Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Would You Rather Be Rich or Poor?

2 Sm 7:18-19, 24-29/Mk 4:21-25

The ending of today’s gospel sounds like a cynical commentary on modern society. "To those who have, more will be given; from those who have not, what little they have will be taken away." It seems to say that the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. But that’s not at all what this text is about.

So what is it that people have and then either get more of or lose all of? Jesus isn’t talking about money or wealth in any form. He’s talking about the extent and depth of our connectedness to God. If we are already deeply rooted in God, our spirits will grow larger, richer, and fuller by the day. But if our connection to the Lord is only superficial, it certainly won’t grow, and it probably won’t last at all.

So here’s our question for the day: Does your God-connection have growing power? Is it changing your life day by day? Or is it anemic and able to do little more than stumble through a memorized prayer? If it’s the former, you’ve got an enviable future ahead of you for sure. If your God-connection is the latter, be prepared for a future you’d never choose.

That’s the equation, and there are no exceptions. Why not be rich through and through?!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

It’s Dangerous to Believe Our Own Press Releases

2 Sam 7:4-17 / Mk 4:1-20

None of us has any greater enemy than our own egos, which lie and lie to us, just as the snake did in the story of Adam and Eve. "You can be God’s equal," says the ego. What a lie that is, but we fall for it again and again, and it gets us in terrible trouble.

A raging ego running rampant is what we see in today’s Old Testament story about David. The little shepherd boy had become a king and he seemed to have forgotten who put him on the throne and guaranteed victory in all his battles. David proposed to build a house for God. It seemed like a nice gesture; even the prophet Nathan thought so.

But God who reads all hearts understood David’s heart all too well. David didn’t recognize his own radical poverty in the face of God who made the whole universe. What could he give to God that wasn’t God’s already? What would God need a house for if he already had a whole universe? These thoughts hadn’t occurred to David. His ego had silently shrunk God down to David’s own size!

That can happen. We can shrink God, and we can inflate ourselves. Both will lead us into foolishness that delays our getting on with the real business of life, which is building God’s kingdom not only around us but within us. The core of building the kingdom is the endless process of transformation whose goal is a heart shaped in God’s likeness.

So don’t get distracted by delusions of grandeur. Remember who you are and what your real work is. And be assured that the God who made you will at every turn provide you with what you need to complete your journey.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

He Loved People, But He Could Walk Alone

2 Sam 6:12-15,17-19 / Mk 3:31-35

Today’s gospel records one of the saddest moments in Jesus’ life. His family thought He was crazy, and they were trying to get Him to forget His outlandish ideas and come home with them. What a terrible moment of isolation and utter aloneness it must have been, to be abandoned by those who had been closest to Him all his life, those He loved most dearly.

Jesus’ reaction at this sad and humiliating moment is worth pondering at length. He didn’t waver. He remembered who He was and what was the mission the Father had given Him. And He stood firm in His commitment ... firm and very alone.

There are times in every human life when the normal supports that we’ve come to count on simply aren’t there. The temptation is to scurry to a safe place in the midst of the crowd. The temptation is to bend to the pressures and head for a place in the shadows. That’s when we need to think of Jesus standing tall and alone. That’s when we need to ask His help in remembering who we are and where God has called us.

That’s a prayer that is always answered. And with the answer always comes the strength to stay the course. There are no exceptions, because God is faithful.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Don’t Close Your Eyes to the Spirit at Work

2 Sam 5:1-7,10 / Mk 3:22-30

It is truly astonishing to see how far away from reality some of us can wander. Sometimes it’s fear that makes us shut our eyes, and sometimes it’s a powerful personal agenda which reshapes and rearranges reality to fit our personal desires. We get a good look at just such a blinding, distorting personal agenda in today’s gospel.

Jesus had been doing what He usually did: heal the sick, cure lepers, give sight to the blind, and expel demons. And what did the scribes from Jerusalem have to say about all that? “He’s possessed by the devil”! They simply refused to let the evidence speak for itself, because to acknowledge the facts would undermine what they valued more than anything else: their own power over the Jewish community.

The Spirit was at work in their very midst, but they simply turned their backs and refused to see the Spirit -- all to protect so little! In part it was a form of despair, thinking that there was no more to their lives than a bit of power over their piece of the “turf.” At the same time, it was a form of presumption, denying that they had any need for God. It was a sin that could never be forgiven, because it locked out the Spirit, saying either “I don’t need your help,” or “You can't help me.”

The Spirit is powerfully at work where you are every day. Don’t underestimate your need or the Spirit’s power. Welcome the Spirit with a hopeful heart, for the Spirit knows exactly what you need today and will give it to you if you ask.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Light or Darkness: Which Do You Bring?

