Monday, June 27, 2016

But first

Amos 2:6-10;13-16; Ps 50 Remember this, you who never think of God; Matthew 8:18-22

"And the stouthearted of warriors shall flee naked on that day, say the LORD."

What an interesting image.  Think about Stouthearted warriors for a moment.  What comes to mind?  Burly and bearded men with axes and blades, scarred and ready for more.  These are men with our fear.  These are folks who have been battle worn and tested.

They have seen the fight.  They have blood in their eyes.  They invoke nightmares in others.  Stouthearted warriors are those one doesn't mess around with.  I think of the song, "Don't mess around with Jim."

You just don't mess with these guys unless you have a death wish.

Yet before the might of the LORD these might warriors, these men of terror, tuck their tail and flee naked.  Certainly, makes us rethink about the might of God.

And then in the Gospel we have Mark's version of the gospel from this past weekend.

The response of the disciple to Jesus is quite telling, "Lord, let me go first and..."

Again, what reasons do we come up with in not following the Lord. What is our "but first" in life that causes us to delaying following Jesus and his church more faithfully and totally.

What other priority do we place before the Lord in his call for us?


Saturday, June 25, 2016

TRAVEL CARD AND MORE

1 kings 19:16,19-21; Psalm 16 You are my inheritance, O Lord; Galatians 5:1,13-18; Luke 9:51-62

Several things for the readings for today.
One I would like to revisit a thought from earlier this week in regards to the book of Kings.  The books kings, though entitled  such, makes us think the focus is on the kings and the kingdom but in reality the focus is in on the prophets God calls to direct and guide the kingdom and the kings. In particular, Elijah and Elisha are the headliners for the book of Kings.

So why would they need the prophets anyway?  Well the people, as well as, the kings themselves, had a tendency to sink to the level of their surroundings.  Rather than being set apart and embracing their call to holiness as we are told in the OT, "be holy for I the Lord you God am holy," they both, the people of the kingdom and the kings, would allow themselves to to be swept away with the culture of the times or "the rites of the nations" and they needed purifying and redirecting constantly.

It is a reminder to us as well.  How quickly can we be subdued by the cultural surroundings, the secular motives  that invade our homes and work places in a variety of ways: TV sitcoms, Movies, articles, music and the like and just to name a few?

We need to be on our toes.  The devil wants nothing more than to have us sink to the level of our surroundings and to just blend in rather than stand out and be set apart.  As Christians we cannot live like everyone else.  There is something different about us. Holiness means to be different, set apart, to stand out.

This is why in the gospel, Jesus gives us that radical call to discipleship, that is to follow him immediately and entirely, fully and completely.  Everything we do should be regulated and elevated by our following of Jesus.  Even in regards to our family; our family ties must be put in the right order and proper place.  Jesus doesn't tell us to cut our ties with our family but rather let our relationship with him give them their proper direction and situate them in their proper order of importance.

"No one who puts their hand to plow and looks what is left behind is fit for the kingdom."

We often are asked by society to look at our physical fitness or our emotional fitness for life and jobs and relationships.  What is our spiritual fitness and what does it look like?  If we could measure our spiritual fitness, what measure would we use?  Jesus gives us the tools in today's gospel for checking our spiritual fitness!

Where are we attached to other things in our life that hinder our connection to Jesus himself.

What keeps us from immediate and total commitment?

These attachments are our sinking into our surroundings and blending in rather than being set apart and standing out.  Sometimes we have to remove things from our life in order o give ourselves fully to him.

Lastly, we see in today's gospel Jesus has set his face to Jerusalem.  Thus, begins the travel narrative of Jesus. Which brings me to the prison and the ministry we do out there regularly.

The Inmates, the men in white as we call them, have to declare their religious affiliation before attending services, whichever services they attend.  This affiliation is called their travel card.

When they change religious affiliation they have to put in a request to change their travel card.  Our faith is in some sense a travel card.  It is both about where we are headed but also in more impactful way how we travel there in this life.

