Saturday, October 31, 2015

All does not yet gleam in glory (Martin Luther)

 This life therefore is not righteousness, 
but growth in righteousness, 
not health but healing, 
not being but becoming, 
not rest, but exercise. 
We are not yet 
what we shall be, 
but we are growing toward it. 
The process is not finished 
but it is going on. 
This is not the end 
but it is the road. 
All does not yet gleam in glory, 
but all is being purified. 

--Martin Luther              

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, November 1, 2015: That we may be called children of God...

Are you ready to be a saint?  

  Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints -- a day devoted to those who have been beatified, that is, determined to be in heavenly bliss with the Lord, and then canonized, placed in the Church's calendar of saints.  So perhaps it is not surprising that our Gospel reading from Matthew focuses on the beatitudes, that declaration of blessedness that we hear about in the Sermon on the Mount, a state of blessedness for which we strive our entire life long.  But how do we get there?  Most notably, it is though our ongoing struggle, ever moving through death to life in Christ, and through our efforts to enter ever more deeply into that relationship that ultimately leads to perfect union.

  As Psalm 24 reminds us, we too long to see God's face, and that very longing is itself a means of transformation.  Opening ourselves to the struggle that is life and finding meaning in it, we strive to be sinless, with clean hearts, allowing God to dwell in us in relationship, living, as 1 John states, in that love that the Father bestows on us, as children of God, looking forward to seeing the Lord as he is, revealed in all his glory, united to us in perfect union.

  The lives of the saints demonstrate that Christ was indeed revealed in them.  The Book of Revelation tells us that they have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  Thus, marked with God's seal, the saints are now in perfect union with God, that union which is our goal, blessed, in that state of beatitude that causes us to rejoice and be glad -- because Christ is revealed, not only on the Mount, that space of biblical transformation, but in us as well.  So, enter in, accept the challenge of living the beatitudes, and open to the transformation that is ours as we live -- one in the communion of saints -- to reveal Christ to our world! 

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

Monday, October 26, 2015

Now I see (David Haas)

He healed the darkness of my mind
The day he gave my sight to me
It was not sin that made me blind
It was no sinner made me see
Let others call my faith a lie
Or try to stir up doubt in me
Look at me now
None can deny
I once was blind and now I see
Ask me not how but I know who
Has opened up new worlds to me
This Jesus does what none can do
            I once was blind and now I see

To hear David Haas sing this powerful piece, click on the video below:

--David Haas, He Healed the Darkness of My Mind
To purchase Glory Day, click here.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

What do you want me to do for you? (Fr. James Martin)

  Holy desires are different than surface wants, like, I want a new car or I want a new computer… I'm talking about our deepest desires, the ones that shape our lives:  desires that help us to know who we are to become and what we are to do. Our deep desires help us to know God's desires for us, and how much God desires to be with us. And God, I believe, encourages us to notice and name these desires, in the same way that Jesus encouraged Bartimaeus to articulate his desire. Recognizing our desires means recognizing God's desires for us.

--Fr. James Martin, The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything
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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, October 25, 2015: The Lord has done great things for us...

How much do you rely on the Lord?  

  We usually associate the prophet Jeremiah with dire warnings about the breaking of covenant, and indeed the Book of Jeremiah is full of oracles about exile and the fall of Jerusalem.  Yet in the midst of all this we also find oracles about the eventual restoration of Israel and Judah.  And when that restoration comes, God promises to take care of the most vulnerable first:  I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child.  Those who have suffered most will be led to brooks of water on a level road; God will restore them to life.  It is this restoration -- and the amazement that it caused -- that is celebrated in Psalm 126:  When the Lord brought back the captives of Zion, our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with rejoicing.  Their faith has resulted in restoration to prosperity and joy. 

  In Mark's Gospel, the disciples have not exactly demonstrated that they understand God's plan in sending Jesus, the high priest described in Hebrews, to become a sacrifice for the salvation -- the restoration -- of all.  But the blind beggar Bartimaeus does:  sitting humbly in a crowd that Jesus is passing through, Bartimaeus calls upon the Lord to help him:  Son of David, have pity on me!  Throwing away his cloak -- his most significant possession and very likely his home -- is an extraordinary act of faith:  faith that Jesus can work his powers of restoration for him, in him.  When he does, Bartimaeus immediately becomes a follower, a disciple.  But notice that he believes before his vision is restored:  physical sight will make it easier for Bartimaeus to follow the Lord, but spiritual sight has been his all along.  His faith has led the vulnerable Bartimaeus to rely upon and follow the Lord. 

