Enthusiasm

People get as enthusiastic about Jesus today as they did 2,000 years ago when they greeted Him entering Jerusalem. Enthusiasm translates as having God within us. It means being joyful. Pierre Teilhard once wrote “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

Jesus was enthusiasm personified. He had an open and friendly way of engaging with people.  He received people joyfully. He stepped into conflict or pain with a determination for wholeness and healing. Jesus was ushering in a new world, the Community of God, and was excited about its creation. Enthusiasm, such as Jesus witnesses, is contagious. People become aware of the Holy Presence of God within themselves. The upbeat, energetic Presence of God creates in us a playfulness, a curious delight, a buoyancy. We’re excited about life, enthusiastic for what’s good, positive, and possible. We start believing in the importance of what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for. We’re ready for a challenge, willing and able to shake up our routine with wonder and surprise.

Whatever you do don’t curb your enthusiasm.

Prayer: God of wonder and delight, we’re filled with your joy flowing from within.

Question: How enthusiastic am I?

April 13, 2014  Gospel Matthew 21:1-11  Palm Sunday  

Power

The power of God demonstrated in Jesus of Nazareth is astounding. So astounding it seems unbelievable. It is astounding enough that Jesus heals people’s ailing bodies. How is it to be believed that Jesus brings people back to life after they have died?

There are times when we are brought back to life but don’t remember the precise moment we died. The hurt or shock drove us first into paralysis and then perhaps amnesia to block the pain. We went through the motions for a few days and then the days became months and the months turned into years. Perhaps we’ve been oppressed, for too long, and can’t remember the exact moment we gave in. It may be that we’ve been censored but can’t recall when our words stopped being our own. We find ourselves among the tombs but can’t quite put our finger on when we took up residence there. Until one day we’re called forth again. Flowing from the power of God life is infused and we’re released from all that held us bound.

The power of divinity is always the power to bring to life those who have died.  

Prayer: Dear God, I’m surrounded by your power to bring forth life, thank you.

Question: What is it that’s killing me and am I ready to be unbound  and live again?

April 6, 2014  Gospel John 11:1-45   Fifth Sunday of Lent

Blindness

There are millions of people within Christianity who reject Jesus’ witness with the man born blind. Jesus taught and demonstrated with that man that external deprivation is not God’s will. Suffering, caused by blindness or any other circumstance, is not inflicted by God.

Unfortunately, there are millions of people within Christianity who believe God causes suffering. There’s even an entire theology that believes Jesus’ suffering on the cross was the will of God and saved humanity. According to this theology, rather than suffering being a problem it’s a sign of God’s justice and saving power. One result is that suffering is not alleviated but instead allowed, even promoted. Suffering is the will of a just God inflicted upon those who deserve it. Thus, all the people looking for work who migrate throughout the southwest on land stolen by the U.S. are not helped in their pursuit of basic needs but instead targeted for further suffering as lawbreakers; work is penalized, benefits are denied, assistance is criminalized, and harassment encouraged. The same suffering is routinely inflicted on all persons who are poor in the U.S.; work is outsourced, living wages are denied, assistance is cut, and harassment encouraged.

Suffering is widespread in a nation that refers to itself as Christian because Christians are blind to Jesus’ witness with the man born blind – He healed him from his suffering.  

Prayer: Creator God, help us to see that we are all of one family, recipients of your love and healing power.   

Question: What is the suffering I can help heal?

March 30, 2014  Gospel John 9:1-41    Fourth Sunday of Lent

Living Water

Lent, inappropriately linked with sin and therefore disempowerment, is actually an experience of empowerment. Lent begins with Jesus being led into the desert by the Spirit so as to be empowered for His coming public ministry. Last Sunday’s reading of Jesus’ Transfiguration is further evidence of empowerment, both of Jesus and of disciples who join Him in public ministry. This Sunday’s Gospel about the Samaritan woman at the well yet again shows divine empowerment for others which is the essence of a life in Christ.

