Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, August 3, 2014: The hand of the Lord feeds us...

What feeds you?

Our readings this Sunday all focus on the ways God provides for our needs, feeds us, in other words, in ways we can pehaps only begin to appreciate…  First, the prophet Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that God has never failed to meet their physical needs, sending water, wine, and milk for the thirsty and grain for the hungry and poor, those who have no money.  More importantly, though, God meets their needs with food that nourishes the soul, in the deepest sense:  Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life, he says.  In other words, take in my Word, digest it, let it fill you and feed you entirely… for the Word is more satisfying than any tangible food; it is our means to an ever-renewing covenant with God.  These sentiments are echoed in Psalm 145, in which the psalmist stresses God’s loving willingness to give us our food in due season, again, with a focus on meeting our spiritual needs with God’s justice, grace, and mercy.

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that this week we hear Matthew’s version of the Loaves and Fishes, the quintessential example of Jesus providing for the people with overwhelming love.  Taking bread, blessing it, breaking it, giving it:  the point is not just that Jesus did this, once or twice, but that he does it, every day, through Eucharist, entering fully into relationship with us, every day, though we may not be ready for it.  And the implicit message to the disciples – his intermediaries in the distribution of this communal meal – is that they too are sent forth (as are we!) to feed others with God’s Word, with God’s infinite love, finding their need and healing that need with grace.  What can separate us from the love of Christ?, Paul asks the Romans.  His answer?  Nothing – nothing on heaven or on earth – can stand between us and the love of God.  We may struggle to live this love; that is our challenge is a world that is afraid, a world whose defenses against anguish, distress and persecution are high.  But with open hearts, we are capable of true justice.  Filled with the love of God present to us in Eucharist, we ourselves are not only fed, we are able also to feed others, capable of being life-giving to those we meet, capable of being food for the world. 

What feeds you?  God’s love. 
Allow it to fill you, so that you might feed others in turn!

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

You'd willingly sell everything...

If you merely pretend that you enjoy God or love Him, He knows.  You can’t fool Him; don’t even try.  Instead, tell Him how you feel.  Tell Him that He isn’t the most important thing in this life to you, and that you’re sorry for that.  Tell Him that you’ve been lukewarm, that you’ve chosen _____ over Him time and time again.  Tell Him that you want Him to change you, that you long to genuinely enjoy Him.  Tell Him how you want to experience true satisfaction and pleasure and joy in your relationship with Him.  Tell Him you want to love Him more than anything on this earth.  Tell Him you want to treasure the kingdom of heaven so much that you’d willingly sell everything in order to get it.  Tell Him what you like about Him, what you appreciate, and what brings you joy.  ‘Jesus, I need to give myself up.  I am not strong enough to love You and walk with You on my own.  I can’t do it, and I need You.  I need You deeply and desperately. I believe You are worth it, that You are better than anything else I could have in this life or the next.  I want You.  And when I don’t, I want to want You.  Be all in me.  Take all of me.  Have Your way with me.’

--Francis Chan, Crazy Love:  Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, July 27, 2014: All things work for good for those who love God...

What are you willing to give over for God?

In our reading from the First Book of Kings this weekend, Solomon is invited to ask God for anything he likes.  Eschewing riches and even the promise of a long life, Solomon asks for an understanding heart, one that will enable him to be a just judge, that is, one who lives justly as he brings life-giving justice to others.  Solomon has a sincere desire to distinguish right from wrong, and, like the psalmist, great love for God’s law:  For I love your command more than gold, however fine (Psalm 119).  Seeing as God sees, yet humble in his wisdom, Solomon will become a worthy priest-king, able (for a time, at least) to shepherd his people with compassion and care. 

The theme of treasures more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces carries on into Matthew’s Gospel.  Again, it’s about perspective.  Jesus’s parables highlight the extent to which the characters will go in order to secure an apparent treasure, including the possessions they must give up in order to do so. The merchant sells all he has to buy a perfect pearl; the fishermen discard the bad, keeping only the best fish.  Each of these stories highlights the act of pursuing the treasure, its discovery, and the joy that treasure brings; it also points to the sacrifice required in that process.

