Gospel: Matthew 6: 31-34
We have all heard or used the word “uptight.” According to social scientists, the “uptight” person is not neurotic, but normal. It is fashionable, it seems, to get uptight about all sorts of things that everyone else is uptight about– “getting ahead”; paying the bills; political issues and more.
But the uptight person is enslaved by an inflated sense of his or her ability to manage the future. Today we are reminded as Christians, that we should not be uptight about tomorrow, or worse yet, tomorrow’s tomorrows — for tomorrow belongs to God.
In today’s Gospel, we have these words of assurance from our Lord: “So do not worry; do not say, ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How are we to be clothed?’ Your heavenly Father knows you need for them all. “Set your hearts on His Kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself” (Mt. 6:31-34).
So how do we respond? Jesus is telling us that we will conquer anxious worry by trusting God unconditionally. Curiously, this can be a real problem for those of us who come to Church regularly. We hear it all the time: Trust God! We hear it so often that we’re not listening anymore.
But this trust in God that Jesus teaches us is not merely a surface religious expression — it is the very essence of the Christian life.
Christian life. It is a style of living we learn through the example of the Lord Jesus. It is a style of living in which we trust ourselves so completely to God’s loving Presence that we are empowered– moment-by-moment and day-by-day to effectively deal with those anxious worries. Notice, I said “deal with,” not “get rid of.” We’ll never be able to get rid of all anxiety. But trusting in God’s promise never to abandon us — and trusting in God’s promise never to withdraw. We need to realize that destructive anxiety robs us of life, robs us of the spiritual nourishment we need to grow into our full human potential. The kind of destructive anxiety that Jesus warns us against turns us in on ourselves and robs us of the ability to reach out and be there for others.
In Ephesians, the Apostle Paul describes himself as “a prisoner of Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:1). Yet, in his Letter to the Galatians, he wrote, “When Christ freed us, He meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery … My brothers, you were called, as you know, to liberty” (Gal. 5:1,13).
If these statements seem contradictory, it is because we have not yet internalized the belief that one becomes “a prisoner” of the Lord only through an exercise of freedom. Becoming a prisoner of the Lord is accomplished only by the free act on our parts of unreserved, total, voluntary surrender to Him.
To help you internalize this, here is a real life story from a self-confessed former uptight person– he wrote me: “I used to complain and worry a lot. I used to feel frustrated a lot. I used to question my own worthwhileness a lot. I used to agonize over my unrealized dreams. But all that began to change through my neighbor’s dog. That puppy was neglected, left tied outside to a leash all the time. Enslaved by a collar at the end of a leash, the frustrated animal cried day and night. Then one day, I saw that the dog was loose. Somehow the leash had broken. But the poor thing just wandered about in small circles as though it were still being restrained.
I thought to myself, “This animal gets an opportunity to be free and doesn’t take it? Then it doesn’t deserve to be free.” Then an inner-voice spoke to me: “That’s you. You’re looking at yourself. This humbling revelation was the beginning of real freedom for me. My anxiety had taken me to a point in my life where I simply had to surrender the unrecoverable past and the unpredictable future to Divine Providence. Only then was I able to move from uptight, to alright.”
The meaning of that story is like being drenched by a bucket of cold water. “The Truth shall make you free,” wrote the Apostle John. Only by allowing the Truth, which is Christ, to completely overtake us — to “enslave” us, so to speak — can we free ourselves from the bonds of the “uptightness” of our time. There comes a time when we must let go and surrender our future to Divine Providence.
It reminds me of team building exercises that often occur at retreats. Inevitably, there would be a time where we would have to demonstrate our trust in our teams. So there would be some exercise like a Trust Fall where you physically had to let go of your concerns and free fall into the arms of one or more of your team mates. Some would do it with complete trust and easily fall while others would do it with such stiffness that you would think rigor mortis had set in.
And so it is with trusting God. Some do it with a childlike innocence and live their lives with an undeniable belief that God will manage the future as long as we rely on Him and live His Gospel. Others say the words but spend the time fretting about everything they cannot control. It’s the latter group that has that mental rigor mortis. Those are the people worry themselves sick either about what might have been or what might come to pass “if only I had done this” or “if only I could do that.”
