Friday, August 13, 2010

Frogiveness--Matt 18: 21-22

Peter is always anxious to please the Lord and so when he approaches Jesus regarding the question of how many times we need to forgive those who have sinned against us, he is very confident that he has the right answer.

"Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?"  Peter must have felt very proud in this moment, thinking that Jesus would surely acknowledge Peter's great sense of mercy.  But then, as He often does, Jesus upsets the apple cart.

"I say to you, not seven times but seven times seventy."

Peter must have felt very foolish in that moment for what Christ was teaching Peter and all of us who follow Him, is that in order to count ourselves as true disciples of Christ, we must be limitless in our forgiveness of others just as our Father in heaven is toward us. 

Most of us yearns for forgiveness from someone we have wronged at one time or another.  It is within our nature to have no barriers stand between ourselves and others.  We crave the forgiveness of others because we know that we are all connected on a deeply spiritual level.

However, when it comes to forgiving others, it is often quite difficult to do so.  Why?  There are probably countless reasons for this.  One might be pride.  In order to forgive someone, humility must be practiced.  If we are not humble in our approach to another, then we cannot possibly open ourselves up to forgiveness for that would mean we would have to admit our sinfulness to another.

Another reason it may be so difficult to forgive is because the hurt inflicted upon us by the other party may run so deep that we may never heal enough to truly reach out in mercy to the offender with an offering of our forgiveness.

Society is not good at forgiving others.  We are great when it comes to vengeance, but not so great when it comes to mercy, kindness, and forgiveness.  We think retribution means justice when all it really means is bitter vengeance.  This has no place in the heart that yearns for Jesus.

Jesus also teaches us that we must be willing to go beyond simple forgiveness.  We must love one another as He did.  We must be willing to make the same sacrifice as He did in order for us to bear worthy and healthy fruit.  Others, who are not Christian, must be able to see us as Christians through our actions.  We must forgive our enemies first and foremost.  Jesus also taught us that it was worth very little to forgive those whom we love.  That's easy!  But for those who have wounded us ever so deeply, it is very difficult to forgive them feeling that the pain they inflicted is too great to overcome.  Words are fine but do not have the weight of those actions.

Jesus forgave us with His all.  Through His brutal passion and crucifixion, He gave His life for us freely and openly simply because it is our Father's intention to have all His children home in His kingdom one day.  This requires Jesus to forgive us an infinite number of times even if we do the same thing over and over.  We are not asked to do the impossible by the Master, but, rather, we are asked to become fully human in all our frailties and vulnerabilities our of pure love for God.

Forgiveness is not an option.  Jesus has not left it up to us to decide who needs to be forgiven.  If we do not, this is a sure sign of a hardened heart, one that may be, in some way, incapable of responding to the Spirit in his life.

Pray that you may learn to forgive--truly forgive--all those who may have hurt you throughout the course of your life whether you're young and just starting out in life, or whether you are in the twilight of life.  Without forgiveness, there can be no salvation!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Our Little Faith--Matt 17: 14-20

Jesus was once approached by a father of a boy who suffered from some form of mental illness.  The father describes his son's condition as being a "lunatic and suffers severely."  (Matt 17: 15)  The father, rather than bother the Master had first gone to His disciples for a cure.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard they might try, they were unable to affect a cure.  Out of sheer desperation, the father approached Jesus to ask for His help. 

Jesus must have been frustrated with the disciples because He calls them a "faithless and perverse generation."  (Matt 17: 17)  Jesus then told the father to bring the boy to Him.  Jesus rebuked the demon within the boy and immediately a demon came out of him.  That is the way the gospel describes the miracle.  The Apostles, certainly astonished by Jesus' ease of curing the possessed young man, inquired why they were unable to do the same thing.  Jesus answered them, "because of your little faith."  (Matt 17: 20)  They must have been stunned that the Master, at whose feet they had sat and learned from all this time, could even say such a thing let alone think it!

In light of today's Gospel, it is fair to ask yourself this question:  how much faith do you have? 

All of us tend to believe that we have a great deal of faith.  Many of us go to Mass on a regular basis.  Some of us might even volunteer in our parishes to contribute to the well-being of the faith community.  But these things do not necessarily indicate the depth of faith that is within your heart.

Is our faith more like that of Mary, Jesus' mother?   Are we willing to say "Yes" to God in His Divine will for us even though the consequences may be quite high?  Are we willing to accept the will of the Father even though we may not know specifically what that will is?  Can we suspend any doubt about God and follow Him without regard to the circumstances attached to such discipleship?

Jesus tells us that if we but have "faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to the mountains, 'Move from here to there and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you."  (Matt 17: 20)  The mustard seed is one of the tiniest seeds found in nature.  Yet it produces a tree that is think and full of vegetation.  Its wood is very hardy and the plant is very difficult to kill.  And Jesus tells us if we have faith only that size, nothing will be impossible for us!