Jesus's command for immediate and total commitment to Him is about our travel card and how we travel through life.  How we travel is meant to impact the people around us. This is how we make disciples, by being a disciple in all we do as we travel this road of pilgrim.  Since Pope France has been elected he has zoomed in on the reality of life being a pilgrimage, we all have a travel card and we all travel.

How do we travel?  What level of commitment do we have in life to Jesus?  How do others experience and are impacted by that commitment we carry with us as we travel? Check your spiritual fitness today?  What needs to be removed from us so that we might be more attached to Jesus and his church he has founded?  How do we travel along the path of pilgrimage and make disciples as we go?

Pax et Bonum

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

ACCIDENTAL OR PROVIDENTIAL

2 kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3; Psalm 119 Teach me the way of your decrees, O Lord; Matthew 7:15-20


In the first reading for today we have a so called accidental discovery of a forgotten scroll detailing the statues of God for the people of Israel.  The scroll accidentally discovered while renovations of the temple were underway seemed to be a real and necessary turning point for the people of Israel.

Interesting.

How often have so called "accidental" events or discoveries in our life have led us to turning point for the better?  How often we find ourselves in relationships or situations where we can't really map out how we arrived but are overwhelmed with gratitude that we are where we are?

It makes us wonder whether or not there are accidents in life?  Or does the providence of God always give us the opportunity to respond to the moment in such a way that it leads us to a deeper understanding of who we are in relationship to God and one another as the finding of the scroll did for the nation of Israel.

The king could have discarded the find.  The king could have buried it under more debris.  Yet, he chose a different path and allowed the moment to be light for the path that led not only him but all the nation back to right relationship with God.


In the gospel Jesus speaks about good fruit.  What is the proof go goodness?  How do we value it and classify it in our lives and the lives of others?

We are told a good tree cannot bear bad fruit.  Often times we look at ourselves and we, like St Paul, discover that we do not the good we want but do the evil we do not want.  We find this wrestling match inside of us.  Yet, as much as we try to surrender our life to God we find ourselves struggling with some of the fruit we bear as not fitting for the kingdom or for the faith we profess.

Yet, Even this can bear good fruit in the life of the world.  Even our sinfulness can be a source of grace as St Paul proclaims where sin abound grace abound even more and again, all things work for Good for those who love God. The good fruit isn't always about us and what we are doing though we seek to continually love God and neighbor.

No! sometimes the good fruit ifsabout what God can do even with the worst we offer.  This is the good news. We shouldn't stop trying to respond generously to God's grace but at the same time we must always know God alone will have the last say and produce the greatest harvest. It is no accident but providence.





Narrow Gate

2 kings 19; Matthew 7:6,12-14

We encounter a strange reality in the first reading.  The King of Assyria has just sent a messenger to the king of Israel, Hezekiah, basically telling him that doom is on the horizon.  The King of Assyria tells the king of Israel that he is coming and there is nothing that can be done to avoid the inevitable that is destruction and bondage.

The king of Israel, rather than form him self a strategy team and gather the troops for defense or reach out to others to make alliance, rather than gathering his elite soldiers in his war room he goes to the temple.

He goes to the war room of prayer.  He prostrates himself before the Lord and prays.  His prayer is beautiful.  What is so amazing about it is that he makes his prayer about God, his request about God, not about himself, "Therefore, O LORD, our God, save us from the power of this man, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God."

He makes his prayer about God.  God is at the center of his prayer not himself or even his nation.

How often when we pray we make our prayer about ourselves rather than about God?  How often we pray with our selves at the center rather than God being at the center?

It is worth investigating.

The next time we pray, see if we can make the prayer about God and not about us, about how God will reveal himself through the prayer rather than just getting what we want.

Jesus tells us in the gospel about the narrow gate.  What is the narrow gate other than the mercy of God.  It is not about our successes or achievement or any merit of our own.  All we have in the end is God's mercy offered and received.  The is how we know we are on the narrow path, our focus is on the mercy of God and how it leads us forth.


