Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christ the KIng

“The Kingdom of God isn’t ushered in with visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘It has begun here in this place or there in that part of the country.’ For the Kingdom of God is within you.” Lk 17 20-21

The notion that Christ is a King does not sit easily in our 21st century mindset and world. There are few kings left with any real power, and those who do have it are distant and pampered, hardly an image to help us remember and revere the crucified and risen Christ! But the idea that the Kingdom of God lives within us is something we can develop, build upon and celebrate.

The scriptures use many words for power when speaking about Jesus. Sometimes Jesus' power refers to his words and message and this is a demanding power, a dynamic power, something that urges us to change and conversion, but the most important Greek word for power is exousia which implies a vulnerability like that of a child. Babies continue to have the power to change us, to let go. 

In their powerlessness, infants invite us to come closer, to engage them fully without words and to give of ourselves freely for their sake. That is the kind of power Jesus has. The Lord's is not that of someone who subjects us to the law but who challenges us to submit ourselves to the path of God for the sake of the entire body of Christ. This power is not about exalting himself over others, but serves an example for us to work together with the body so that all might know the fullness of God's love for the sake of the world. Jesus endures and accepts death so that we might live with God forever and he challenges us to do the same so that the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed in every age and place.

Today, pause to treasure the Kingdom of God living with you.

For what are you most grateful as another liturgical year ends?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Telling the Truth

"Teacher, you have answered well." Lk 20:40

Jesus always answers well, but sometimes his answers were dangerous. Never consumed with his own welfare, but unfailingly ready to protect and give voice to the poor and forgotten, Jesus speaks up despite the risk to his person and position. In many ways this is the reason for his suffering and death.

Imagine what the leaders of the Jewish community thought when Jesus held up a poor widow as an example of authentic generosity.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mt 12: 41-44
Widows had no standing in the ancient world, and their lot was even worse if they had no sons. Ignored and forgotten by most, the woman about whom Jesus speaks remains faithful and generous, a fact that shamed the Jewish leaders and anyone else who reduced a person's value to property and wealth. Whenever we speak up on behalf of the voiceless, we follow Jesus.

Today, listen to someone who you usually ignore.

Who are the people in your neighborhood to whom no one listens?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

St Cecilia

"Every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words." Lk 19: 47-48

One of the most remarkable aspects of St Luke's gospel has Jesus always moving towards Jerusalem despite the dangers that await him there, and as Luke's gospel nears an end, Jesus teaches in the temple area everyday even though many were seeking to kill him.

Nothing could deter Jesus from his mission, neither suffering, nor threats, nor death itself, and when we ask how this could be, we realize that knowing his Father was with always with him was Jesus' strength and gave him the courage to do whatever was necessary to announce God's reign. This is not to say that Jesus never suffered fear, confusion or pain, but that he accepted everything asked of him by God for the sake of announcing his Father's kingdom and accomplishing our salvation.

Made in God's image and called to be disciples of Jesus, we must all accept the ups and downs, the ins and outs of everyday life. Whether it is something simple like having a washing machine malfunction or a child struggle with bullying or drugs, remembering that Jesus promised to be with us always can be a powerful support in every trial. Making ourselves available to anyone who suffers, not to fix their problems but to accompany them in faith, can also be a powerful spiritual practice that helps others discover Christ in their lives.

Today, don't turn away from every struggles but ask Jesus to be with you in all circumstances.

What faith challenges most frighten you?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Presentation of Mary

Although there is no historical evidence that Mary was presented by her parents for Temple service when she was only three years old, the feast of the Presentation of Mary has deep roots in the Eastern church. Desirous of helping the faithful understand that even as a child Mary was dedicated to God, the church tells us that Mary spent nine years in the Temple before she was promised to Joseph, and readied herself to become the Theotokos, the Mother of God.

Although there is a powerful message in Mary's presentation, the art that emerged to help us understand this mystery is heart rending. How could a couple who had been childless let go of their daughter at such a young age? Would God this of them or anyone? When we see Anne's face in the depiction of the event we wonder what it must have been like for her see Mary walk into the temple. Did she worry, fret, wonder what might be next for her? While there are no answers to these questions, one truth emerges. God will always be near. No matter what we might have to suffer, God will be our companion. St Anne knew this. Mary knew this. We know this.

Today, pray for the courage to face whatever difficulties you encounter with faith.

How do you face unanswerable questions?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Spending God's Love

"I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." Lk 19:27

Faith, though a free gift from God, has responsibilities. We must give faith away and that means announcing the freedom that God bestows upon his people. When we fail to accept this Gospel mandate, we risk losing everything. Faith is not about making us more comfortable but about assuring us that because we have been saved, we need to spend God's gift by creating a more just world.

Unfortunately, too often Christians forget this message. Like children who take the gifts they receive at Christmas for granted, we forget that all of life is a gift, and rather than celebrate all that God does for us, we wallow in a shallow place that feels like happiness but that has no substance. We cling to things, people and places as if they belong us. Worse we sometimes use others for our own purposes rather than celebrate who they are before God.

On the other hand, when we remember that faith is a gift, we are filled with gratitude and do not act as if we are entitled to everything we have. When the people of Jesus' day took faith for granted or used it as a tool to oppress others, Jesus was hard on them.  Because the Pharisees sometimes used their wealth, education, and power to make themselves seem better than others, Jesus called them whitened sepulchers and condemned them for laying heavy burdens on the backs of the poor without doing a thing to help them. When we dismiss others as weak or sinful, we risk the same condemnation.

Grateful people sometimes bubble over with thanks, but most of the time they are quiet. They listen more than they talk and encourage others to express themselves. By doing this, those to whom they listen become grateful themselves and their gratitude ripples out and washes all those around them. Grateful people cleanse the world by celebrating all that God is and does with and for his people.

Today, listen to someone who thinks poorly of  him or herself.

What keeps you from living a grateful life?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Letting Go

"Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.” 2 MC 6: 27-28

As the liturgical year moves swiftly towards its end, the larger questions about faith begin to emerge. When faced with opposition, or even death itself as Eleazar was, are we ready to submit ourselves to God's will no matter the cost? Eleazar, when forced to eat pork, spit it out, and even when those in charge were will to secretly substitute beef because they respected him, Eleazar refuses, not wanting to risk scandalizing the young. Willing to be flogged and die for his beliefs, Eleazar becomes a martyr for his faith.

The willingness to make oneself totally vulnerable for the sake of the Good News is a necessary stage of the spiritual life, and while most of us will never have to face the radical test Eleazar encountered, standing up for Jesus' values is an essential aspect of living the Gospel. The Good News as Jesus revealed and lived it affirms that every person is an image of God, especially sinners and our enemies, and whenever we forget this teaching, we risk not living the Gospel at all. More important, allowing God to determine how we live the Gospel authentically demonstrates our total commitment to be Christ's child in the world, no one else's.

Today, take five minutes to assess your commitment to the fullness of the Gospel.

What Christian values most challenge you?