Back in the 70’s there was a popular Christian slogan. So popular that Tiffany’s had a lapel pin made. It simply read: “Let Go, Let God.” There comes a point where you must surrender both the unrecoverable past and the unpredictable future to Divine Providence. There comes a point you must break free from the emotion that you have it within your power to wish away past events or to control the unfolding of future events. As long as we hold onto those beliefs, we are like the dog that was tied up day and night. When he was free, he still believed that he had that rope leash on. Sometimes it takes a serious illness or a life changing event. But there is a point that if we could just stop and realize that we cannot control that which we cannot control,
The key to the Kingdom is knowing that even in life’s darkest moments God will not abandon us; that God is one-hundred-per-cent absolutely trustworthy; that however painful life may become, we can be totally confident in the goodness of God to prevail.
So if you trust in the Lord you can move from “uptight,” to “alright!” It will not happen overnight. It needs to be preceded by an introspective look at how you live . It is a time to reflect inward and it is a time to look for the signs of God around you. It is a time to reflect inward and it is a time to look for the signs of God around you When you do, you can come to believe that not only has He been there for you in the past and in the present but He will always be there for you in the future. It is only then that you can Let Go and Let God. Try it. You will be astonished at the change in your life that attitude can bring. And if you are already there then look to your left and to your right and let others know the joy that freedom brings.
Daily Reflection – 2/22/19
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”( Matthew 16:13-19)
In today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus asking his disciples this type of questions. First, He wants to know what everyone else is saying about him. Then, he asks the big question, “But who do you say that I am?” Answers start flying of the lips of the disciples like it is a popular game show or a quiz in a sports bar. All stay on the surface with their responses, except for Simon Peter. He is the one who looks into the depth of his being, gets himself out of the way, and allows God to answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Eventually, all of us must answer this question for ourselves. Who is Jesus for us? We can stay surface level or we can venture deeper, like Peter did when He allowed the answer to come from within. Peter had a lot of courage answering the way he did. Peter’s answer was personal and that is exactly how we need to answer this question. Only the Holy Spirit, who fills us with Grace and Divine knowledge, can reveal to the depths of our beings who Jesus is for each of us.
But it starts not with the Jesus we visit in Church. Nor in the Jesus we pray to when we are in need or in grief or in pain. Nor in this façade that some put up by claiming that living a good life is enough. No, No and No. It starts with our accepting our belief in Him as our Lord and Savior at such a deep level inside of us that our words, thoughts and actions are preceded by whether they would please Him. It has to be seared inside our very soul. It must become a conditioning for us. To call ourselves Christian – a follower of Christ – means an internalization that we are His followers – that we belong to Him – that all that we are is because of Him – and that all that we want to be is a reflection of Him.
May we come to know Jesus, in whatever special way He has planned for us, and passionately accept each day the answer to that question, “But, who do you say I am?”
Prayer of The Day
Lord, help me to not only acknowledge you with my words, but to embrace the belief that you are the Son of the Living God with all my life, words, and actions. Let my life give witness to you before all men.
We often discover what lives at the center of our world when the experiences and circumstances of life knock us off kilter. Everything is thrown out of whack and we struggle to regain our center. Sometimes that means we have settled for something other than Christ on which to center our lives. Christ is the true center. That does not mean there will not be difficulties, pain, or losses. It means that when they occur the center holds, and we all need a center that will hold.
Daily Reflection -2/21/19
Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” (Mark 8:27-33)
This Gospel has a very clear mandate: to discover who this Jesus of Nazareth may be. Through his texts, Mark has been offering us other people’s reactions to Jesus: the sick ones, the disciples, the scribes and Pharisees. And today, He is directly asking us: “But you, who do you say I am?”
On this past Saturday, I was on retreat with our Bishop. In his homily, he asked us two questions: “Who Are You” and “What Do You Have?” The two questions are intertwined with this Gospel.
If we are truly seeking a deeper relationship with Christ, we must know Him in our life. That only comes from prayer and reflection. It is not enough to know the historical Jesus or to hear about Jesus in whatever liturgy you attend. There can be no true knowledge of Him without identifying Him in your life. By seeing his patterns move in our lives and sense how He kindles the flame that glows in our hearts. When we can feel Christ, when we can converse with Christ then can we turn our eyes outward and prove our relationship with Him by the example of our lives. Our hearts must beat his own beat, sing his own song, and whisper his own silence. But this is possible only if we know who God is in our life, his place and his role.
