Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, September 29, 2013: Pursue righteousness...

What do you live for?  What do you treasure?

Our readings this weekend suggest that our true wealth lies, not in the self-absorption so characteristic of modern (and sometimes ancient) society, but in our relationship with God and other.

We hear once again this week from the prophet Amos, who condemns not only excess but complacency, that sense that we are resting safe and sound, secure in a place of peace and repletion.  But in fact the religious leaders of Amos’ time have withdrawn so completely into their world of luxury that they fail to see the kingdom collapsing around them.  Blinded by self-interest, their only cult is their absorption in themselves, and in their own comfort.  They have little sense of the needs of the world outside their own isolated universe, and have lost touch with God, the relationship that should define them, first and foremost, and with other. 

Similarly, the rich man in the Gospel text from Luke has himself also become complacent, forgetting the needs of Lazarus, his brother in covenant, concerned only for his own sensual comforts:  purple garments, fine linen, and sumptuous dining.  Lazarus, on the other hand, has found help in the bosom of Abraham, embracing an identity of innocence and complete dependence on God.  Having kept faith forever, he embodies the powerless soul protected by God in Psalm 146, set free for eternity after the misery of his life on earth.

So how do we seek right relationship with God?  While we don’t necessarily have to suffer in misery, we can place ourselves in that same posture of dependence embraced by Lazarus, pursuing righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness (as Paul suggests to Timothy), remaining true to the core of our faith, which is the love of God made manifest through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  Rather than getting caught up in power and worldly wealth, it behooves us first and foremost to keep the commandment, loving God and other with everything in ourselves, remaining true to relationship before all else. 

How might you better demonstrate that you live for God, and for other?

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Our eternal investment portfolio

Our Eternal Investment Portfolio

Christians are God's delivery people, through whom he does his giving to a needy world.  We are conduits of God's grace to others.  Our eternal investment portfolio should be full of the most strategic kingdom-building projects to which we can disburse God's funds.
--Randy Alcorn, Money, Possessions and Eternity

What do you think of this quote?
What does your eternal investment portfolio look like?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, September 22, 2013: Prepare a full account of your stewardship...

Are you a steward of God’s love?

Our readings for this Sunday focus on how we bring the bountiful wealth of God – God’s love – to all via our proper stewardship of our resources, be they material or spiritual, tangible or intangible.

In our reading from Amos, we learn that the people of the southern kingdom have fallen out of right relationship with God, and thus have begun dealing in impiety and fraud, ignoring the day dedicated to God (the new moon) and cheating others, fixing their scales.  Their pride should come from their relationship with God; instead, they are fixed on their own betterment, which results in injustice and the abuse of their neighbors.  Having placed themselves in a position of power, they are not the kinds of stewards God is looking for.  In Psalm 113, on the other hand, God raises up the lowly from the dust to seat them with princes; it is God’s action that confers upon the poor an identity and recognizes their capacity for positive stewardship of God’s love.

In the Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus offers his disciples the parable of the dishonest steward, who is prompted by his master’s plan to dismiss him to treat his master’s debtors justly, foregoing the interest he might otherwise make off of their debts so that he might remain in their good graces even as he loses his job as steward.  He thereby uses dishonest wealth to improve his relationship with God and with other, serving the world-to-come more than the world he has abused.

As Christians, we are likewise called to be stewards, using prudently the gifts we are given – both tangible material possessions and God’s intangible love! – as they should be used, with truth, dignity and openness.  We must place our relationship with God foremost in our lives, allowing it to dictate all that we do, that we might lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity (1 Timothy), prayerful, prayer-filled, living God’s truth before all.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
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Monday, September 16, 2013

I am the prodigal son

I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found.  Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere? Why do I keep leaving home where I am called a child of God, the Beloved of my Father?  I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me – my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts – and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God.  Yes, I often carry them off to a ‘distant country’ and put them in the service of an exploiting world that does not know their true value.  It’s almost as if I want to prove to myself and to my world that I do not need God’s love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent.

[The story of the prodigal son demonstrates that] God has never pulled back his arms, never withheld his blessing, never stopped considering his son the Beloved One. But the Father couldn’t compel his son to stay home.  He couldn’t force his love on the Beloved.  He had to let him go in freedom, even though he knew the pain it would cause both his son and himself.  It was love itself that prevented him from keeping his son home at all cost.  It was love itself that allowed him to let his son find his own life, even with the risk of losing it.

Here the mystery of life is unveiled.  I am loved so much that I am left free to leave home.  The blessing is there from the beginning.  I have left it and keep on leaving it.  But the father is always looking for me with outstretched arms to receive me back and whisper again in my ear:  ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.’

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sunday Gospel Reflection, September 15, 2013: Rejoicing among the angels of God...

Is there anyone who is beyond God’s mercy?  Our readings this Sunday suggest that, while we may try God’s patience, may even gravely sin, God’s mercy and forgiveness are a gift available to all who seek it and are open to it.

The grumbling people in the story from Exodus this week are not exactly pleasing God when they turn to worship an idol in Moses’ absence, and Moses will have to implore God not to let his wrath blaze up against them.  Note that it’s not that God doesn’t already know God has made a powerful covenant with the people of Israel – it’s simply that Moses needs to articulate this story so that he can bring evidence of God’s mercy to the people. 

Before mercy is possible, though, we need to realize that it is available to us as a means of transformation.  In our Gospel text from Luke, Jesus uses three parables to demonstrate the value of one single individual, isolated by sin yet actively sought by God for reconciliation.  The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to go looking for that one lost sheep (unthinkable!), a woman expends tremendous energy to find one lost coin (and then spends far more celebrating her find with her friends – odd!), and the prodigal father celebrates the return of his son because nothing is more important than reconnection (generous!).  Notice that the son acknowledges that he has sinned against heaven and against his own father; his implicit prayer is for the recovery of past relationship, just as we must constantly pray for reconciliation as an on-going conversion process.

Psalm 51 connects the first reading and the gospel in that it is a unique penitential psalm, expressing the psalmist’s regret for past transgressions and a profound desire for forgiveness:  Thoroughly wash me of my guilt, and of my sin cleanse me.  A clean heart create for me, o God… Again, the psalmist is not only asking to be transformed; he is also actively open to that transformation through God’s loving kindness.  In our reading from 1 Timothy, Paul acknowledges that he is who he is – a fervent apostle – because of the mercy and love of Jesus:  I have been mercifully treated… Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant.  And the result of this clear and on-going conversion process?  Joy, great joy, as expressed in Jesus’ final parable:  now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother, who was lost, has been found.

This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Find Joy (BiG WiDE GRiN, inspired by Maya Angelou)

This past Sunday's psalm reminds us to ask God to Teach us to number our days aright... and to Fill us at daybreak with your mercy, that all our days we may sing for joy.  Inspired by a conversation with Maya Angelou, Lawrence Lambert of BiG WiDE GRiN reminds us of a few ways we might just find joy.  (And while you're at it, notice the guitar & backup by OLMC parishioner Elaine Dempsey - how cool is that!)  Music begins around 1:07.

This song is available on the CD Live Simple, Breathe Deep.
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Monday, September 9, 2013

Seeing our bodies as God sees them

If true wisdom is seeing as God sees, then perhaps we might begin by praying for the wisdom to see ourselves – and more specifically, our bodies – as God sees them:  not as some shameful blob that falls short of human standards of perfection, but as gift, beautifully and wonderfully made. 

For a short reflection on God and our bathing suit culture, check out Caitlin Kennell Kim’s post on Busted Halo by clicking here.