation of the fullness of God’s love.

As Paul explains to the Philippians, Jesus’s humility was necessary; his obedience to a plan greater than he might humanly want came from a place of love.  He first emptied himself in the Incarnation, taking on the likeness of man, and as a man, he died, nailed to a cross.  Yet from that place of ultimate vulnerability and annihilation, God exalted Jesus, so that the cross, a sign of debasement, might become an everlasting symbol of the glory that is God’s, and the salvation that is ours.

We, too, must choose.  To choose the Cross is to choose life, to choose Love, to choose God.  Will you choose the Cross, today?

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source

Monday, September 8, 2014

Falling in Love

Falling in Love

Nothing is more practical
than finding God;
that is, than falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

--Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Sunday Scripture Reflection, September 7, 2014: The one who loves another...

Being community means watching out for one another.

Our readings this week challenge us to think about what it means to be community, what it means to be church.  The prophet Ezekiel has an unenviable job:  no one likes to listen to the woes he foretells.  But as watchman for the house of Israel, Ezekiel is also called to be on the lookout – not for enemies (they are already in exile!), but for any evil that might further threaten their covenant with God, for any wrong choices that might affect God’s relationship with the people of Israel.  Ezekiel might have appreciated the message of Psalm 95:  If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.  In other words, stay open to God:  listen for him to speak to you; be reliant on him; trust in God as your focal point.  Ezekiel has done this:  his heart is open, else he could not be God’s mouthpiece, and he is an able watchman, caring and concerned for others.  But that responsibility also lies with the people of Israel… as it lies with us.

Jesus’s message to his disciples in Matthew’s gospel goes still deeper.  When there is conflict between you and your brother, he tells them, the key is to work to restore connection, to open the doors that are shut, because whatever affects two affects the whole community.  As Christians, we have an identity in the body; the Body of Christ consists of all those who come together for Eucharist, gathered in His name.  We are all watchmen; each of us is responsible for holding the community together, for paying attention to the relationships that make us church.  Moreover, as Paul reminds the Romans, God – the God that is love – is the binding force of that community; we are to love one another.  In order to keep a watch out for each other, we have to start there:  with love and concern for our neighbors.   It means stepping beyond our selves, accepting others as they are, without having to change them.  If we love others as fully as we possibly can, if we love as Jesus did, taking humanity to the cross and dying for us, then that love will be transformative, and we will truly be community, truly be church.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
Image source

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My own heart let me more have pity on (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

My own heart let me more have pity on; let
Me to live to my sad self hereafter kind,
Charitable; not live this tormented mind
With this tormented mind tormenting yet.
I cast for comfort I can no more get
By groping round my comfortless, than blind
Eyes in their dark can day or thirst can find
Thirst’s all-in-all in a world of wet.

Soul, self; come, poor Jackself, I do advise
You, jaded, let be; call off thoughts awhile
Elsewhere; leave comfort root-room; let joy size
At God knows when to God knows what; whose smile
‘s not wrung, see you; unforeseen times rather – as skies
Betweenpie mountains – lights a lovely mile.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. (1844-1889)