The woman in the story is thought a sinner and therefore is thought to be disempowered, unable to relate or move about as she might determine. There is nothing about disempowerment however in Jesus’ way of relating with her. The opposite is true. Jesus realistically accepts the Samaritan woman, as He does all people, for who she is and not who He judges she should be. He distinguishes between her essential goodness and any inessential failings. Jesus thus nurtures into discipleship persons otherwise marginalized. The Samaritan woman is genuinely amazed at the kindness and truth she receives from Jesus. 

Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman makes His metaphor of living water a reality. He refreshes and renews. Jesus is a genuine river of love flowing between God and people, all people. Receiving that love, the Samaritan woman in turn becomes living water flowing out to others.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, Everyone I encounter is your living water flowing out.

Question: How do I let God refresh and renew me; how do I in turn refresh and renew others?

March 23, 2014  Gospel John 4:5-42  Third Sunday of Lent

Transfiguration

While I was in a small group as part of a Lenten spirituality program a participant asked, “Who is God for you?” Most people began their answer by saying, “I think God is …” Thinking about Divinity, constructing an image of God is perhaps more our habit than experiencing God.

Many people’s answers that evening were perhaps much the same as they have been throughout the centuries, which is to think of God and perhaps also to experience God as the ultimate judge. God lays down laws for us to obey and responds wrathfully should we disobey, threatening us with punishment. Moses and Elijah periodically presented such an image of God. Their image included the threat of a coming Day of Judgment when Yahweh’s wrath would punish all the disobedient people and save all the righteous ones. Moses and Elijah were predicted as appearing on that day. So we come to the Transfiguration. It is not only the transfiguration of Jesus Christ, it is as well the transfiguration of Moses and Elijah and all of us who have been influenced by the image of the judgmental deity those two men helped construct.   

The revelation of God has been transfigured from a projected wrathful deity executing justice into the revelation of God’s loving presence in Jesus Christ. God’s way in the world is not the threat of promised vengeance but Christ’s present illumination.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, illumine my heart so that my heart too may do your loving.

Question: How can I open myself this Lent so as to be transfigured more and more into the image and likeness of Christ?

March 16, 2104 Gospel Matthew 17:1-9  Second Sunday of Lent

Essence

We’ve all had our share of challenging experiences in life, experiences of being taken beyond the point we thought was our ability to cope. In such moments, those things or circumstances or people we thought we needed are not there and we stand alone. We come to know who we are at our core, that which is our essence.  

The fundamental temptation in life is to forget our essence is the essence of divinity. We are made in the image and likeness of God. The truth of our essentially divine nature is what the authors of Genesis are conveying in the creation story. Forgetting that truth is what the authors are conveying in the story of the temptation. The temptation set before us is to be “like gods,’ in other words, false gods. As false gods we forget our essentially divine essence, the communion we share with God, and seek other attachments we think might suit us better. We seek the comfort of stuff, forgetting all that is comes forth as gifts from God. We’re tempted to think the world revolves around us and our needs and everyone and everything is at our disposal. We seek glory in the kingdoms of this world forgetting we are called into service by God for our brothers and sisters.

What if our journey into the desert, like that of Jesus, away from the many things we rely on, is a journey toward the depth of our divine essence?  

Prayer: Dear God, I live in communion with you.

Question: The Spirit led Jesus into the desert. How can I let the Spirit guide me these 40 days?

March 9, 2014 Gospel Matthew 4:1-11          First Sunday of Lent

Today

There are times, usually in the dead of night, when worry comes to visit. She is like a cat, small but skittish and will not be put at ease no matter what is done to calm her. She soon has everything in tatters – my trust, my hopes, my very guts seem torn to shreds. Only then does she leave. I ask myself after each visit – Why did I let her in?

It’s difficult to be immersed in all our relationships, stay ahead of our growing responsibilities, and be in touch with the needs of our brothers and sisters in the world without being gripped, now and then, by sadness or even fear, let alone worry. Then, we look upon the faces of those we love, we breathe in the beauty that surrounds us, open ourselves to the many gifts that come our way and all that would strangle us - doesn’t strangle us anymore. It hasn’t all disappeared but the tension is gone. It doesn’t have a grip on us anymore so much as we, now, have a hold on it. Now, we’re holding our worries in the same hands we hold the lilies of the field. Now, we’re looking at our concerns with the same eyes that look upon the birds of the air.

