Saturday, February 23, 2019

2/24/19 -- 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

What if you did something bad, something that in your mind made you an enemy of God. How would you want God to respond to you in that moment? Love your enemies.

What if you caused hurt or pain to another person, maybe by your actions or possibly just by your words. How would you want to be treated when your shortcomings were brought to light? Turn and offer the other cheek. Pray for those who mistreat you and speak ill of you.

What if someone sincerely apologized to you for an old grievance but you were still full of anger and hurt. How would you react to the apology? Forgive and you will be forgiven.

What if someone in need came to you begging for help and you refused. How would you feel when someone said no to you in your hour of need? Give without expecting repayment. 

We don’t like to be around judgmental, mean spirited, vengeful people. Yet we ourselves are judgmental. We can be mean spirited. We can be vengeful.

What makes us think others would want to be around us when we act this way? Jesus is calling us to choose another way. It is a difficult way.

Jesus’ teachings are unique. There are no other teachings like his. That’s why scripture scholars believe these teachings come right from the lips of Jesus. No gospel writer would have made up these teachings. They are just too difficult.

They are so radically different that when we hear them we are hearing the authentic voice of Jesus.

Jesus is calling us to be merciful. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.

Jesus is calling us to be forgiving. Be merciful. Stop judging. Forgive. And you will not be condemned.

Jesus is calling us to be loving. Do to others as you would have them to do to you.

Jesus is calling us to be giving. Give to everyone who takes from you and do not expect repayment. Give and gifts will be given to you.

For the standard you use to measure will be the standard used to measure you.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

2/17/19 -- 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Jesus’ words in the gospel today seem backwards to us. Blessings to the poor but woes to the rich. We all want to win the lottery. Blessings to the hungry but woes to those who have their fill. No one wants to go hungry. Blessings to those who weep and woes to those who laugh. Blessings to the rejected and woes to the popular.

Whenever Jesus’ teachings confuse us, I believe it is our task to search for the deeper spiritual truths found in those teachings.

What does it mean to be poor? Poor in spirit? A feeling of poverty, like something is missing. Lonely. Inadequate. Having poor self esteem. Not being courageous enough.

People who are rich are sometimes poor because they already have all they want and are still not happy.

When we’re are feeling this way, Jesus says we are blessed. Why? Because we can recognize our reliance on God. We can turn to Jesus and ask him to make us rich in the things that matter to God.

What does it mean to be hungry? Maybe we have a hunger for something other than food. Feeling empty inside. A longing. A desire. Having a sense of not being fulfilled. A hunger and thirst for justice, perhaps, or for a meaningful life.

People who are full are sometimes empty inside because being full might not take away the emptiness inside.

When we’re feeling this way Jesus says we are blessed. Why? Because we can ask Jesus to fill our hungers with whatever is lacking.

We know what it means to be hated or ridiculed or rejected. We know what it feels like to lick our wounds, not fitting in, treated like an outcast, not knowing where to sit during lunch at school.

People who are popular are sometimes sad because all their friends are only social, the kind who disappear when things get rough.

How can Jesus say we are blessed when this happens? Maybe Jesus is saying, “I love you just the way you are. Stop trying to be someone else just to fit in. Follow me rather than seeking acceptance from the crowd.”

If we can embrace poverty and hunger and rejection, then we are on our way to finding riches and fulfillment and acceptance.

Jeremiah says to trust in the Lord, to hope in the Lord. So we ask the Lord to make us rich in kindness and grace and mercy. We ask the Lord to fill us with goodness and compassion. And we ask the Lord to sooth the wounds of rejection and ridicule. In this way, we are truly blessed. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

2/10/19 -- 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Individuals throughout all of history have been called by God to take on special roles, special tasks. It is almost universal that those people God chooses are reluctant. They believe they aren’t brave enough, they aren’t strong enough, they aren’t worthy enough. 

But then something happens, a change occurs. There is an experience they have that enables them to accept the invitation from God to do the work they are called to do.

It seems that the Holy Spirit awakens an energy, something in the human soul that has been there all along, but needs to be challenged, needs to be brought to life. 

It’s as though God is saying: “Don’t worry about where you’ve been. Don’t worry about what you’ve done. I can take care of that.” 