Do you rely on Jesus?  Then follow!

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wonder (Natalie Merchant)

   In 1942, my grandmother brought home twins:  my mother, and her fraternal twin brother, who had Down Syndrome and who lived at home, first with my grandparents and then with my family, until his death at age 44.  I have often thought that perhaps no parent can imagine a cup more difficult to drink than to welcome a special needs child home, knowing the challenges that child will face throughout his or her life, often even beyond the lifespan of the parents.  Musician Natalie Merchant takes on this topic in her song Wonder, where the voice of the child herself reassures her parents that God is at work, particularly when there is no other explanation to articulate:

Doctors have come from distant cities just to see me,   
Stand over my bed disbelieving what they're seeing.  
They say I must be one of the wonders of God's own creation  
And they smile as they see they can offer no explanation.  

Newspapers ask intimate questions, want confessions,  
Reach into my head to steal the glory of my story.  
They say I must be one of the wonders of God's own creation  
And they smile as they see they can offer no explanation.  
Oh, I believe fate smiled and destiny  
Laughed as she came to my cradle:  
Know this child will be able,  
Laughed as my body she lifted,  
Know this child will be gifted  
With love, with patience, and with faith,  
She'll make her way,  
She'll make her way.  

People see me, I'm a challenge to your balance.  
I'm over your head now, I confound you and astound you, too.  
Know I must be one of the wonders of God's own creation  
And you smile as you see you can offer no explanation.  
Oh, I believe fate smiled and destiny  
Laughed as she came to my cradle:  
Know this child will be able,  
Laughed as she came to my mother,  
Know this child will not suffer,  
Laughed as my body she lifted,  
Know this child will be gifted  
With love, with patience, and with faith  
She'll make her way, 
She'll make her way.  

To hear Natalie Merchant sing Wonder, click on the video below:
Image source
Video source

Monday, October 19, 2015

How much religion costs (Flannery O'Connor)

  I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe.  I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened.  A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do.  

  What people don’t realize is how much religion costs.  They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.  If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this:  keep an open mind.  Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God. 

--Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being:  Letters of Flannery O’Connor
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Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Problem of Pain (C.S. Lewis)

  The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in.  The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world:  but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast.  We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy.  It is not hard to see why.  The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose any obstacles to our return to God:  a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency.  Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.

-- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sunday Gospel Reflection, October 18, 2015: Can you drink the cup that I drink?

  Can we enter into the depth of Christ's suffering?  

  We are constantly reminded that Jesus suffered and died for us on the cross.  The prophet Isaiah predicted as much when, in the fourth Suffering Servant oracle, he indicates that the Servant will suffer, carrying the sins of humanity quite simply because it is the will of God that he do so:  The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity... Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many.  We know that the Servant's suffering will end -- he shall see light in fullness of days -- but first, he will suffer.

  Jesus Christ offers himself entirely for us; he is the ultimate scapegoat, the high priest who has been tested in every way, according to the Letter to the Hebrews.  Born a man in order to share in our humanity, he took humanity to the cross because it was God's will.  So, when, in Mark's Gospel, James and John ask, Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left, they truly have no idea what such a gift might entail.  They do not want to envision the coming suffering of Jesus; they just want to cut straight to the chase, and be with him in heaven.  And they certainly don't want to participate in that suffering!  But to drink the cup with Jesus is to be baptized into his death:  Jesus challenges them to a dose of the reality of salvation at work in their lives.  For the love of humanity, we, like Jesus, can suffer precisely because Christ has done so and continues to do so.  The love that Jesus offered on the cross is just as profound and complete now as it was over two thousand years ago, and it is that love that is a model we are called to follow.  For the Lord can deliver us from death, as Psalm 33 states, and the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him.  We are called to be in awe of the sacrifice of Christ, in awe of the love he embodies, in awe of the mercy he represents.  And we, too, are called to drink the cup, to embrace suffering and sacrifice, to love as Jesus loved, to suffer as he suffered.

Are you ready to enter into the depth of Jesus' love today?

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