Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WHAT WILL YOU GIVE ME

Isaiah 50:4-9; Ps 69 Lord, in your great love, answer me; Matthew 26:14-25

"What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?"

These words are the most haunting words of all of scripture.  Judas, a chosen one of Christ to lead the church upon his ascension, turns aside and sells him out. 

And what a cheap price at that:  30 pieces of silver to betray a friend.  To treat a person as an object is unheard of, right?

How often have we discovered the very words of the disciples upon our lips we hear in today's gospel, "surely it is not I, Lord."

Surely we would never do such a thing!  But we have done such in our life.  We have objectified others to our own gain, whether it be material gain or emotional gain.  We Judas others in and throughout our life. 

Think about pornography or don't think about it.  But rather the business of pornography is objectification for the sake of gain, fleeting as it is. 

Think about entertainment in general.  Much of it consist in objectification of others and the art is some how lost in the process. 

No it is real.  We have all done it.  We are guilty.   Judas isn't the only one who sold someone out for personal gain.

Yet like Judas we continually treat Jesus as if he were existing simply for our gain.  How often is our attitude one of demanding when we go to Jesus? We demand this or that?    How often we demand for ourselves from him only to find ourselves turned aside from him.  When we seek ourselves in love, eventually we find ourselves alone and distant from love itself. 

If we treat Jesus in this light, then when the going gets rough then we leave altogether.  We don't stick around much.  We see this in marriages as well.

Judas can teach us much if we are willing to learn.

Judas was never grateful.  Thus he found himself backed in a dark corner with no way out. 

We too find ourselves in that same corner when we approach with selfish attitude rather then one of gratitude. 

Betrayal is often founded upon the inability to be grateful for the gift that is and we shift our focus to the gift we think it ought to be. 

It is good to ponder Judas.  It is good to examine our lives.  It is good to reevaluate how we love and how we give thanks. 

Who have we taken for granted in our life?  Betrayal often shows itself in this reality of taking for granted, not truly appreciating the value of the other.   Something to be mindful of as we journey to calvary. 

Today be grateful. Today show appreciation.  Today recognize the true worth of another apart from what we gain from it. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

WHAT IS MISSING

Isaiah 49:1-6; Ps 71 I will sing of your salvation  John 13:21-33,36-38

We continue our journey through holy week as we move toward Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil.    We take a peak this morning at the unfolding events surrounding the crucifixion.

The church invites us to go into the upper room and sit with Jesus and his disciples as they share a meal.  THey are all "reclining" at table as John's gospel relates back to us.

Reclining at table, Jesus is deeply troubled.
Then we hear why?  "I say to you, one of you will betray me."

Quickly questions arise in the hearts and minds of the disciples.

Then we see Judas rise from the table after he had received the morsel and John gives is this sentiment, "After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him."

How could someone so close to Jesus be so far away?  It should give is all a moments pause to investigate and do a little introspection.  Are we as close as we think? We too who have journeyed with Christ in our own life can also be susceptible to temptation.

Then we hear about Peter and his bold proclamation of laying down his life.  We too are proud in our own estimation.  Yet, Jesus points to Peter and declares, "not before the cock crows will you deny me three times."

What then.

If you notice we read from john chapter 13 verses 21-33 and verse 36-38.

What is missing is truly the missing link verse 34-35.  Here is Jesus words, "I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I loved you, so you also should love one another.  this is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

There it is so simple and and clear.

What should we focus on more than those few words.

Pope Benedict once remarked that what makes men men is their ability to no longer ask "can" I do it bit  "should " I do it.  Here we understand who we are. Jesus invites by saying you also should love.

This is how we stay close to Jesus this week.  We seek the 'shoulds" of our life, and thus we fill what is missing and discover God's closeness every step of the way.

As we journey this week to calvary with Jesus and we see that he does what he should, may we do likewise.

Monday, April 14, 2014

SPIRITUAL LAZINESS

Matt ch 26-ch 27

The PASSION OF OUR LORD: PALM SUNDAY

As we read and experience the passion of JEsus this past Sunday, there were a few things that jumped forth from the experience.

There is a lot of darkness that surrounds Jesus' passion, his arrest and condemnation and crucifixion.

Darkness and dysfunction swirl like one of those familiar dust storms I remember from my childhood.  We would be playing outside and out of no where a little wind twister would form throwing up dust and it would last a few minutes, spinning wildly.