In the first reading, the angel takes a burning ember and places it against the lips of the Prophet Isaiah. It’s as if the angel is saying: I am burning your lying lips so you know that’s over. It’s in the past. Don’t worry about your past sins anymore. I want you to be able to feel the strength of the Spirit working in you.

We have an image of a repentant sinner being called to be an instrument of God, being called to holiness. Repentant sinners often have a sense of being touched by God and transformed by God. 

In the second reading Paul tells us that many have been called to follow Jesus. And those who are called have been strengthened and encouraged. 

In the beginning, Paul was a person who was constantly persecuting the church. Then the Spirit came upon him blinding his eyes. Only then is Paul able to see that he’s been doing the opposite of what God is asking. Now Paul is going to have the wisdom and the courage to be an Apostle doing the work that God has called him to do.

In the gospel, Jesus is calling ordinary people from their ordinary lives to become extraordinary disciples. He does this by simply giving advice about where to catch fish. Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your calling, at your command, I will lower the nets.

Peter senses that Jesus is not just an ordinary man. There is something about Jesus that is more than he had ever experienced. All of the disciples felt the power of the Spirit working through Jesus. 

The first thing Peter thinks is: Get away from me Lord because I am not worthy of being around someone like you. I am not good enough.

But Jesus says to Peter: Look, I see you as someone extraordinarily good. I see you as someone who has the potential to follow me. I am calling you to your destiny. I want you to live the life that I am calling you to live.

Jesus wants us to recognize our humanity. That we are basically selfish. That we are basically flawed. And that we make choices that are not necessarily wise. 

We are like Isaiah, we lie. We are like Paul, sometimes choosing the wrong path. And we are like Simon Peter, thinking we are not good enough or holy enough.

That’s when Jesus says to us: That’s ok. That’s what it means to be human, but I would like you to step out in trust. I am inviting you to follow me. I am inviting you to trust the power of the Spirit that I send you.

Individuals throughout all of history have been called by God to take on special roles. It is almost universal that those called are reluctant, including ourselves.

If Simon Peter and Paul and Isaiah can follow the Lord, then so can we.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

2/3/19 -- 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

We endure many difficult things in our lives: stress, poor health, bad habits, addictions, death, depression, anger, hatred, marital strife, jealousy, insomnia, anxiety, and the list could go on and on. 

The Prophet Jeremiah is told that he is going to endure many difficult things. Why did God tell this to Jeremiah? Because the Lord God needed Jeremiah to be strong.

The Lord God says to Jeremiah: I formed you in the womb. Before you were born, I knew you. I dedicated you. I appointed you. As if I’d leave you crushed. I am with you to deliver you.

The people of Corinth had a difficult time too. They were people who were jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, quick to judge and quick to lose their tempers.

Even Jesus runs into trouble. The people from his hometown turn their backs on him. They are jealous. They are worried about their own interest. They are really angry. So angry, they wanted to kill him.

If we are honest, we know that all of us in some way have a difficult time and we often have these same bad attitudes. We are not really all that honest. We are prone to jealousy. 

We can be a bit pompous and full of ourselves. We tend to seek our own interests and are quick tempered when things don’t go our way.

How can be become strong like the prophet Jeremiah? How can we become strong like Jesus? Where does our strength come from?

It’s clear from the first reading that Jeremiah’s power has to come from God. It’s also clear in the Gospel that Jesus’ power comes from his divinity, from being God’s only begotten son.

We can get tied up in the illusion that we can somehow take the Spirit of God and control it, using it for our own purposes.

But Jesus gives himself over completely. He lets himself be filled with the Holy Spirit. He gives himself over to the divine power working in him. So does the Prophet Jeremiah.

How do we become powerful in the Spirit? Saint Paul says to let the Spirit of God fill us with love, love that is kind and caring.

Not pompous, but self giving. Not jealous, but kind and caring. Not inflated, but humble. Not rude, but loving and forgiving. Not quick tempered, but patient.

Like Jeremiah and like Jesus, the Lord God knows us, the Lord God dedicates us, the Lord God appoints us. As if the Lord God would crush us. Rather, the Lord is with us, to deliver us from all the difficult things we endure in life.