What we read in John 16 takes place as Jesus ate the Seder on the night before he died. However, the theology behind what Jesus says evolved for about forty years before John wrote this gospel. So, what we hear Jesus saying in this passage is not just spoken to the Apostles reclining at table with Jesus, it is spoken to the Church at the end of the first century and the beginning of the twenty first century.
The message we hear is all about the relationship we call the Trinity and how God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit share a loving relationship with us, the Church. As St. Paul says, "In Him we live and move and have our being." God dwells in us, and we dwell in God. The sacred bond that exists between us unites us more powerfully than any force in heaven or on earth. This is why we are called disciples. Our lives are so transformed by God's love that our lives become living signs of his presence in the world.
That's a loving relationship! Our lives belong to God who lives and moves and has his being in us. May our lives reflect that Divine Presence in the ways are called to love one another, and in all the ways we live and move and have our being in Christ who saves us.
Monday, March 11, 2013
MONDAY, 4TH WEEK OF LENT
Isaiah 65: 17-21 We’re still waiting for this sign
John 4:43-54 Christ is the sign of healing
What signs have we been looking for that Christ is near, and that we are loved by God? Perhaps we’ve looked for God in our fasting hoping that our lives have been somehow improved. If I give up alcohol for Lent I might lose a few pounds. If I give up chocolate, or caffeine, or other kinds of stimulants, I might become a slightly calmer person. If I dedicate a special time for prayer I might become a holier person. Then, when Lent is over and we experience the Triduum, we can go back to our old way of life as if nothing changed. What kind of sign is that?
The Boy in the gospel got better because his father believed. His only sign that Jesus healed him was that at 1:00 the day before, the same time the father spoke to Jesus, the boy started showing signs of improvement. That was enough to convert his entire family.
Sometimes I think we look for signs that are unrealistic. We want the sun to reverse its course across the sky to prove that God can do great and wonderful things. We hope to lose a few pounds because we’ve fasted. The signs we look for are either too grandiose, or too mundane, and they never seem to point to the presence of God. Perhaps the greatest sign of God’s love is simply the power we have to believe that God exists, and that we are dependent upon divine providence for our peace of mind. Lent is a time for us to reach with greater intensity for that power to believe, the desire to follow, and the longing to live in union with the God who loves us. In this way we become the sign we seek, and as living signs of God’s presence in the world, we can help others to believe as well.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Think about this for a moment: Is not every human life a kingdom divided against itself? God calls, we tell ourselves we ought to follow his voice, we WILL follow his voice. We will not allow our hearts to be hardened. We will listen for his voice; listen with our whole hearts wide open ready to move to that place God wants us to be.
Then, we discover that the voice we thought we heard was asking us to do something we were not ready to do. It would be so impractical to pull ourselves away from our daily routines. God’s voice calls to us through a person we find it hard to like and so we turn away. God’s voice calls to us though the poor and we decide it would not be prudent to care for them. God’s voice calls us to simply pray, to be at rest with him for a few moments of silence, but another load of laundry has to go into the dryer, the dishwasher’s full, it has to be run, there are dust bunnies under the bed, and we just don’t have the time to be still and silent.
“If today you hear my voice, harden not your hearts.” In this moment we are Israel in the wilderness of Meribah. God’s voice speaks to us as water bubbling up through rock and spilling down onto the dry, caked ground. This water promises to soften our hearts, to unite them in purifying love. “Drink of me my thirsty, little ones. Find refreshment, healing, mercy and compassion in the water I give you today.”
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9
One gets the sense that there is something of great value in passing on the gift of faith to the next generation. We pass on our rituals and traditions, we pass on the moral teachings given through the law and the Sacred Scriptures, we pass on a legacy of deep roots set in the rich soil of God’s kingdom here on earth. While it is difficult to watch the faithful dwindle in numbers and to see the impact of luke warm fidelity to God’s law, there is always reason for us to be hopeful.