We would run through them, trying to break them up, afraid they might becoming bigger and bigger.  This was our fear as children that the little wind twisters were offsprings of the giant tornados.  IT was our job to defeat them while they were young less them take on a greater enormity and significance only to lead to destruction.

Strange I know.  But as a youth that was my thinking.

We see that in the passion.  Darkness springs up in twister like formation from the beginning to the end of the passion narrative.  All the while Jesus is facing them head on.  He boldly goes right through them, as if he was trying to stop them from getting our of hand and becoming more destructive than they already were.

He takes all upon himself.  This is how Jesus deals with sin and darkness and faces them head on and then eventually he nails them all to the cross.

The opening lines of the passion the gospel of Matthew begins with Judas and his act of betrayal.  For 30 pieces of silver the master, his friend, is sold.

Then in the garden we have violence erupt as Jesus prepares himself for surrender.  The people around him take up swords and cut off ears.  Blood is shed.  Jesus halts the violence for he knows his blood alone can stop the pattern of violence form becoming worse and getting out of hand.

Then false testimony and lying rise to front and whip through the trial.  Like a dust storm tossing sand into every one's eyes, the truth is covered over and falsehood rises to the front. Lying is every where.  We see how harmful these words are, these words that spread rumors and gossip and and extend one lie after another.

Then we encounter mocking and ridiculing of Jesus.  He was already down and they continued to beat him.  This is so typical.  How easy it is to target those who are already down.  How easy it is to pick on those who have been picked out.

Then we hear the cock crow and envision Peter denying JEsus three times.  If only he would have heeded the words of Jesus, "pray that you may not undergo the test."  How often we too have denied Christ in our life in part because we didn't pray, we didn't invest our selves in preparation.  Like Peter we buckle under temptation.

Then there is despair as Judas has sorrow for what he has done.  He tosses back the money trying to undo what he had done to no avail.  It had all been set in motion and there was no turning back.  Judas was a scape goat, a pawn, and he realized it too late.  So he despairs of God's mercy and hangs himself.

If only he would have trusted the words of his friend.  How often did hear Jesus speak about forgiveness and the Father's mercy.  If only he would have waited until the third day, then maybe even Judas would have been changed and renewal and restoration could have been part of his journey back.

The one thing that is most evident is the disciples reaction to Jesus.  When Jesus need then most an stake them with him to pray as he enters the garden.  He gives them one little command: pray and keep watch.

And rather than keep vigil and be attentive and pray with Jesus, they fall asleep.  Three times Jesus finds them sleeping.  Spiritual laziness.  When Jesus lays at their feet and opportunity to deepen their devotion and dedication they sleep through it.  Spiritual Laziness rises to the front like ashes stirred in the wind.

We may be able to excuse ourselves from betrayal, or denial, or false testimony, and even despair, but none of us can excuse ourselves from spiritual laziness.  We all stand convicted of doing what the disciples do in the garden.  So many of us refuse to grow spiritually because it looks like work.  We want the path of least resistance.  We want the path that is easy.  We want it to be accommodating.   Like the disciples we put off the invitation God lays at our feet daily.

But not this week.  This week we call holy, we must rise to the challenge.  W emus dig a little deeper and truly enter wide awake.  There is no time like the present to truly dust off our our sloth and become more attentive and focused.  We pray a little longer this week.  We meditate a little deeper.  We fast a little more.  We want to be hungry and attentive so that we may enter in and truly be transformed by the liturgies this week: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil.  We will not abandon the Savior again.  We will move forward full speed ahead humbled by the invitation to come and follow after him.

This week we must be different.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A REVERSAL OF FORTUNE

Genesis 17:3-9; Ps 105 The Lord remembers his covenant; John 8:51-59

Just an interesting note on today's first reading.  We get the reading of the promise and covenant to Abraham.  Abram's names get changed to Abraham.  His name gets bigger and so does God's promise to him that he will now be a father of nations.  And what I find interesting is that the land Abraham is to take over is the whole land of Canaan.

Now this may not seem like much.  But in the story of Noah, Canaan is the son of Ham and it is Canann who is cursed by Noah because his father Ham uncovers the nakedness of Noah or as scripture reads Ham saw his father's nakedness.

There is much debate over what this means.  Some scholars suggest that there is more going on here than Ham peeping at his father's naked body.  There is more here than voyeurism.

Some suggest that this phrase "seeing the nakedness of your father" is really about incest.  Ham actually takes advantage of Noah being drunk by having sexual intercourse with his own mother, thus seeking to usurp the authority of his father.  And the same scholars suggest that Canaan is the child conceived in this incest between Ham and his mother, Noah's wife.