I distinctly remember being berated by a former parishioner in Central America who said that he was tired of being made to feel guilty. That he had no belief in trying to be Christ because no one can be Christ. He then closed by saying that he tries to live a good life and that should be enough.
My answer then and now is that it is not enough. Not if you claim Jesus Christ as your Savior and desire to live eternally with Him.
As the Bishop spoke on Saturday, I answered quietly to myself: “ I am but a broken vessel who knows that I can only be filled with the cleansing waters of redemption when I live my life centered on Him. I fall and fail time and time again, but my eyes are fixed on Him. What do I have? I have whatever talents he gave me, and I constantly try to use them for others. To be Christ centered and to try and give as much of myself is who I am and what I have. As He was selfless, so should I be.
The Way of the Cross was not for Jesus alone but also for everyone who professed to follow him. Carry that cross each day and be liberated by its love.
Prayer of The Day
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must come to know through prayer the liberating presence of God’s love, which is present in our life. He keeps on making alliances with us with clears signs of his presence, just as that rainbow appearing through the clouds promised Noah.
Life seen as merely as a self-centered earthly existence and lived in denial of Christ ends in destruction, but when lived in loyalty to Christ, despite earthly death, it arrives at fullness of life.
Daily Reflection – 2/20/19
When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, they brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?” Looking up he replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then he laid hands on his eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village.”( Mark 8:22-26)
In today’s gospel, there is more than Jesus’ healing of the blind man because that miracle helped the disciples recover from their own spiritual blindness. Perhaps that is why Jesus has to take the blind man outside the village and be with his disciples to do the healing.
Like the disciples and the man in the gospel, we are also “blind” in many ways. We have been “touched” through baptism, and our eyes opened to faith but yet blindness still overshadows us most of the time. Jesus has been with us from the very beginning of our life and we have seen how great God is in our lives. Maybe not in strange and huge ways but I’m sure God showed something important and wonderful to each of us in our lives.
Various reasons or even events in life have caused each of us to remain blind at times. It might be fear, anger, guilt, self-aggrandizement, temptations, human weakness, and politics, to mention a few. Yet, we have to be sensitive to the actions of Jesus in our live. Often we are so busy and so caught up in the conduct of life that we don’t see that presence. We also need to take seriously where Jesus is leading us. He is leading us to have clear eyes. To not only see His presence but to be Christ-like in our actions. But again, our determination to be self-sufficient or to determine the outcome of our life “our way” gets in the way of “seeing.” The truth is we cannot lead others if we are blind.
The hand of Christ is always there to take away the scales from our eyes and from our mind. We need to stay in constant prayer so that we can see and hear him in our lives. Constant prayer is just that – throughout the day have spontaneous conversations with Him.
Let our eyes be opened! If at first we see dimly, then maybe we have try and look again. Hopefully, we can then see clearly.
Prayer of The Day
Jesus, help me to abandon myself to you. I want to trust in you completely. Knowing that I am weak, and you are my strength gives me confidence. Help me to remember that I am small and you are great. You are the one who deserves the glory. Help me to go about quietly doing good like you.
Jesus shows us the process of faith. Faith is not always an instantaneous light that falls upon us, but rather a continuing process that take us to the light and allows us to see clearly. Yet, the first step of faith—to begin seeing God’s light— is already a reason for joy. Saint Augustine says: “Once the eyes have been cured, what else can we, o brothers, have more valuable? Let those who can see that light enjoy it, whether it flares in the sky or comes from a torch. And how unhappy should they feel those who cannot see it!”
Daily Reflection – 2/19/19
Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out–beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8: 14-21)
Jesus “sighed from the depth of His spirit.” It was a sigh that was more than emotion. It was from the “depth of His spirit.”
This sigh reveals a pain and suffering in Jesus that was spiritual in nature. It was a pain and suffering that came as a result of being rejected by others. But it wasn’t just that He was hurt or offended, because He wasn’t. The suffering He felt was from His love. It came as a result of Him loving the Pharisees deeply and realizing that they were rejecting the grace He wanted to offer them. This hurt not because Jesus was sensitive to being hurt; rather, it hurt because of His boundless love for them.
