Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sunday Gospel Reflection, September 3, 2017: Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself...

Jesus gave his all – will you?

  The prophet Jeremiah has a hard time dealing with the circumstances God has placed him in:  You duped me, Lord, he says.  Too caught up in his own sorrow and physical pain at having been rejected by his own people, Jeremiah is conflicted, vacillating between total commitment and a wall of objections.  But the spiritual struggle wins out over the physical one, and Jeremiah ultimately accepts to continue to proclaim God’s word because it is like fire burning in his heart – a passion for the mission God has given him, ensuring the commitment he needs.  Psalm 63 encapsulates this passion:  for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts, the psalmist says.  Jeremiah knows that God is his help; he will be upheld by the right hand of the Lord.

  In Matthew’s Gospel, Peter is likewise conflicted.  Having just proclaimed Jesus the Son of the living God, he now refuses to accept the vision of suffering Jesus places before him:  God forbid, Lord!  No such thing shall ever happen to you. Peter doesn’t want Jesus to suffer, and he’s probably not too keen on embracing his own cross, as Jesus asks all of the disciples to do.  Peter is unwilling to surrender control, to surrender all to Christ’s love for him; it will take time before he fully grasps the kind of commitment Jesus is requiring of him, and the cross and mission that are his.

  Modeling his own life after that of Jesus, Paul will likewise urge the Romans to similar commitment:  offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, he says.  Embrace the cross, invest yourselves entirely in your identity as Christians, and remain faithful to God in spite of persecution.  A renewal of mind is necessary, he tells them; the Romans can’t be successful in their faith if they dedicate themselves only partially to the cross of Christ.  Like Jeremiah, like Peter, like the Romans, we too are called to total commitment to God’s will, called to give all we have as we take up that cross and follow Jesus.  Are we ready?

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

By blessing brightly lit (Wendell Berry)

   We travelers, walking to the sun, 
can’t see ahead, but looking back 
the very light that blinded us 
shows us the way we came, 
along which blessings now appear, 
risen as if from sightlessness to sight, 
and we, by blessing brightly lit, 
keep going toward that blessed light 
that yet to us is dark. 

 --Wendell Berry, Sabbath Poems 

Monday, August 28, 2017

We live our lives forward (Br. Charles Jackson)

   The reason why we are often unaware of God’s call, or even of God’s action in our lives, is that we live our lives forward, but we only understand them backward.  It is only by prayerfully looking back on the events of our lives that we come to understand them and the significance of all the twists and turns, false starts and dead-ends, and surprises and disappointments that comprise our lives.

--Br.  Charles J. Jackson, S.J.

Quotation source:  Loyola Institute for Spirituality, Facebook page, July 24, 2017

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The soul must grow (St. Bernard de Clairvaux)

   The soul must grow and expand, so as to be capable of God.  And its largeness is its love, as the Apostle says, Widen yourselves in love (2 Cor 6:13).  It grows and extends spiritually, not in substance, but in virtue.  The greatness of each soul is judged by the measure of love that it has:  he who has great love is great, he who has little love is little, while he who has no love at all is nothing.

--St. Bernard de Clairvaux, On the Love of God
Image source:  Albino peacock

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sunday Gospel Reflection, August 27, 2017: Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven...

Are you open to God’s action in your life?

   In the Book of Isaiah, Shebna, the master of the palace of King Hezekiah of Judah, is dressed down by the Lord for having abused his power, believing himself to be self-sufficient rather than dependent on God:  I will thrust you from your office, the Lord tells him.  Shebna, who was responsible for ensuring access to the King, has failed in his duties, relying on his own hands, and on all the privileges that have been bestowed on him by the King, and now he will have to pay the price:  Eliakim will receive the robe and sash of Shebna:  when Eliakim opens, no one shall shut, the Lord promises.  Eliakim will be a good servant of the Lord because he recognizes his own dependence on God, knows, as Psalm 138 states, that without God, we are nothing:  I will give thanks to you, o Lord, will all my heart, the psalmist sings, and thanks to your name. Both Eliakim and the psalmist are open to God’s action in their life.

   Matthew’s Gospel likewise focuses on a man who will be responsible for ensuring access to God:  the apostle Peter, who recognizes aloud that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  And so Jesus confers upon Peter great responsibility:  I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, Jesus tells Peter.  Momentarily grounded in love, Peter is open to love, open to revelation, and thus allows God to reveal who Jesus is, thereby creating access to God for all who will hear him.  St. Paul likewise recognizes his own dependence on God, and his profound grounding in faith, in his recognition of a God whose riches and wisdom and knowledge are immeasurable.  Paul’s Letter to the Romans demonstrates that, while Paul may not understand God, he is open to the salvation God has promised through Jesus, and Paul seeks to ensure access to that salvation for all.

   As modern-day disciples, we too are meant to help others to have access to God.  Evangelization can only happen if we are open to God, if we recognize God’s action in our lives, and if we allow God to work through us.  We are called to be present to others, to use the gifts the Lord has given us, and to let Christ reveal himself through us… so that God’s action may touch their lives as well.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Table scrap (Melannie Svoboda)

 Please grant me this one morsel, God. 
Like the Syrophoenician woman, 
I do not ask for banquet fare, 
but merely for table scrap. 
On every given day I pray, 
‘Thy will be done.’ 
But today I beg Thee for this 

--Melannie Svoboda, Just Because:  Prayer-Poems to Delight the Heart

Image source:  Alessandro Allori, Christ and the Canaanite Woman (1590)