If you go to Leviticus 18:6, God warns the Israelites not to do what the people of Canaan do, do not conform to their customs.  Incest is part of their customs.  One of these customs is disgracing your Father by having intercourse with your mother or as the biblical hebrew suggest, "uncover the nakedness of your Father."


Unfortunately while Ham commits the crime it is Canaan the child that is cursed and punished.   Sounds familiar doesn't it.  How often are children punished because of the the sexual act that leads to conception.  How often do we kill the pre born because the child is conceived outside of wedlock or by rape or incest or any other reason.  Why punish the child?

In the first reading for the day we discover that it is the land of Canaan the becomes the promised land.  There is a reversal of fortune.  The curse of Canaan is lifted and the land of his descendent in become part of God's promise to Abraham.

This sounds all to familiar.  We are the ones who are cursed by the sin of Adam and Eve.  It is through the act of Christ we experience a reversal of fortune.  The curse is lifted and we share in the blessings and favor of God through the act of Jesus on the cross.

Now lets go to the gospel briefly.  There is something unique in the gospel of John that often gets overlooked.  This is real evident in chapter 8 of John's gospel.  On the lips of Jesus are pressed these words , "I AM".

Now this may not seem like a big deal.  But whenever Jesus says it, the jews want to pick up stones and kill him.    At first glance we think wow they are very sensitive.  But when we think about the phrase in proper context it begins to make sense.

When Jesus says this phrase, "I AM" he is referring back to the story of Moses and the burning bush.  It is in this story in exodus chapter 3 that God reveals his name to Moses.  When Moses ask God who shall he say sent him, God responds with the following, "I am who am" sent you.

God's name is  the great "I AM".  When Jesus states this phrase time and time again in the gospel of John, he is actually taking upon himself the very identity of God.  This is why the Jews want to stone him because they consider it blasphemous: Jesus a man claiming to be one with God. Yowsah!

The name of God was only said once a year in the temple on the day of  atonement.  Jesus says it through out his public ministry because he will be the source of atonement and reconciliation.  God becomes man to reverse the curse.

That little phrase "I AM" means so much.  Jesus is claiming to be one with God.  In his act on the cross, God himself dies that the curse may be lift and we too may now share in the promise of God in Abraham where all the world will be blessed through him and his descendants in particular the one descendent, the God man Jesus Christ.

Now you know the rest of the story!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

SEDUCED BY MUSIC

Daniel 3:14-95; Glory and praise for ever; John 8:31-42

"Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made, whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe, and all the other musical instruments…"

Music is seductive.  It easily sways the listener.  It causes our moral radar to be somewhat disconnected.

How often have I (or have you) been listening to the radio and found myself (ourself) singing along only to realize the message of the song probably isn't the best of messages.

Just recently I found myself singing along to the radio only to realize the lyrics were talking about step bars and lap dances and going down to the river to get on.  I was so caught into the music that I wasn't paying much attention to what was being said.


Music has away of seducing our moral compass and invites us to just go with the rhythm.  We can easily get carries away if we are not careful or attentive.

Perhaps this is what the good King Nebuchadnezzar is anticipating from Abednego, Shadrach, and Meshach.  Perhaps he figures that the  music would sway the three young men to lower their moral guard and just get seduced into pagan worship.

We see this with the young of today.  They are being swayed to enter into pagan worship that is worship emotions, or power, wealth, success, fame.  This is what a lot of songs are about with out any real direction or guidance.

On second note, I find it fascinating how many modern gathering places for fellowship do the same thing.  They get every one seduced by the band, the musical instruments and this is what folks are drawn too.  There is something in the seduction of music that sways and convinces.

Don't get me wrong i love good music.  But isn't worship more than a song! Isn't worship more than melody and rhythm!  At what point do we begin to realize that music is more about us then it is about true and right worship.

Back to story of the three young men.  They are not so easily bought.  It takes more than a steel guitar and drums so to speak to get them to bow their knee in worship.

I love what the three young men say, "There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us!  But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that yo set up."

Regardless of whether God intervenes and saves their life or not, the three young men remain dutiful and loyal to God.  No circumstances could dictate their fidelity.  They truly possessed wisdom.