Often, we only think of Jesus being harsh to the Pharisees. But every strong word He directed toward them was aimed at converting them out of love.
Reflect, today, upon the “Pharisees” in your life. Perhaps you do not encounter those who are proud or haughty. In ministry, we encounter them continually. The Pharisees are those who reject the free gift of love we offer in Christ’s name. But they are those who are so hurt, confused or bitter that they find it very hard to let love in. They want to be the center of attention and need to be recognized. They throw up every sort of defense there is to avoid letting our love in.
And when you see this rejection, it hurts. It may then tempt you to have anger or condemnation.
But how should you react? You should do as Jesus did! You should sigh, and “sigh deeply.” You should feel the hurt of their rejection and feel sorrow for them. At times, you may need to confront them as Jesus did. But never out of wounded pride. You should confront only because you judge that it’s the best way to win them over. You will know that this is an act of love when you feel that deep sigh within your spirit.
Prayer of The Day
Lord, break down the walls that press in on my small heart: let me believe that you are the Son of God, and that in company with you I truly live. Help me see that you yourself are the ‘bread’ which I need to stay alive. Help me to hang all my hope on you.
We are all like the disciples in one way or another. We all like to be in charge and have things under control. But we need to be careful not to try to control everything, because that’s when we risk limiting the Lord or pushing him out of the picture. This is especially true when we are faced with a particularly challenging situation and feel that we don’t have enough “bread.”
Don’t let this happen! You may have only one loaf, but that’s more than enough for the Lord. If he can feed thousands with just a little more than that, surely, he can take anything you offer him and fill it with his power and grace!
Daily Reflection – 2/18/19
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.( Mark 8:11-13)
Today’s Gospel talks about the hunger by people for signs.
The Christian mystics tell us that the spiritual life involves two distinct but related phases: a period of consolation, and that of desolation. God, they say, sends us both.
Think of those moments when you feel everything’s alright; when your heart feels like it wants to sing God’s praises because everything’s going well. Such moments of consolation, the mystics tell us, are God’s gifts.
But then, these moments pass, and instead of feeling on top of the world, you suddenly feel barren, arid and dry, not only spiritually. No matter how hard you pray and ask God to rid you of the dryness, you can’t seem to get rid of the feeling of emptiness.
But the absence of signs is itself the sign. At such moments, paradoxically, the presence of God is known through his very absence. We should recognize that sometimes in being absent that that there is an invitation that God is extending. It’s the invitation to ask ourselves why we chose to follow Him in the first place. Was it because of the signs God had given us?
For it is when we experience the dryness and desolation of the spiritual life that we are able to discern the gifts from the Giver, the signs from the One they signify. And as we slowly distinguish the two, we come to realize that it isn’t the gifts, or the consolations, or the signs that must ultimately matter to us, but God himself, and Him alone.
The occasional absence of signs—the spiritual dryness we all go through every so often—is an invitation to deepen our faith and mature in our vocation to follow Christ. Why are there no signs? The answer is simple. Christ wants us to follow him, know him, be intimate with him, and slowly learn to give up looking for signs.
Prayer of The Day
Lord Jesus, thank you for the signs you have already placed before me – most notable The Sign of The Cross on which you gave your life so that I may know life eternal. Help me to deepen my faith so that I come to see your presence in my life through the real things you have already down for me.
The fact is, it takes time and effort and a life of dedication to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. We laugh at the disciples sometimes because they are so slow to “get Jesus.” But we’re the same way. Having the advantages of a Resurrected Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we’re still slow to “get Jesus.” We need to have the courage to believe even without any signs. This is what true faith means.
Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”) And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly. He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it. They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”( Mark 7:31-37)
Even though Jesus knew that reports of miracles and prodigious events would lead people to think of him merely as a wonder-worker and consider his Kingdom to be merely another earthly reign, he couldn’t resist the pleas of those who were suffering. The miracles were meant to be signs, confirmations of the truth of his teachings, and invitations to trust and obey him. Unfortunately, although many people were willing to be cured by him, few were willing to suffer with him – that became clear at the time of his passion.
And yet, to be a citizen of his Kingdom means both enjoying his benefits and living under his rule – i.e., bringing thoughts, words, and actions into line with his standard and example. We really can’t have the latter without the former. Unfortunately, we often try to do just that: when the Lord gives, we rejoice; when the Lord asks us to give, we balk – much to his chagrin, and even more, to our loss.
We should never despair of the power of God. No soul is too hardened to be penetrated by Christ’s love and forgiveness; the greatest sinners often make the greatest saints.
Often, we seem to be stuck in our spiritual lives, unable to advance, incapable of overcoming certain defects or sinful habits. Sometimes this discourages us, and we slack off in our efforts to practice self-discipline and to live a vibrant life of prayer. That’s when the devil can make a bold move on us, luring us into a relationship or an activity that actually obstructs the flow of God’s grace in our lives. Precisely then, when we seem to have reached a spiritual plateau, we need to let Christ take us “away from the crowd” (perhaps on a retreat) to renew our interior hearing. His power is never lacking, but our faith oftentimes is.
Prayer of The Day
I want to follow you Lord. You are faithful, and you govern my life and the entire world with perfect wisdom. Open my eyes, enlighten my mind, so that I will discover your presence and your will in each moment, in every circumstance. You never cease to draw me to yourself; never let me stop seeking your face…
The people’s response to this miracle testifies to Jesus’ great care for others: He has done all things well. No problem or burden was too much for Jesus’ careful consideration. The Lord treats each of us with kindness and compassion and he calls us to treat one another in like kind. The Holy Spirit who dwells within us enables us to love as Jesus loves. Do you love others and treat them with considerateness as Jesus did?
Gospel: Luke 9: 28-36
I used to love reading children’s books to my youngsters because I could enjoy the fact that animals can laugh and trees can sing and even teacups can speak. Neither I nor my children ever asked: “Why is this teacup talking?” We just allow ourselves to get caught up in the fantasy and get carried along with it. In one such story, a couple are buying a new teacup. The wife says to her husband, “Look at this one. It is beautiful. I want to buy it.” And the teacup says, “Ah, but you know, I wasn’t always beautiful.” Instead of being surprised at a teacup talking, the couple simply asked the teacup what it means. The teacup says, “In the beginning, I was just a soggy, damp lump of clay. They put me on a wheel and they started turning that wheel until my head became dizzy. Then they started to poke and prod, and I cried out, ‘Stop!’ but they said ‘Not yet.’
At long last they did stop the wheel and put me into a furnace. It became hotter and hotter until I thought I could no longer stand it, and so I cried ‘Stop!’ but they said, ‘Not yet!’ Finally they took me out of the furnace and someone started to put paint on me and the fumes from the paint made me ill. It made my head swim and I cried out, ‘Stop!’ but they said, ‘Not yet!’
When, at long last, they had finished painting, they put me back in the furnace and it was hotter than before. And I cried ‘Stop!’ and they said, ‘Not yet.’ Finally, they took me out of the furnace, and after I had cooled down, they placed me on a tabletop in front of a mirror. “I remembered myself as a soggy, ugly, damp lump of clay. But when I looked at my image in the mirror, I lost my breath and I said, in amazement, ‘I am beautiful!’ And then I knew that it was only the pain I went through that had made it possible for me to become beautiful.”
There is a sense in which we all begin as ugly lumps of clay, placed by God on the wheel we call “earth” in order that we might be fashioned into something beautiful…
So God pokes us: “ Love one another as I have loved you.”
Then He prods us: “If you have two coats give one to the man who has none.”
Then He turns up the heat: “Love your enemies. Pray for your persecutors.”
Higher it goes still: “Give to the man who begs from you . . . feed My lambs . . . feed My sheep.”
What’s the reward? At long last, you can see, as though in a mirror, the face of the Lord Himself reflecting out of your own image. And there will no longer be any question of where they had put Him. He was in those ugly lumps of clay from which you and all your brothers and sisters were transformed and made beautiful.
Ours is a Gracious God who transforms despair into hope, sorrow into joy, death into new life! In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he says “to know Christ and the power of His Resurrection, and to share His sufferings by reproducing the pattern of His death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection…” (Phil. 3:10-11).