Now, we know that tomorrow will take care of itself for today we have set our hearts on the Kingdom of God. 

Prayer: God of all Goodness, today I will learn from the way the wild flowers grow.

Question: What do I let get a grip on me so that I’m not free as I’m meant to be?

March 2, 2014 – Gospel Matthew 6:24-34 Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Loving our Enemies

This Sunday’s Gospel includes an unparalleled teaching by Jesus; love your enemies. This teaching surpasses the Golden Rule; do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule is a precept found in different religious traditions and while it is challenging it does not effect the same transformation in the world as does Jesus’ commandment for disciples to love our enemies.

Loving our enemies stops the harmful relationship model, vengeful disposition, and violent behaviors that perpetuate suffering in the world. Loving our enemies instigates creativity in our relationships, disposition, and behaviors instead. Creativity is at the heart of Jesus’ teachings about turning the other cheek, giving over our coat as well, and going the extra mile. Each action Jesus suggests is actually a quite creative way of dealing with people who treat us as enemies; a supremacist who demeans us with a backhand slap, an abuser who exploits us through economic oppression, and a warrior who threatens us with violence. Rather than responding to supremacy, abuse, and violence with more of the same, Jesus is showing us how to transcend the pain and transform the person spreading it.  

We can love in the radical way Jesus asks, for are we not aware that we are the temple of God?

Prayer: Dear God, I’m willing to give up retaliation and embrace your way of creativity in conflict. 

Question: Who is the enemy God is asking me to love?

February 23, 2014 – Gospel Matthew 5:38-48  Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Old and New

The longer version of this Sunday’s Gospel includes a reference Jesus made to the law. When Jesus said He had not come to abolish the law, and, that not the smallest letter of the law would pass away, He was not referring to the Old Testament law of Moses. Jesus already abolished that old law from the beginning of His public ministry. He abolished it in the negative sense by never joining the supremacy group that demanded people obey the old law, never promoting that group’s image of God as angry with sinners who broke it, and never practicing its punitive measures against those sinners. Jesus abolished that old law in the positive sense by establishing an entirely new communal relationship model, revealing a loving God, and practicing healing power. 

The laws and commandments Jesus was referring to are the ones He just got finished teaching in the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are the laws and commandments Jesus has come to fulfill and make sure endure, not Old Testament ones. That truth is again made clear in the body of this Gospel reading when Jesus repeatedly juxtaposes the old law with His new way saying: “you have heard the commandment … but what I say to you is … 

Let’s not be afraid of Jesus shifting the paradigm and calling us to something entirely new.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, open my mind and heart to receive you as an ever renewing power. 

Question: What inner changes am I being called to undergo so as to be made new?

February 16, 2014 - Gospel Matthew 5:17-37 Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Salt and Light

While visiting lately with much older friends I heard them express feelings of sadness, even grief. They spoke tearfully of injustices and suffering in the world, specifically in the U.S. They had done their best to alleviate that suffering throughout their lives and saw significant change happen. Now, from walkers and wheelchairs, they were watching that progress rolled back. They are feeling the pain of other people’s suffering once again. Once again there is much to be done. But they are at a time in their lives when their energy is ebbing. Still, there is a fire inside them, a desire to have an impact, and they vow to use what energy they have for others.  

When Jesus speaks in this Sunday’s Gospel about salt and light He’s speaking about disciples having an impact, about using the energy we have for others. Salt and light are best used for the benefit of others; to bring out flavor in food and to help people see. Our God given zest brings out the vitality in others. Our God given fire helps illuminate beauty, truth, and goodness in people. We are born with zest and fire, Jesus’ Gospel witness nurtures it.  

There is much to be done in this world, in this country. People’s suffering is getting worse. Congress is indeed cutting food assistance programs, pensions for federal workers, senior services, and unemployment benefits. We are the salt and light the world needs.

Prayer: Dear God, you have made us salt and light to heal lethargy and darkness.   

Question: What specific actions can I take to turn around feelings of apathy or exhaustion?

February 9, 2014 - Gospel Matthew 5:13-16 Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time