Think of that.  Nothing will be impossible to us if we but develop a true faith only the size of a mustard seed.  We limit ourselves far too much and far too often.  We tell ourselves that we are not capable of spreading the Good News of salvation by talking about our faith with a friend or family member.  We pray to God about something, yet how often after the prayer is uttered, do we disregard the possibility that God will answer our prayer?

Do you truly believe that if you had faith the size of a mustard seed you could move a mountain simply by commanding it to do so?  We are all doubting Thomases!  We prefer to follow such things as science blindly, accepting every theory as true.  But if one pure truth is presented such as abortion is morally and spiritually offensive to God and a serious sin of the worst kind, then we debate and seek the truth of the matter when the truth has been there all along.  In the end, we seem to have decided that it is up to each individual to decide for themselves.

We must work to increase our faith to the size of that mustard seed!  We must do so through fasting, prayer, attendance on a regular basis at Mass, and regular reception of the Eucharist which is not only the summit of our faith, but the very definition of our salvation.  Perhaps, if we begin to rely on the Holy Spirit more frequently and begin relying on ourselves less so, our faith will become the size of the mustard seed!  If that is the case, look out mountains!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Confidence-- Matthew 14: 22-36

"O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  These words were uttered to Peter after Jesus rescued Peter from drowning after Peter walked on water to reach Christ who was also walking on the surface of the Sea of Galilee.  Peter had plenty of faith in Jesus to walk on the water--at first.  But then he took his eyes off the Lord and when he became thus distracted, he began to sink.  Peter's confidence failed him and at that moment, he failed Christ.

Jesus could, in fact, say the same thing to us, probably on a daily basis!  Peter's confidence was shaken by the wind and waves.  When his confidence in those things overtook his confidence in Jesus, he sank.  The same can be said about us.

All of us can relate to this story on various levels because, like Peter, we have all faltered in our faith and our beliefs in Christ which leads to a decrease in our confidence in Christ to see us through anything.  We may protest initially at this notion because we all would like to think that our faith in unwavering.  If Peter, who was the Apostle chosen by Christ Himself to lead the church, had his faith falter, who are we to think that we can or will escape the same fate?

Test your confidence in Christ.  Ask yourselves some of these questions or ones similar to them.

1.  Do I have more confidence in the stubbornness of my spouse, child, coworker, pastor, or parish council than I have in the power of Jesus to change their hearts?

2.  Am I more confident in the tendency of people to reject my witness to Jesus than I am in the ability of the Holy Spirit to spur them to respond to the Lord?

3.  Do I have more confidence that I won't have the finances or energy necessary to get by in life than I have in the ability of God the Father to supply me with the grace, love, and resources I need from day to day?

4.  Do I have more confidence in the staying power of my compulsions, addictions, sins, and personal shortcomings than I have in the ability of Jesus to overcome them and give me a victorious and pure life?

Of course, there are countless other questions that we could ask ourselves to check the confidence or faith we have in the Lord.  All of us have moments in which our faith in the Lord falters.  That really isn't all that important.  What is important is that we reach out to Christ for the strength and the grace to regain our balance and continue on our journey of faith and growth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We must learn to fix our gaze on the power of Christ (Heb 12: 2) instead of our problems.  "Do not, then, surrender your confidence; it will have great reward" (Heb 10: 35).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

No Possessions?? Luke 12: 13-21

Today's gospel could hardly have a clearer message: do not allow possessions to become your gods!  Jesus was very clear in this because He understood how easily we become attached to the things of this world.  He knew that our attachments were not mere distractions, but dangerous relationships with things that have no meaning.

Jesus did not mean to say that we should not possess anything.  What He meant was that those possessions are not to become so important that they take possession of us and rule our lives. 

We may, in fact, think that we are not possessed by any of our possessions.  We may be proud of ourselves in thinking that we have risen above the fray and have managed to put the things we own in proper perspective.  But think for just a minute.  How often during the day do you look at your cell phone to check for any messages that may have been sent your way.  How often do you find yourself texting a message immediately upon reception thus taking up time when that moment may have been used for something more meaningful.

How much time do you spend on social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter?  How much time do you spend in front of the television mindlessly watching something that you really have no interest in and something which does not lead us to a closer relationship with God?

Have you ever tried a media fast?  Have you ever tried to abstain from the use of one form of media for a length of time in order to give that time over to the Lord?  Have you turned off the TV for more than the overnight hours?  Have you ever gotten into the car in the morning to go to work without tuning in your favorite radio station or making sure that it is already set to that station? 

Perhaps it is time for a media fast to check to see just how close we are to the Lord and also to see just how much time our gadgets take up in our lives.  I think you will be amazed at how much time we spend with the modern conveniences of our lives.

It is important to do these things, to grow closer to Jesus Himself, because as the end of this particular gospel states, it may just be possible that "this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom do they belong?"  (Lk 12: 21)