BLEND IN

2 Kings 17  Matthew 7:1-5

We read in the first reading for this past monday that the people of Israel were being removed from their  land and their homes.  They were being exiled. The king of Assyria deported the people of Israel from Samaria to Assyria.

Imagine such a tragedy if you can.

The question is why did this happened?

We are told this "came about because the children of Israel sinned against the LORD…by following the rites of the nations…"

What does this mean?

It means the children of Israel sunk to the level of their surroundings.  They were busy blending in when God had asked them to be set apart, to stand out, to be different.  But rather, they chose the route of least resistance and allowed themselves to sink to the level of their surroundings and blend in than being true leaven for society.

what about us in our life today?

How often are we tempted to sink to the level of our surroundings and just bled in?

This is what the devil wants.  The devil wants us to blend in, to become children of complacence, to follow the path of least resistance.

Think about where in our life we have blend in and become one with our surroundings?

Where is God inviting us to stand out and be set apart? Holiness means to be different, set apart, stand out.  This is our call and mission.

One of the areas we blend in most is areas of sexuality and sexual expression.  We have thrown chastity out the window all in the false name of liberty.

We have sunk to the level of our surroundings.

Take a look today and see.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

FALL ASLEEP IN FRIENDSHIP

Sirach 48:1-14; PS 97 Rejoice in the Lord, you just; Matt 6:7-15

Here is a few words taken from the memorial in honor of Elijah as given to us from the book of Sirach, "Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship."

What a eulogy for Elijah the prophet of God the most high.

It just gives us a moment to reflect on friendship in our own lives.  How are we friends?  What does our friendship look like?  Who in our life could say the same about us as is said about Elijah, "blessed is he who falls asleep in your friendship."

In the gospel we reflect on the prayer Jesus gives the disciples and to us, the "our Father."

The "Our Father" reminds us that the most effective prayer is both communal and other centered not about calling attention to ourselves hence it is "Our" father and "our" bread that is acknowledged.

The "Our Father" is often been called the perfect prayer  because it contains all the elements that should mark our prayer: relationship, community, reverential awe, respect for the unfolding of God's kingdom in history, obedience, dependence, contrition, and the recognition of the presence of evil and its tug in our life, as well the power of God to lead us forth in confidence.

Let us live the "Our Father" and not just pray it today.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

TO LOVE THE UNLOVABLE

1 kings 21:17-29; Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned; Matthew 5:43-48

Two things of note.

First, Ahab after coming to full realization of the wickedness and evil brought forth from him, replies with humility.  His pride has been stripped away and he sits in sackcloth and ashes.

The royal attire which  made him stand apart from all the rest is replaced by the sackcloth which unites him to all people of the earth, especially the people that he serves, the cloth of the common man.

Humility is ultimately that virtue or experience that helps us realize we are like everyone else in need of God's mercy.

God's response to Elijah is quite telling, "have you seen that Ahab has humbled himself before me?"

Think about experiences of humility in our own lives for a moment.  When have we humbled ourselves before the Lord?  When have we recognized that one thing that unites us all as a human family: the need for God's mercy!

Jesus tell us in today's gospel we should "love our enemies, pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father."

Not many of us have enemies.  Not many of us will every experience such realities in life.  However, we do encounter people who we consider unlovable.  Perhaps this is where Jesus is wanting us to direct our attention.  He invites us to love the unlovable, those who we have personally judge unworthy or undeserving of our love for whatever reason, these are the ones who deserve our love in the eyes of God.

For in reality, we know that deserve has nothing to do with it. The question is, "Do we love those who God loves, those for whom his sun shines and rains fall, both on the just and unjust alike.

To be children of our heavenly Father simply means to allow our life to look like his especially in our treatment of others and all.

Be perfect!  St Paul tells us that God has perfected those who he is sanctifying.

Perfection is a process by which we become who we are created to be.  It is a daily experience of giving and receiving.  It is the great adventure of life.

We joyfully push onward with this goal in mind.