But what is the treasure at the core of Christianity?  As Jesus says, it is the kingdom of God, a treasure whose supreme value surpasses all other.  And, as Paul tells the Romans, that kingdom can be found most directly in our relationship with God, expressed in our great love for him:  all things work for good for those who love God.  If we give the pursuit of that relationship everything we’ve got, if we live God’s kingdom every day, we will know a joy exceeding that of any tangible, human construction – a euphoria of the open heart, ready and willing to engage in relationship with our Creator.

So, what are you willing to give over for God?  We might best answer that question by first seeking wisdom, the understanding heart of Solomon, by loving the law of God’s mouth, learning to distinguish the good from the bad, so that the revelation of God’s words may shed light on all we do… thereby becoming the source of all joy in our lives.

This post is based on OLMC's Thursday Scripture class.
Image source

Monday, July 21, 2014

God's Grandeur (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed.  Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge, & shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lies the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast & with ah! bright wings.

--Gerard Manley Hopkins

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sunday Gospel Reflection, July 20, 2014: You who have the care of all...

What do we know about God and God’s kingdom?

Our two Old Testament readings this weekend remind us of the many attributes of God experienced by God’s people throughout the ages.  The Book of Wisdom tells us that God is merciful and just, and thus, life-giving to those who know him.  God is mighty, wielding power when necessary to convert disbelievers, but God is also lenient and patient and caring.  And we, too, are called to be like God, just and kind in our turn.  Psalm 86 reminds us that God is good and forgiving, abounding in kindness, merciful and gracious, slow to anger.  Thus, if we know God, and strive to be like God, there is no room for fear, only trust and confidence, which are good ground for hope.

In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus builds on this notion of knowledge of God by teaching his disciples about God’s kingdom.  Jesus uses parables to demonstrate that knowing and believing in God, being in relationship with God (being righteous), are essential to salvation; the good seed of which he speaks are the children of the kingdom who will shine like the sun in that kingdom.  Yet it is not up to us to decide who falls into which category; again, we must simply trust and have confidence in God’s plan.  And how can we maintain that trust and confidence?  Paul suggests to the Romans that prayer is involved, prayer that relies upon the presence of the Holy Spirit within us, a Spirit whose inexpressible groanings take our prayer to a depth we can’t reach on our own.  We don’t know perfect union with God – not yet – but the Spirit does.  Transformed by the Spirit, we too can cultivate that all-important relationship with God, so that we can help to grow the kingdom (think mustard seed, or leavened bread!)… and draw ever closer to full knowledge of God.

This post is based on our Thursday Scripture class.
Image source

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Flower of Carmel

Flos Carmeli -  Flower of Carmel
In the Carmelite rite, this hymn was the Sequence for the Feast of St. Simon Stock,
and, since 1663, for the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Tradition has it that the hymn was written by St. Simon Stock himself.

FLOWER of Carmel, Tall vine blossom laden; Splendor of heaven, Childbearing yet maiden. None equals thee.  Mother so tender, Who no man didst know, On Carmel's children Thy favours bestow. Star of the Sea.  Strong stem of Jesse, Who bore one bright flower, Be ever near us And guard us each hour, who serve thee here.Purest of lilies, That flowers among thorns, Bring help to the true heart That in weakness turns and trusts in thee.  Strongest of armour, We trust in thy might: Under thy mantle, Hard press'd in the fight, we call to thee.  Our way uncertain, Surrounded by foes, Unfailing counsel You give to those who turn to thee.  O gentle Mother Who in Carmel reigns, Share with your servants That gladness you gained and now enjoy.  Hail, Gate of Heaven, With glory now crowned, Bring us to safety Where thy Son is found, true joy to see. Amen. (Alleluia.)

(In Latin:  Flos Carmeli, vitis florigera, 
Splendor cæli, virgo puerpera, singularis.
  Mater mitis sed viri nescia 
Carmelitis esto propitia, stella maris.
  Radix Iesse germinans flosculum 
Hic adesse me tibi servulum patiaris.
  Inter spinas quæ crescis lilium  
Serva puras mentes fragilium tutelaris.
  Armatura fortis pugnantium 
Furunt bella tende præsidium scapularis.
  Per incerta prudens consilium  
Per adversa iuge solatium largiaris.
  Mater dulcis Carmeli domina, 
plebem tuam reple lætitia qua bearis.  
Paradisi clavis et ianua, 
Fac nos duci quo, Mater, gloria coronaris.

Happy Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel!