Thursday, July 31, 2014

SUSCIPE

Today we celebrate the memorial of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus.

He was a soldier then decided to become a soldier for Christ.

He developed what is known as the Spiritual Exercises, which over  a period of thirty days one meditates on the two standards, the standard of Christ and the standard of Satan.

In the process one is meant to be able to discern more clearly God's will and call for them in life.

At the end of the spiritual exercise, St Ignatius included additional material for the 'contemplation for attaining love."

Here St Ignatius speaks of the immeasurable love of God that is bestowed upon all of creation, and then asks what he might offer to such a loving God.

First one must call to mind the blessings of creation and redemption and special favors one has received.

One should ponder with great affection how much God our Lord has done for us, how much he has given us, how much the same Lord desires to give himself to us according to his divine decrees.

Then we reflect upon ourselves and consider, according to all reason and justice, what we ought to offer the Divine Majesty, that is all we possess and ourself with it.  Then we make the offering:

Receive, O lord, all my liberty.  Take my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.  Whatsoever I have or hold, you have given me; I give it all back to you and surrender it wholly to be governed by your will.  Give me only your love and your grace, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

STORM SHELTER

Jer 15:10-21; God is my refuge on the day of distress; Mat 13:44-46

In today's psalm we read the response, "God is my refuge on the day of distress."

The word refuge in hebrew is manos which is literally a place one flees quickly in time of danger like a storm shelter or cellar.  These would be common places found in tornado alley or places where high winds are common.  Folks built these shelters for just that purpose.

There is an expectation that danger will arise suddenly and the need of protection would be both immediate and great.  Shelters provide security that is always near.

The thing about the shelter is that it is always available and always accessible.  We must simply open the door and go in and find the security for which we are looking.

IS not God the same way!  How often do we simply not open the door?  How often do we choose to stay outside and try to weather the storm on our own and blame God for not helping?

All the while he is there like a storm shelter just waiting for us to step inside.

The psalmist begs God to rescue him from his enemies.  What if we are our worst enemy?  What if the enemy we pursue is our own stubbornness to submit to God's will?  how often we want God's help but we want him to help us according to our plan and our way not his?

Jeremiah finds this out in the first reading.  His anger has grown self-centered.  Rather than being angry at the destruction King Manasseh has brought upon Israel by his wickedness, he has turned his hatred and angry toward his own plot.

He has become too self-preserving and is no longer serving God who had called him to be a prophet to the nation.   God says it best, "if you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouth piece."

God simply tells Jeremiah to get over him self and look outward not inward.  His plight is no different than all those afflicted in the nation by the destruction due to their evil choices.

We too sometimes become too self-preserving and forget to let God do the saving.

AWARENESS

Representative Asks Congress About Christians in Iraq: Does Washington Even Care?
Says Christians Being Targeted for Extinction and Need Help
By Staff

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 29, 2014 (Zenit.org) - US Representative Frank Wolf today again took to the House floor to speak out for the Christians and other religious minorities who are being systematically targeted for extinction in Iraq:
“I want to read the following piece that was posted on NBCNews.com yesterday.  The headline was: ‘Has Last Christian Left Iraqi City of Mosul After 2,000 Years?’
“Here is how it began: ‘Samer Kamil Yacub was alone when four Islamist militants carrying AK-47s arrived at his front door and ordered him to leave the city.  The 70-year-old Christian had failed to comply with a decree issued by the Islamic State of Iraq and [Syria] (ISIS).  Yacub’s hometown of Mosul had boasted a Christian community for almost 2,000 years.  But then the al Qaeda-inspired fighters who overran the city last month gave Christians an ultimatum.
“They could stay and pay a tax or convert to Islam – or be killed.  Yacub, 70, was one of the few Christians remaining beyond last Saturday's noon deadline.  He may have even been the last to leave alive.’
“‘[A] fighter said, ‘I have orders to kill you now,’” Yacub said just hours after the Sunni extremists tried to force their way into his home at 11 a.m. on Monday.  ‘All of the people in my neighborhood were Muslim.  They came to help me – about 20 people – at the door in front of my house.  They tried to convince ISIS not to kill me.’
“‘The rebels spared Yacub but threw him out of the city where he had spent his entire life.  They also took his Iraqi ID card before informing him that elderly women would be given his house.’
“Mr. Speaker, this is but one example of what is unfolding in Iraq right before our eyes.  The end of Christianity as we know it is taking place in Iraq.
This is the fifth time I have come to the floor over the last week to try to raise awareness of what is happening.  To talk about the genocide.  It is genocide.  Yes, genocide: the systematic extermination of a people of faith by violent extremists seizing power in a region.
“Churches and monasteries have been seized.  Many of them looted then burned.  Last week it was widely reported that ISIS had blown up the tomb of the prophet Jonah.  Christians – threatened with their lives if they do not leave the region – are being robbed as they leave lands they have lived on for more than 2,000 years.
“With the exception of Israel, the Bible contains more references to the cities, regions and nations of ancient Iraq than any other country.  The patriarch Abraham came from a city in Iraq called Ur.  Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, came from northwest Iraq.  Jacob spent 20 years in Iraq, and his sons – the 12 tribes of Israel – were born in northwest Iraq.  The events of the book of Esther took place in Iraq, as did the account of Daniel in the Lion’s Den.  Many of Iraq’s Christians still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.
“The Pope has spoken out.
“His Beatitude Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan, overseer of Syriac Catholics around the globe, has spoken out.
“His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, has spoken out.
“Archbishop Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, has spoken out.
“Russell Moore, a key leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, has spoken out.
“Despite these Christian leaders speaking out about the systematic extermination of Christians in Iraq, the silence in this town is deafening.  Does Washington even care?
“Where is the Obama Administration?  The president has failed.
“Where is the Congress?  The Congress has failed.
“Time is running out.  The Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq are being targeted for extinction.  They need our help.
“Literally, during our time, we will see the end of Christianity in the place it began.”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

LEMONADE STANDS

JEremiah 2:1-13; Ps 10 With you is the fountain of Life, O Lord.  Matt 13:10-17

The psalm refrain this morning is fitting for July in Texas: with you is the fountain of Life.

As I drive around Cuero, I see sno cone stands selling cool refreshing flavored ice chips for those who can't stand the heat.

I see little children sitting on the corner of their streets selling fresh made lemonade.

It all seems so enticing.  Lemonade stands and sno cone vendors are reminders to me of God as Jeremiah describes Him: the source of living waters and the psalm remembers Him: the fountain of life..from your delightful stream you give them a drink.

We know this as people of faith.  We know that God is the one who can quench our thirst and cool our parched lips so to speak.  Yet, like the people of Jeremiah's time we find our selves looking for drink in other places.  We too dig broken cisterns that hold no water.

Think of the places that you seek to be refreshed that isn't God.  Perhaps it is the entertainment business, maybe food, maybe indulging in drink, indulging in sweats, maybe in exercise, maybe in work.

Where do we find our relief rather than going to God in prayer and truly surrendering or living out God's command to serve others rather than seeking to be served.

We all have dug broken cisterns.  How often do we keep going back to the wells that run dry?

Identify your broken cisterns today and then redirect your steps to the fountain of life.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

HOW IS OUR HEART

Jeremiah 1:1-10; PS 71 I will sing of your salvation; Matt 13:1-9


We revisit the gospel from several sundays back the sower and the seed on this wednesday.

I thought I might join my reflection with the reflection of Pope Francis on the same gospel.


Pope Francis mentioned that the parable speaks to each of us as an opportunity to examine our hearts as Pope Francis ask: how is our heart?

We spend countless energy on our physical health.  We get check ups on a regular basis.  We fret about our diet, our blood pressure, our wrinkles, our cholesterol and the list in varied and long in regards to our bodily health.

Only if we spent half that time and energy tending to our spiritual health as well.

So back to the question: how is our heart? "Which soil does it resemble?  It is up to us to become good soil with neither thorns nor stones, but tilled and cultivated with care, so it may bear good fruit for us and for those we encounter."   So says the Pope.

In fact we may never be with out thorns or rocks but I learned long ago on the farm, throne and rocks are dealt with has they arise.  We never waited for the soil to be perfect; we planted and dealt with the stones and thorns as needed.  We can be that way in our spiritual lives as well.

Attentiveness is a necessary ingredient.


Secondly the Pope reminds us that we too are sowers.  "God sows good seed; which type of seed  comes out of our heart and our mouth? Our words can do much good and also much harm" they can heal or they can wound; they can encourage or they can dishearten."


How is our heart?  The answer is found in what comes forth from our heart in our relationships.  It is good to take our hearts pulse on a daily basis.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

INHERITANCE

Micah 7:14-15,18-20; Ps 85 Lord, show us your mercy and love; Matthew 12:46-50

"Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance…"

Think about an inheritance for second or two.  An inheritance is that which belongs to another.  An inheritance is usually some sort of treasure or something of value that is guarded and kept safe.

It is precious.

The people of Israel are considered to be God's inheritance, God's possession.

That title also belongs to us in Christ.  We are God' s inheritance.  Someone would suggest that God has gotten the raw deal.  Some would suggest that his inheritance is folly in chest.  But we are what he wants.