Albert Camus was a Frenchman who won the Nobel Prize For Literature in 1957. His writings reveal a man who had experienced the harsher side of life. He seemed like a man who was standing at the edge of the abyss, waiting for his world to come to an early end. Then he chose to step back and proclaim a resounding “Yes!” to life. He expressed his transformation in these words: “In the midst of Winter, I found there was within me an Invincible Summer.”
We can experience our “Invincible Summer” in and through the transforming power of a ministry of loving service.
We can experience our “Invincible Summer” in and through the transforming power of genuine caring, forgiveness and love.
We can experience our “Invincible Summer” in and through the transforming power or sharing our life in Christ with others — a life so wondrous and so beautiful as to defy description.
What a great thing it would be if we came with a real concept of our ministry; if we came really caring about the people in the congregation around us, especially those whom we know are hurting and need our support. What a great thing it would be if we came with a “get ready” attitude for our Christian ministry through the week; if we came with an awareness that where we live and where we work are places of mission into which Jesus has called us; if we came with an understanding that we individual Church members are part of the Church’s corporate mission to the world.
In today’s Gospel Lesson, God’s transforming power is dramatically revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration. There, Jesus presents Himself to three of the disciples in a brilliant flash of light. “His face was changed,” Luke tells us, “and His clothing became brilliant as lightning” (Lk. 9:29). In Matthew’s account we are told that “His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light” (Mt. 17:2). Along with James and John, Peter has witnessed the glory of Christ in a dazzling vision. Peter immediately suggests that they remain there on the mountain and build three “tents” (or altars) to commemorate the event. But Jesus has more important things to do, concerning which a voice from the heavens addresses Peter and the other disciples: “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to Him” (Luke 9:35).
Throughout the Gospel, Jesus makes the point: It is the spirit of this coming together that matters. Ask yourself: Have you come to this “tent” we call “Church” in response to the Good News of a gracious God who created you out of an incredible love for you? Do you know that God made you uniquely and that His purpose is to bring you to the total fulfillment of your individual personhood? Are you here in response to Jesus’ call to follow Him on the road to fulfillment? Are you here recommitting yourself to a life of loving service to others because you have been listening to Jesus? Or are you, like most of us, somewhere in between the low road of indifference and the high road of total dedication to Christian Discipleship?
Back in the late sixties, during a scholarly discussion of the “God Is Dead” theology, the famous author/psychologist, Dr. Erich Fromm, told his colleagues that instead of debating the question “Is God dead?” they should be debating the question, “Is man dead?” The psychologist explained:
“Man has been transformed into a thing … a producer … a consumer … an idolater of other things … He sits for hours in front of bad television programs without even knowing that he’s bored.
He learns that millions of children around the world are literally starving to death without even relating that reality to the teachings of religion. He just shakes his head and says “ What a pity.”
“He joins the rat race of commerce, where personal worth is measured in terms of market values, and he remains unaware of the anxiety he is enduring.”
For Christians, all of this represents death as we understand it, and for many, Dr. Fromm’s words still resonate — especially today. Physical death is not the last enemy. The last enemy to be conquered is a spiritual death — the essence of which is a separation from God.
A man went to his friend, a jeweler, who had a large clientele. The jeweler showed his friend a number of superb diamonds and other precious stones. Among them was a stone so lusterless that the friend said: “That one has no beauty at all.” “Hasn’t it?” asked the jeweler, lifting the stone from the tray and closing his fist over it. In a few moments, when he opened his hand, the stone glowed with all the splendor of the rainbow. “What have you done to it?” asked the friend. The jeweler smiled. “That is an opal,” he said. “It is what we call a sympathetic jewel. It needs only to be gripped with the human hand to bring out all its wonderful beauty.”
Allow yourself to be lovingly gripped in the hand of God and, in the Apostle Paul’s words, You will “be like children of light, for the effects of light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth . . . you will shine in the world like bright stars” (Eph. 5:9, Phil. 2:15).
Allow yourself to be lovingly gripped in the hand of God and, in Jesus’ words, “your light must shine in the sight of men” (Mt. 5:16).
Draw close to God in Jesus Christ. Listen to Him and discover the meaning of who you are and what you ought to be doing. Open yourself up to God’s Presence. Allow God to light up your life with His Love! Allow yourself to become the person God wants you to be. Allow yourself to emerge as a miracle of God’s transforming power. And the light of your life will shine as a beacon of love for all to see.
