Friday, July 30, 2010

Astonished--Matt 13: 54-58

Our society yearns to worship heroes.  We look to celebrities for wisdom and knowledge and understanding not because they are the rare possessors of such virtues, but because they have achieved a level of notoriety.  If someone filled with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding but was not well known, how much credence would we give them?  They may have a certain level of credibility in some circles, but, for the most part, they would go mainly unnoticed.

Jesus encountered this in today's Gospel reading.  He comes back home for a visit and as was His custom, went to the synagogue to worship with the people who watched Him grow from childhood to manhood.  By this time, Jesus' reputation had grown and He was becoming well known.  People came to listen to Him from all over.  But here, in His home town, the people who knew Him most intimately for most of His life, questioned how He could do the things He did and preached with the authority He displayed.

Jesus was a simple man.  He came from a simple background.  Day-to-day life was a struggle as He grew toward manhood.  He and Joseph worked hard to eek out a living for the family.  As he matured, there was very little about Him that was remarkable.  He was a simple carpenter who lived a quiet, undisturbed life.  So how was it, that now, well into His adult years, He could pronounce new truths and teachings with the eloquence He now possessed.  But it was not His mere eloquence.  It was the power of His words and the message which He proclaimed.  Someone with that simple of a background certainly could not be the bearer of such wisdom!

How many prophets do we have in our midst?  How many great teachers do we bump elbows with in malls, grocery stores, and even church?  Yet, we do not recognize them, nor do we give them a seconds worth of thought because "they aren't educated," or "they aren't famous."  They aren't theologians, individuals who have dedicated years of their lives to studying and seeking God in formal educational institutions.  So why would anyone listen to them?

We need to be more attuned to those around us.  Wisdom abounds in our midst yet we are mostly unaware of it.  Think if we would treat the words and teachings of Jesus as just so many words and pay Him little heed because He had not achieved some high level of education or celebrity!  Yet, do we not do that when we turn a deaf ear on those prophets in our midst? 

We can never be sure where the wisdom of God and the love of Jesus united through the Holy Spirit will come to us next.  Perhaps that neighbor we see every morning as we leave for work is a true prophet.  Yet, have we ever had a meaningful conversation with them?  Our co-workers may be spirits filled with the zeal for God and harbor gems of wisdom and understanding in their souls and all we can talk about is the weekend and the results of last night's ballgame!

Pray to the Spirit to guide you to listen more carefully to the voices around you.  God speaks to us in many ways and He is not above using some of the least likely individuals in our lives to spread His love for us.  These people are gifts from God to us.   May we learn to look upon each other as such!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Martha--Lk 10: 38-42

One of the more interesting relationships that Jesus had was with His close friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha of Bethany, a little village only a short distance from Jerusalem.  Jesus evidently spent much time at their home and they became fast friends.

As in every family, these siblings could not be much different from each other in so many ways.  Most interestingly, however, are the personalities of the sisters Mary and Martha.

Both loved Jesus very much and it is quite evident from the gospels that Jesus felt very much at home with them.  Mary, we can imagine, was the quiet, contemplative type.  We can easily picture her off somewhere by herself just walking and pondering.  She must have been a sponge where the words of Jesus were concerned.  Scripture, in fact, points this very fact out.

Martha, on the other hand, was the industrious type, always in motion, always looking after the needs of her family and guests.  She, too, was quite obvious enamored with the teachings of Christ, but she found great comfort in doing things.

Such is the setting of today's gospel.  Jesus has come for a visit.  At this point in His ministry, Jesus has attracted many, many followers and even more curiosity seekers.  The house must have been a beehive of activity with Martha fully in command.

As Jesus seats Himself to begin to teach those gathered around Him, Mary sits at His feet, hanging on every word out of the Savior's mouth.  She is enraptured with what He is teaching and she is so fixed on Him that we can imagine she did not notice the activity going on around her.

Martha's kitchen must have been in full working order that day.  And, as usual, Martha was right in the thick of things.  She loves taking care of her guests, especially Jesus, but it is tiring, time-consuming work.  Looking for her sister to help her out in her many chores, she spies her at the feet of Jesus.  Angry and rather indignant, she approached the Lord and begged Him to tell her sister to get to work to help her with her duties.  But Jesus surprises Martha.

"Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing.  Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."  (Lk 10: 41-42) 

How many times do we delude ourselves into thinking that we are productive simply because we busy ourselves with many chores?  How often do we look on those who would rather contemplate mysteries and conditions of life with a sense of superiority and disdain because they are not being productive?  And how many of us become Martha in order to avoid any deep or pertinent contemplation on such subjects as our relationship with Jesus.

We live in a society that rightfully honors industriousness and achievement.  We have been created by God to use the talents and gifts He has seen fit to bestow upon us in positive ways.  There is, in short, nothing the matter with being Martha from time to time.

But it is also that we allow ourselves to become Mary, to sit at the feet of the Master and drink in all that He has to teach us.  Jesus scolded Martha not because He looked down upon her work.  Quite the contrary!  We can be certain that He fully appreciated the trouble that Martha had gone to.  But He also wanted to tell Martha that she should allow herself some time throughout the day to sit at the feet of the Master, to learn from Him and to grow even closer.

The Lord tells us that there is only need of one thing and that is a relationship with God founded on faith and supported by our love for Him.  Beyond this, we need nothing more.  How difficult it is to come to this conclusion in a society that values human doings instead of human beings!  And, yet, that is where we will be led if only we take up our rest at the feet of the Savior.

Monitor your behavior throughout the day.  How many times do you take on the roll of Martha?  How many times do you busy yourselves unnecessarily so when you could be spending that time at the feet of Jesus?  Make a resolution that you will allow Mary to become a part of your day, seeking the Lord's teachings and basking in the love of Christ that can only be found at the feet of the Messiah, Jesus the Lord!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Your Mustard Seed Matt 13: 31-35

How is your mustard seed?  In today's gospel, Jesus tells us about the mustard seed.  The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds found in nature.  However, it produces a bush that is huge.  It is thick and strong and birds love to nest within its sturdy branches.

What does this have to do with us?  Simple.  Hope.

If you simply look at a mustard seed, you may wonder just how something that tiny could even survive let alone be transformed into the kind of plant it is.  Looking at the mustard seed, we surely can discover hope.  Hope is a prized commodity.  Without hope, our spirits will certainly fail.  Hope leads us ever forward and aids in establishing trust.

Too often, however, we do not define or identify what hope truly is.  I'm not talking about the kind of hope that you may have that tomorrow will be sunny and mild for a planned picnic.  That is one form of hope but it is not spiritual hope, rooted firmly in God.

Hope, spiritual hope, is not just a strong desire for something.  Instead, it is a firm belief in someone, namely God.  When we truly believe in God and believe His teachings, we find the roots of hope, true hope.  This hope propels us forward in our relationship with God and as we grow closer to Him, we find that it is this hope that fuels the fires of intimacy.  We come to trust in Him and may even reach a point where we depend upon Him for everything simply because we know that God does not break His promises to us.

That is why we must pray every day.  Without prayer, hope dies.  Without communication with the Father, our spirit loses its energy and resigns itself to a mundane existence.

 It is so easy to lose hope when things do not go our way.  This is mostly because most of what we call hope is actually something like a wish list.  We want desperately for this list to come true and wait anxiously for the day that this has been verified. 

We may lose hope because of a number of things.  We may have just lost a loved one and feel empty without them.  We might play over and over again in our minds the last time we saw them or the last conversation we had with them.   We may lose hope at this point because our sadness overwhelms our sense of judgement and perspective.

But focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, with an ever open heart to the Holy Spirit, we can keep hope alive even in the most dire of circumstances.  It is hard to do and Satan makes it no easier with his lies and deceitful ways. 

All of us have a mustard seed inside.  It is the seed of hope which will lead us to love and the long journey back to the Father.  We place our trust in our Creator and find that in doing so, our intimacy with God, His Son, and Holy Spirit, grows all the more intimate.  In turn, our relationships then begin to cement for the first time even though a given relationship may be years old. 

Nurture your mustard seed so that the glimmer of hope that we all experience may be replaced with the certainty that God loves us and guides us every step of the way through life.  We must have hope!  We cannot allow it to die within us for if it does, our spirit will soon die as well, leaving us a hollow shell and a life filled with meaningless actions.

Hope!  Trust in God.  Love Him with all your heart and mind.  And that hope will grow into a lifelong love affair with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Persistence Lk 11: 1-13

So often, we are very impatient.  We are told that we can expect anything and everything that we want nearly immediately.  The media tells us this through advertising.  We can purchase nearly anything on the Internet and much of what we do buy online is delivered immediately.  We turn a light switch on and the light goes on.  Immediate gratification!  We've come to expect this and even feel that we have a right to it.

God, however, does not necessarily work in this fashion.  He sometimes delivers immediate answers to our prayers, but not frequently.  If we are in a relationship with God, we have to learn patience.  God moves according to His own time and design.

This apparent slow movement on the part of God is yet another loving manifestation of His love for us.  We need to learn to be patient.  While technology may move us along at light speed, our spiritual development cannot.  We must learn to contemplate our relationship with God.  We must learn to spend quiet time in the presence of the Almighty.  We must learn that we oftentimes have to be persistent in our prayers. 

Jesus points this out very clearly in today's Gospel reading taken from the Gospel of St. Luke.  Jesus tells us the parable of the persistent friend who goes to his neighbor in the middle of the night to borrow some bread in order to feed a friend who has just arrived.  The neighbor in need doesn't give up in his request.  He keeps asking until, worn down by his neighbor's requests, he gives in, gets up, and delivers the loaves of bread.

The message of this gospel story is not that if we hound God unceasingly He will finally give in having grown tired of our repeated petitions.  Rather, the message of the Gospel is consistency in our prayer lives.

God wants us to come to Him regularly.  He desires to hear from us on all sorts of occasions.  He wants us to come in moments of need, to be sure.  But He also desires our company in good times and bad.  He wishes to hear from us in times of tribulation and peace.  He wishes for us to "drop" in on Him if only for a very few short moments throughout the day to share with Him the events of the day. 

Our prayers are important to God not because He has a need to know what is going on with us.  Rather, our prayers are important to Him because they are manifestations of our love and dependence upon Him.  We have been created by God for God.  Jesus tells us to trust in His Father in the same reading by saying simply, "ask and you shall receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened."

We can be very sure that God will answer our prayers.  But, He will answer them in His own good time.  While we await His answer, we must persist in addressing Him in prayer.  We must always remain close to Him because nothing that comes our way that is good comes from Him through His Son Jesus Christ. 

Likewise, we must be persistent with one another.  We must continually pray for each other.  We must always look to see if there isn't something we can to to help the other person, either spiritually or physically.  We must never neglect the needs of others for our Father never neglects our needs.  He is always diligent and ready to respond to our needs.  Through our persistence in prayer, we will come to know Him and ourselves in ways that before were unknown to us.

And the sweetest prayer the Father can receive is the prayer that our Lord taught His disciples in the beginning of this reading.  The Lord's Prayer is a prayer of persistence and petition.  Over and over again we ask the Father to deliver us from the snares of the devil as well as providing us with our daily needs both spiritually and physically.  Pray it often for the words come from His beloved Son while the sentiment and sincerity is ours!