Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, September 1, 2013: Go and take the lowest place...

Humility isn’t possible in a void; we can only be humble in relation to other.  And it is to humility that Jesus calls us in this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke.  Invited to dine with a Pharisee, Jesus offers those in attendance a lesson on the proper conduct at a banquet:  when you are invited, go and take the lowest place, so that when the host comes to you, he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’  True, Jesus is addressing those who were (literally) choosing the places of honor at the table.  But the relevance of his message is far greater, applicable not only to the meal at hand, but also to the marvelously evocative festal gathering described in the Letter to the Hebrews: the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant God has long promised to God’s people, and the final banquet with God in the heavenly Jerusalem. In other words, we are called to humility in our relationship with God and other.

Why take the lowest place?  Well, first, humility helps us to find favor with God, as the Book of Sirach reminds us, and thus to be loved more than a giver of gifts.  But the key to being truly humble is to recognize that you are not alone, that you are part of a greater entity; humility is precisely that capacity within ourselves that allows us to open our hearts and see others – and to see God – as necessary to our existence, to acknowledge and appreciate our dependence.  For it is when we recognize our own brokenness that we can be fully open to God’s loving action – the bountiful rain of the Psalm – working in our lives, and thus open those very lives to other, all others -- in fulfillment of the new etiquette that is Jesus' word.

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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Trouble Me

What if God said:  Trouble Me ?

We heard this past Sunday various readings suggesting that God desires a relationship with us.  While driving recently, I was listening to some old 10,000 Maniacs, and it occurred to me that Natalie Merchant captures what God's invitation to relationship might sound like pretty well in this song... 

Trouble me
Disturb me with all your cares and your worries
Trouble me
On the days when you feel spent
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden
When my back is sturdy and strong?
Trouble me

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, August 25, 2013: I know their works and their thoughts

God invites us daily, constantly, to relationship.  All we have to do is say yes!

When, in this Sunday’s Gospel from Luke, someone asks Jesus, Lord, will only a few people be saved?, Jesus does’t really answer the question directly.  Instead, he addresses a deeper issue:  it’s not about how many will be saved, it’s about whether you will.  And the answer to that lies in you, and what you are willing to claim, how you are willing to live, in this life.  Try to answer this question:  does the Lord know you because because of your relationship with him?  God knows your works and your thoughts, as he does those of the people of Israel in our text from Isaiah; God is aware of our investment in the relationship.  And God's own investment is total:  God’s steadfast loving kindness (Psalm 117) is constant gift to us; how do we respond?  Are we paying attention to that relationship?  Are we disciplined, as the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us to be?  Do we endure our trials as they come, trusting in God, investing ourselves fully in the relationship even when it is difficult?  When we come to eat and drink in God’s company, are we there because it’s a requirement, or are we there to be fed by God’s love, to embrace the Lord and each other?  And once we have been fed, are we ready to proclaim God’s glory to all the nations, eager to go out to all the world and tell the good news, so excited about being in relationship with God that it's clear to everyone we know?

God saves each of us by offering relationship with God to us, inviting us to embrace that relationship and to live it, every single day.  And God’s joy is in the relationship, as our joy, too, can be – if only we open our hearts to God’s invitation to relationship, and live it as fully as we can!

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

T.S. Eliot - Consumed by God's fire

What does it mean to be consumed by God's fire?

                                         The only hope, or else despair
                                         Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre –
                                         To be redeemed from fire by fire.

                                         Who then devised the torment? Love.
                                         Love is the unfamiliar name
                                         Behind the hands that wove
                                         The intolerable shirt of flame,
                                         Which human power cannot remove.
                                                     We only live, only suspire
                                                     Consumed by either fire or fire.

For a powerful discussion of this excerpt from T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, read Fr. Ron Rohlheiser's article, "Curing Fire by Fire" by clicking here.

Photo source:  Botticelli illustrates Purgatorio 27, Dancing Through Fire

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, August 18, 2013: Set the world on fire...

It isn’t always easy being a Christian in today’s modern world.

This week’s readings remind us of the struggles faced by the faithful as they strive to share God’s Word with the world.  The prophet Jeremiah is thrown into a cistern full of mud because the princes under King Zedekiah didn’t like the message Jeremiah had to share.  (He was telling the people that their city would be handed over to an aggressor and that many of them would die.  Who wants to hear that?)  Fortunately, the king relents and has the prophet pulled out of the nasty cistern, and Jeremiah goes on to continue speaking God’s Word to the king and his people.

In our Gospel from Luke, Jesus also makes it clear that speaking the Truth will not be easy.  Indeed, just as Jesus suffers – the baptism which [he] must accomplish is his death and rising – we, too, will know suffering because of our faith, difficulty that will afflict us even within our most intimate relationships:  a father will be divided against his son, and a son against his father  This baptism is one which we, too, must embrace, the truth to which we must hold, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us:  let us… persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, Jesus, who is God’s Truth incarnate. 

The good news is, if we manage this, God will, as Psalm 40 proclaims, put a new song in [our] mouth, a hymn to our God, and that song will be the witness required of us:  Many shall look on in awe and trust in the Lord.  Then, too, Christ’s burning love – I have come to set the world on fire, Jesus says – will help us to share his passion for the Gospel, his zeal for the Word of God.  That Word may not be a message the world wants to hear… but it is one we are called to embrace, and to which we must give witness, no matter how challenging that job is today.  Indeed, it is the challenge that makes it all the more necessary.

Photo source

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

God, I have no idea where I am going

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.  I do not see the road ahead of me.  I cannot know for certain where it will end.  Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  I hope I will never do anything apart from that desire.  And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.  Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. 

Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
Text source
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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, August 11, 2013: The eyes of the Lord...

How would this moment be different if you sensed the eyes of God upon you?

Our readings this Sunday challenge us not only to realize that the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him – and that means you, if you are in awe of God – but also to turn our own faces to God, to meet God’s eyes in faith and confidence. 

Psalm 33 sets the stage:  See, the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, To deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.  Israel has a special relationship with God, and the people’s awe (fear of the Lord) indicates a strong awareness of that relationship.  God watches out for them, but this must be a two-way street:  God is waiting for us to make eye contact, too, thereby demonstrating our faith in his promise, a promise in which we have put our hope, the salvation of the just presented in the Book of Wisdom.  Do we have the sure knowledge of our fathers?  Are we making eye contact with God?

Jesus likewise reiterates God’s promise for all in our Gospel from Luke, calling upon the whole church to look to the future, so that we can live a life of faith here, now, in the present, moving forward with confidence, meeting God’s eyes.  Your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom, he says, in the present tense.  That kingdom is ours if we are prepared, if we can detach ourselves from material goods so that we can contribute to the building of the kingdom ourselves, as stewards of God’s will, in faith, as stressed in the Letter to the Hebrews.  And from this place of faith, we can move forward with confidence, investing ourselves entirely in the God who has given us hope, looking to God, meeting God’s eyes, knowing that we are secure in God’s loving kindness.

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