Daily Reflection – 2/14/19
Jesus went to the district of Tyre. He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it, but he could not escape notice. Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-phoenician by birth, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She replied and said to him, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.” When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.( Mark 7:24-30)
Today’s Gospel presents a most disconcerting scene. Falling at Jesus’ feet, a non-Jewish woman begs him to drive a demon from her daughter. Jesus responds as he did. How can we possibly explain this seemingly heartless response from Jesus?
There have been many thoughts written on this. I ask is it possible that Jesus unreflectively responded as he had been conditioned to respond by his traditional Jewish upbringing? God chose the Jews from all the peoples of the world to be God’s own chosen people. Does Jesus’ Jewish upbringing and education prompt his curt response?
That may not be too far-fetched. We Christians steadfastly assert that Jesus is indeed fully human and fully divine. As such would he not be receptive and sensitive to his cultural conditioning? Does his initial spontaneous, unreflective response simply echo his life-long, small town, rural Galilee conditioning?
I don’t know. But note that Luke does tell us that “Jesus advanced in wisdom, age and grace before God and man”(Lk 2:52). Now observe what happens next. Jesus says to the woman,
” The demon has gone out of your daughter.” The woman returns home and finds her daughter’s demon gone!
Jesus’ direct personal encounter with the non-Jewish woman transforms him and affects his world view. Jesus no longer sees a Jew or a non-Jew. Jesus sees a human being, a child of God in need, a neighbor! And Jesus responds as a compassionate neighbor!
This interpretation has significance today for our current world. We seem to be labeling groups of people in ways that undermines their basic identity as fellow human beings and children of God. The labels vary but the labels surely include nationality status (refugee, immigrant – legal and illegal) and religious affiliation (Jewish, Christian, Muslim).
Is today’s Gospel inviting us to drop our prior conditioning and our labels and to allow the Spirit to unite us with the disadvantaged and displaced persons of our world as fellow human beings, as children of God, as neighbors? Are we, like the Good Samaritan, being invited to respond not to labels but to persons — to our neighbor?
Prayer of The Day
Lord, I pray that I might have the same level of faith and desperation when I come to you in prayer. May I not see that my answered prayers are based on my goodness but rather see grace in every blessing that I receive. Thank you for being so good to me.
What is the “demon” in our lives that we are asking Jesus to cast out today? I invite you to spend some time today pondering that question! What will you ask Jesus for today? Jesus is waiting for you!
Daily Reflection – 2/13/19
He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” When he got home away from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, “Are even you likewise without understanding? Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach and passes out into the latrine?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) “But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”( Mark 7: 14-23)
In one stroke, Jesus changes this all-important Jewish idea of defilement and says that nothing that comes from the outside can make a person unclean. Rather it is what comes out of an individual that can render him unclean. And he names them in the Gospel.
These alone, Jesus says, can defile a person, because they come from within, they come from the heart. In another part of Scripture, he says, “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34) And so a Christian would do well to guard that what he or she does on the outside is consistent with who and what he is on the inside. Each of us needs to be sure that the mirror in our soul mirrors the outside of our words and actions.
Externals are for people to see. What lies within, however, what lies in the depths of the human heart and soul, that is for God alone to know and judge. And what we do in the secret of our hearts is much more valuable to Him than what others see us doing.
But just as goodness can come from the heart, evil can come from it as well. If it is what’s on the inside that purifies; it is likewise the interior, i.e. what is from within, that can defile. Such is the “terrible chemistry” of a sinful heart which, as the prophet Jeremiah says, can be “deceitful above all things,” and can distill poison that ruins life. “It is what comes out of a man”, as Jesus says, “that can render him unclean”.
We can make great things if we realize that each one of our human actions is a co-redeemer when joined to deeds and actions of Christ
Prayer of The Day
My God and Savior open my ears and my eyes so that your Kingdom will reign in my heart. Free me from loving anything more than you. Let my soul drive my actions so that I am consistent with all that you teach.
Think about this. Both praying for and imitating Christ’s Heart mean allowing the Heart of our Redeemer to gradually replace our own hearts; allowing that Heart to exchange our self-serving desires for his ever-burning, selfless love.