Thursday, October 2, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, October 5, 2014: Think about these things...



By the time Matthew wrote his Gospel, Jesus had died, risen, and ascended, so Matthew’s community is fully aware that the son referred to in Jesus’ parable to the chief priests and elders this week prefigures Jesus himself, sent by the Father and killed by the tenants working in his vineyard.  In the gospel, the Pharisees are all too ready to kill God’s Son; they have turned their vision away from God and look only to their own comfort and gain.  Yet even here, Jesus is not condemning anyone:  he is simply inviting the people – and the chief priests and elders in particular – to rethink what they are doing, urging them to try to be true to God’s love for them, open to the grace God would like to bestow upon them.  But the Pharisees have set up walls that keep them from seeing God’s plan, barriers that block out all vision of Jesus himself, and so the kingdom of heaven will be taken away from them, and given to a people that will produce its fruit.

You would think that, if nothing else, the elders would understand Jesus’s quote from the Scriptures:  The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Psalm 118).  They are the erudite teachers and leaders; they should know that The vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel (Psalm 80), and that, in spite of all God did for his vineyard in Isaiah’s time – he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines – the vineyard would be destroyed because of the infidelity of the people of Israel.  But their vision is too cloudy to see even the texts through which they were educated.


Post-Resurrection, Paul’s message to the Philippians echoes that of Jesus to the chief priests and elders:  do not close yourselves to God behind walls of anxiety; rather, open yourselves daily to God’s ongoing care and grace, welcoming the peace of God and acknowledging all the good God’s love effects in your life.  Every deed, every word, every thought we enjoy must be rooted first and foremost in God’s excellence rather than in human understanding:  contemplate whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious.  Keep God always in your vision, and the kingdom of God, in your hands, will produce much fruit….

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

Monday, September 29, 2014

Only for You (Hxly Kxss)

(Hxly Kxss)

Do you remember
When we met in ’98?
You took my hand
Held it tight and kept me safe

Hold me close, keep me near
Though I was lost I’m now right here

Oh my soul sings only for You
Teach me Your path, lead me in the truth
Remember not the sins of my youth
Now my soul sings only for You

Do you remember
When I turned my back on You?
I was hiding in the shadows
But Your light kept shining through

Hold me close, keep me near
Though I was lost, now I’m right here

Oh my soul sings only for You
Teach me Your path, lead me in the truth
Remember not the sins of my youth
Now my soul sings only for You

Do you remember
When I came running back home?
Dirty rags washed clean
You’ve made me white as snow

Hold me close, keep me near
Though I was lost, now I’m right here

Oh my soul sings (repeated)

Oh my soul sings only for You
Teach me Your path, lead me in the truth
Remember not the sins of my youth
Now my soul sings only for You


Vocalist:  Emily Swingler
Video source
Lyrics source

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, September 28, 2014: Is it my way that is unfair?

Maybe it’s a question of attitude!

You say, ‘The Lord’s way is not fair!’  The prophet Ezekiel is called to share this message with the people of Israel, who are already in exile because they failed to remain faithful to the covenant.  Even there, in their self-centeredness, they are turning away from virtue, which leads to a kind of death – death from community, death to love – where they should be working to maintain that community at all costs, preserving its own life as they preserve their own.  They should, in other words, follow the advice of Psalm 25, praying: Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths… For it is only when our hearts are open to God’s way and to God’s truth that we can truly appreciate God’s justice and kindness, and emulate those qualities in our own lives.

Likewise, in our reading from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus challenges the chief priests and elders with a parable that puts into question their attitude toward righteousness.  Like the son who says he will go to work in the vineyard but does not, Jesus suggests, the priests follow external laws but are not converted within; what they need is repentance, a turning back to God that demonstrates true knowledge of God’s love.  Right relationship means living in the presence of God on God’s terms, from a position of humility.  God’s love is expanding infinitely within us; the only way to stand before it is to be open and submissive, the humble servant who seeks to know God’s will, not imposing our own.  As Paul tells the Philippians, God needs to be the source of our unity, a source of love – the love revealed in Christ – to which we dedicate ourselves, humbly:  complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart…  If our attitude is entirely self-focused, then our hearts will fail to be open, and relationships will be catastrophic.  But if we are other-centered, as Paul recommends, looking out for the needs of those around us, we will find every encouragement in Jesus Christ, seeing as God sees, knowing God’s ways are indeed fair and, even more important, life-giving and just.  It’s a much healthier attitude to cultivate, no?

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Did you ever find a note in your lunchbox?

Did you ever find a note from your mom in your lunchbox?

How do we seek connection?  Sometimes, we leave little reminders of our presence for those we care about, post-it notes in their lunchbox, a missive tucked under the windshield of their car, a quick hello stuffed into a bag packed for travel, an email on a difficult day.  And the surprise notes we find tucked into those out-of-the-way places are reminders that we are loved, that someone sought us out simply to make that connection... 

What note would God put in your lunchbox this week?
And maybe more importantly, all you who seek the Lord:
What note would you leave in God's lunchbox?

Image source

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