Pope Francis in today's wednesday audience began a new series on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  He reminds us that the gift of wisdom  is the ability to see as God sees.  This vision is a product of intimacy with God.  The Spirit of God draws into God's life in such a manner that we are able to share God's vision.  We are able to look upon the world with the heart of God.  It removes us from ourselves and we no longer judge based on what pleases or displease us.

Wisdom doesn't mean we are a know it all.  But rather it means we know of God, God's actions.  We see with God's eyes, hear with God's ears, love with God's heart, and judge with God's judgment.

We see this gift unfold in and through the lives of the three young men.  Wisdom means we march to the rhythm of eternity.  We can only be swayed by the song of heaven.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

PATIENCE

Num 21:4-9; Ps 102 O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you; John 8:21-30


"But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, "Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water?  We are disgusted with this wretched food!"

Patience worn out! Complaining against God and leadership!  This never happens in real life.  This only takes place in the biblical stories, right?

St Teresa of Avila was described life on earth as "a bad night in a bad inn."

The problem with humanity is we want earth to feel like heaven.  If this assessment is right then we have a very low expectation of heaven.

Here are a few words from St. JoseMaria Escriva, "Are you suffering great tribulations (or small ones)? Say very slowly, as if savoring the words, this powerful and manly prayer: May the most just and most lovable will of God be done, be fulfilled, be praised and eternally exalted above all things,  Amen.  Amen.  The Peace shall be found.

Why not try it when frustration rises, patience runs thread bare, sufferings mount, obstacles arise and life, well, simply looks and taste like the journey it is suppose to be.   Put things in its proper proportion.   Stand back and see the larger picture.  

As the psalm reminds us about God's attention, "he hears the prayer of the destitute, and not despised their prayer."

A little destitution opens the door way to the inner halls of heaven,

Jesus says this in today' s gospel, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that i do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me."

When impatience rises, lift your eyes to the one who has been lifted up; with our eyes directed upward then all things began to shift in their proper place.  Patience returns to the one who has pondered the Cross continuously.  Proper perspective returns as well.

  

Monday, April 7, 2014

CONSCIENCE

Daniel 13:1-62; Ps 23 The Lord is my Shepherd; John 8:1-11

"When they old men saw her enter every day for her walk, they began to lust for her. They suppressed their conscience; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments."

This is the critique the scripture writer give to the two old goats who seek to trap and seduce the lovely an innocent Susana.


They suppressed their conscience.  It was a gradual and slow death to their conscience.  It did not happen all at once, but over time their conscience slowly eroded, an erosion caused by giving into their lust.

Where does this conscience come from?  Here are a few words from Cardinal Ratzinger aka Pope Benedict XVI currently the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI that I think help elucidate the issue:

"The first so called ontological level of the phenomenon conscience consists in the fact that something like an original memory of the good and true has been implanted in us, that there is an inner ontological tendency within man, who is created in the likeness of God, toward the divine. From it's origin, man's being resonates with some things and clashes with others.  This memory of origin, which results from the god-like constitution of our being, is not a conceptually articulated knowing, a store of retrievable contents.  It is, so speak, an inner sense, a capacity to recall, so that the one whom it addresses, if he is not turned in on himself, hears its echo from within.  He sees: that's it! That is what my nature points to and seeks…The more man lives "in fear of the Lord"the more concretely and clearly effective this memory becomes."

St Basil calls this the "spark of divine love which has been hidden in us."

What this boils down to according to Ratzinger is that "what characterizes man as man is not that he asks about the "can" but about the "should," and that opens himself to the voice and demands of truth."

The reality is that this memory can be covered over.  This memory can be falsified by our subjective whims and fancy as we see in the story of Susanna.  The old men muted their conscience and let their own subjective desires of lust to trump the voice of truth.  They stopped asking "should we do this" and merely focused on the "want to" and "can do" of the selfish desires which lose sight of the objective truth at hand.

Thus what morality requires, if we are going to restore humanity to its original memory of truth is witnesses.  We need witnesses to the life wisdom of faith, in which the primitive wisdom of humanity is cleansed, maintained, and deepened.

Daniel in todays first reading becomes that witness to truth. Where are our witnesses today.  Daniel was impelled by the spirit of God to speak out.  Who today stands on the ground of truth and goodness?  We have many judges like the old men who have allowed their consciences to be corrupted.  Too many!  What we need are witness.


This is why the martyr is so powerful for us. They stood their ground.  They allowed the fear of God to become center place int heir life.  All of their actions were rooted in this one reality: does it glorify God or not.

Then maybe innocent blood can be spared.