Our hope lies in openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church. We are experiencing a time of spiritual dryness right now. There is always something very powerful that happens when the faithful remain steadfast in their fidelity to God’s law, though. New branches emerge in the vine where, in Divine Providence, the old dead branches have been pruned away.
The Church of today may not look recognizable to those who lived through the 1940’s and 50’s. We may not recognize the Church 50 years from now, should any of still be alive. It has always been, and will for ever be, God’s Church. As long as we are willing to pass on what we have received, there will always be reason to have hope.
Monday, March 4, 2013
2 Kings 5: 1-15ab - Go on in Naaman, the water’s fine.
Luke 4: 24-30 - God's hospitality includes the ones we hate.
We believe in the philosophy that says, “You get what you pay for.” If we pay a steep price for an item the expectation is that it will have better value. It seems that this philosophy holds true with our faith. The more we put into it, the more we should expect from it. Therefore, we should do more praying, more fasting, we should be more generous than ever because these things will make us holier people and maybe even improve our chances of getting into heaven. The question is, how much does heaven cost? Is the price of holiness our toll for salvation?
Don’t get me wrong, I would never advocate the kind of faith that demands nothing of us. All I am saying is that faith is simply about a relationship that transcends time and the boundaries of space and life. All relationships require effort, or else they die. Our call to holiness has less to do with buying our way into heaven than it does the quality of our life in the kingdom of God right here and right now.
For some reason, though, it doesn’t make sense to pay a steep price for something as simple as loving God, our neighbor and ourselves with all our minds, hearts and souls. Take it from Naaman, a simple faith heals the deepest wounds and fills our lives with peace beyond any price. The nice thing is that we can afford it.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Isaiah 1: 10, 16-20
Matthew 23: 1-12
It is fascinating right now to read all the articles about the preparations for the Conclave to elect the new pope. Transition seems to take on historical proportions, but when all is said and done, not much will change. Perhaps that is how it should be. In persecution the Church thrives. In controversy the Church hides behind every conceivable shadow the vast structure creates.
Whether the times are glorious, or dark, leaders of the Church are given a mandate in the gospel to be servants even before they are to be teachers, spiritual guides, or figures of authority. From the Pope to parents who teach their children to pray, leaders of the faith are called to serve the needs of others. That means they look beyond themselves to see the needs of others and meet them before they meet their own.
When I examine my conscience I find the shame that pains me most stems from the sins of pride and greed. These are sins that say I, and the authority I am given, are more important than serving the needs of others. When I become more important than you, we’re all in trouble, and from that we should hide. I was sent here to lead you in love. To serve you in Persona Christi. For the times I’ve failed, I’m sorry.
My most fervent is to have a servant’s heart.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
1 Peter 5: 1-4 - Priests, don’t lord your power over the people.
Matthew 16: 13-19 - Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
We celebrate a special feast today, it is known as The Chair of St. Peter. This feast does not celebrate where Peter sat, but rather, the authority he was given by Jesus. All Peter had to do was speak what he believed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” and he received the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Keys are more than tools to get in and out of locked doors, they represent authority, they represent power. Even the name “Peter” is symbolic of this new authority he was given. In Aramaic “Kephas” meant rock, but when we read the Gospels it’s very easy to wonder, why Simon? His abilities as an authority figure were less than stellar. After promising he would stay with Jesus to the end, he ran from the Garden of Gethsemene. At the trial he denied Jesus three times. At times it was clear that Simon would much rather be fishing for Mackerel than for people. He was a late bloomer, though, and he learned from his experiences of leading the Church how to discern what is best for those who were baptized into the Church. He learned how to shepherd them with good pastoral gentleness and care.
His authority is that of a rock, not a mountain protecting some mighty fortress, but one upon which to be seated, to think, discern, and decide. It is a place upon which the Gospel can be proclaimed. It is a place from which the teachings of the Church can be told to disciples who are eager to learn.