"God, Micah continues, to tread underfoot out guilt.  He will cast into the sea all our sins.  You will show grace…"

Wow!  What a beautiful way to begin this Tuesday.

Jesus in the gospel speaks that his mother and brothers are those who do the will of his heavenly Father.

Micah lays out what that will looks like.  God wills to remove our guilt and sin.  God wills to choose us daily as his inheritance, his treasure.

Only when we grasp that fully can we truly begin to live a fulfilling life in relationship with others, doing for them what God chooses to do for us: remove guilt, cast away sin and be compassionate.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

VISION

Last week we began to reflect on the parable of the sower who goes out an broadcast seed everywhere and anywhere.

The reckless and careless manner of the Sower revels to us the heart of our Father.  Our Father is reckless when it comes to broadcasting his grace outward to all regardless of the state of their heart: rocky, hard, thorny or good.

It this realization that we discover that the kingdom of God is found in the sowing not the reaping, the giving not the getting.  The more we sow the more the seed we have received grows.

This a brief overview of last weeks reflection on the sower and seed.  This week I want to reflect briefly on the heart of the matter, that is our heart which matters tremendously.

A young man who just received some disturbing news that a loved one has gone blind approached St Anthony, a franciscan friar who lived in the 13th century.  He wanted to express his grief about the news of his loved one so he asked St Anthony "if there was anything worse than losing one's eyesight."

St Anthony as the story goes simply looked at the young man without hesitation and stated in a matter of fact   way "of course there is, losing your vision would be worse."

Think about your vision, not your eyes sight but the vision you have for your life.  We all have a vision of what our life should look like an dhow it should take shape.  This vision is shaped by many factors.

We out a great deal of energy and planning in to living out our vision for our life whether it be in our career choice, our family choice, our housing, and even our retirement.

We have a vision.

But our vision is not of great importance.  In fact our world whats us to focus completely on our vision for our life, our family, our career.  But this is a shallow understanding of our life.

Our vision is nothing compared to God's vision of your life.  This takes precedence or at least it should.

God has a vision for our life individually and collectively.

You find that vision throughout scripture but also in the teachings the Church Christ founded.  In fact in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the the opening prologue begins with these words:

"God infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness created man to make him share in his blessed life.  From this reason, God at every time and place draws close to man,  He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him. God invites man to become adopted children and heirs to his blessed life."

Here is God's vision for us.  Everything we do should reflect back on this vision.  We should ask ourselves does it lead us toward fulfillment of God's plan or take away from this fulfillment.

Our heart's desire should be this reality: a deep longing to share in the blessed life of God.

Which brings us to the three types of soil mentioned last week by Jesus: Hard, rocky, thorny..

The first soil is where the devil comes and steals away the seed of God's word.  This is what Jesus' commentary on his parable states.  There is a devil.  This devil desires all of us to lose the word of God completely.  He opposes the good God desires to bestow.  We cannot walk around life think there is not opposition.  It is real.  We need to be attentive.  The devil is the father of deceit and father of lies that seeks to sow discord, doubt, division.  We need to be attentive.
He wants to disrupt marriages and families.  He wants to get us to focus on pleasure as oppose to Joy.  He wants us to be self serving instead of self giving.  Be attentive.   The devil ant to throw himself across God's plan and disrupt it. In John 17 Jesus prays to the Father that he protect us from the evil one.  Do we protect ourselves?  The  devil wants to plant weeds in our heart, weeds of doubt, discord, bitterness.  Be attentive!


The second soil Jesus  mentions is rocky ground, where the root is formed and when things heat up the seed whit hers and dies.  Jesus mentioned tribulations or persecutions.  This attitude is one that expects everything to be easy.  This is an attitude of faith that wants the life of faith to be the path of least resistance.  Faith is replaced by a feeling and emotions determining one's directional alignment rather than truth and conviction.  We must remember the words of St Paul that suffering does not discredit the faith but enriches it.  Feelings must be tempered by faith and not the other way around.  Suffering not only purifies our faith it prepares our heart to receive the promise God wants to give.

Thirdly, Jesus mentions the soil that is surrounded by thorns.  These thorns are identified by Jesus as worldly anxiety and lure of riches.  It is one thing to have things it is another for them to have you.  Do we posses or are we possessed?  Another way to look at it is who influences our life?  Who do we look to for advice in life?

We sang a song during Vacation Bible School this week entitled Simplify.  This is what we need to do in order to ensure four heart if good soil ripe for receiving God's word and allowing his word to produce abundant harvest.


Is our vision competing with God's vision or is it complementary?