Is 8:23—9:3 / 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 / Mt 4:12-23 or 4:12-17

Some years ago there was a new eighth-grade class at the local parish school, and they were trouble! Negative and sniping, they were down on everything and everybody, most especially themselves. Nobody wanted to teach this class, until finally old Sister Ambrose volunteered.

She was a wise old nun, so she did something very simple. She gave each student a list of their classmates. "Next to each name," she said, "write down all the good things you know about that person. Don't exaggerate or make up anything. Just write the good that you see and give me your papers on Friday." And so they did.

Over the weekend, Sister read the students' comments and then typed for each one a full page of all the good things the class saw in him or her. On Monday she handed them out.

The students were astonished. "Is this me?" asked some. "I didn't think anybody noticed," said others. "Wow, I can't believe I'm this good!" said still others. And so it went.

Years later, when the class had scattered to the four winds, many of them returned for the funeral of one of the boys who had been killed in Vietnam. After the burial they were clustered around old Sister Ambrose when the dead soldier's father came along.

"Thank you, Sister, for all your help to my boy," he said. "He grew up fine, just as you hoped, and he made us very proud. Now I want to return to you something you gave him long ago in the eighth grade."

With that he pressed into her hand a yellowed piece of paper, folded very small to fit into a wallet, and falling apart now from being folded and unfolded, read and reread many times. It was the list Sister had typed for that shy boy so many years before!

Silently and tearfully each of his classmates reached into their wallets or purses and produced their own worn and yellowed sheets, which we falling apart from being folded and unfolded, read and reread many times across the years.

And old Sister Ambrose, now leaning heavily on her cane, sighed and whispered a silent prayer, "Thank you, God."

+ + +

A small kindness cast its light like a beacon across many years. It pierced the darkness, and nothing could put it out.

May our light shine, and bring light to all we meet. And may it never grow dim. Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Faithfulness or Success, Which Will you Choose?

Acts 22:3-16 / Mk 16:15-18

One evening a man took a small candle from a box and began to climb a long winding stairway. "Where are we going?" asked the candle. "We're going up higher than a house to show the ships the way to the harbor."

"But no ship in the harbor could ever see my light," the candle said. "It is so very small."

"If your candle is small," the man said," just keep on burning brightly and leave the rest to me."

The little candle said meekly, "I will."

When they reached the top of the long stairs, they came to a large lamp. The man took the little candle and used its tiny flame to light the lamp. Soon the large polished mirrors behind the lamp sent beams of light out across the miles of sea to guide the ships safely home. The candle smiled for he realized his faithfulness was rewarded with success.

+ + +

In today's readings, we are reminded once again of the great omnipotence of our Father in Heaven. No task is impossible for the Lord, because He calls not the qualified, but He qualifies the called. In our first reading we hear the testimony of a hard-hearted persecutor of God's faithful sons and daughters who is dramatically called into spiritual service. Jesus transforms his heart and sends him forth.

In the Gospel, we are reminded that Christ chooses an unfaithful and somewhat unstable fisherman to lead His Church. He selects first disciples with no leadership qualities, those that doubt, one that has questionable financial abilities, and others that bicker over petty things or could potentially cause trouble. Yet, this motley group, this band of brothers, was transformed by the power of God to do great things. Of all the first disciples, the only one who showed real potential for worldly success ended up betraying Jesus to His death. Blessed Mother Teresa spoke it best when she said that "God does not call us to be successful, He calls us to be faithful."

The great commission, "Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation" is for each of us and we do our Lord a great injustice when we think ourselves unworthy for this personal call. The faithful Eleven have changed the world forever and so can we. The success of our work is in His hands.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Jealous Heart Is a Great Destroyer

1 Sam 18:6-9,19:1-7 / Mk 3:7-12

The songs that King Saul heard in today’s Old Testament reading as he returned from battle soured his soul. “Saul has slain his thousands, and David has slain his ten thousands,” was their chant, and it cut to the quick. Saul had never lived up to the early expectations of him, and he never really got a sense of what it meant to be a king -- to be, more than anything else, a protector and guide for his people, especially for the weak. For him, ego was master, and ego’s jealousy led him to ever-greater depths, culminating in a plan to murder David.

A jealous, wounded ego can be a great destroyer, and one that can so nicely justify itself to itself all along the way. It can bring a kind of madness upon us, leading us down ugly roads we’ve never even thought of before, roads from which there is no easy escape. A jealous heart takes no joy in its own gifts, and it gives no gifts. A jealous heart never knows peace.

Jesus has shown us a much happier way of living, which wastes no time pretending that we are or ought to be the center of the universe. Letting God be God for us can free us from so much that is useless, and can make us ready for real living in His presence.

Relax in the Lord and share His joy.