Thursday, October 27, 2011

DailyWalk Heavenwards: Under the wings

DailyWalk Heavenwards: Under the wings: Today the words of Jesus are tough. He speaks openly, with words filled with many feelings: hurt, disappointment and tenderness. Jesus was ...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Narrow Gate

Today's Gospel (Luke 13: 22-30) is a teaching from Jesus that we should "Strive to enter through the narrow gate". This may seem to be at odds with our image of a loving Jesus who is ready to welcome everyone to the kingdom. When I read this passage, it brings to mind the idea that we all will have to stand before God as individuals. No one else can get me into heaven. Jesus died to save us all, but each one of us has the freedom to accept or reject this salvation. And it is by our actions that we make this choice.
As much as we might like to think that membership in a particular religion or denomination; regular attendance at a church, synagogue, or mosque; or association with a particular charitable organization will be our "ticket" to heaven, it is instead our daily actions that count. God will be judging us by how we treat others - the least among us - and that is not a corporate but rather an individual judgement we will face.
We cannot expect to be swept up in the crowd as we approach the heavenly gate. God's love and mercy are wide, but every one of us will need to answer for what we did with our time on earth and how we served Him.
As He said, being first or last in the line is not what's important. Rather, we need to be concerned with how we are treating all the others in line with us as we approach the narrow gate!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It Only Takes a Little

When speaking about the Kingdom, Jesus uses two comparisons in today's gospel (Luke 13: 18-21) - a mustard seed and yeast. Both of these are ways that we can think about the importance of even the smallest action and how the tiniest things can impact the larger reality. Many people often feel that they cannot make any difference in the world. "After all", they reason, "I am only one person. What can I do?"
The Lord tried to explain that one person may not seem to have much power to change things, but that even our small efforts can make a difference.
Have you ever been having a really bad day and encountered someone who, with a brief word or perhaps just a smile, changed your mood entirely? This is an affirmation that one person can make a difference. It may not have seemed like much to anyone else, but for you, it was a lot. You and I have that power - the power to make a difference, even if it is only in the life of one person. And, when we give someone hope, joy, encouragement, affirmation, laughter, or any other positive experience, they are much more likely to pass it on to others.
That tiny mustard seed may have started our small, but without it the birds would not have been able to live in the branches. The small grains of yeast are what make the loaf of bread rise - each one impacting the dough around it in its own small way. One person may not seem very powerful, but when you team up with God you are amazingly powerful. You see, God needs our voice and our hands to change this world. Partnered with Him, we can and will do amazing things. The only thing necessary is to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us each day. So, who will you affirm this day with an encouraging word? Who will benefit from your smile? Who will know God loves them because you take a moment to listen to them? For whom will you be the yeast that help them rise?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Ready

Today's Gospel (Luke 12: 39-48) is the parable in which the Lord cautions his followers that they must be careful not to allow themselves to become lax and forget that the Master will return and they will have to answer for their stewardship. Indeed, He assures them that at "an unexpected day and at an unknown hour" the Master will return.
This struck me particularly today, as I have just finished celebrating the Mass of Christian Burial for a 48 year old parishioner. Chris was a loving husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend, who was very active in the parish. His battle with brain cancer, while not successful in defeating the disease, was a powerful testimony to his faith. He truly lived the Gospel in a way that showed everyone he was ready for the Master's return. I was humbled and privileged to be a part of his journey home to the Father, and have learned a great deal from him about being prepared myself to answer the Lord's call.
How can we make ourselves ready for the Master's return? What is expected of us? Well, when you look at the parable, Jesus indicates that we have to live in such a way that shows we realize that we are merely stewards and not the ones who have the ultimate right to decide things. Our treatment of others is also key to being ready, since we will have to answer to the Master for the way we interacted with the people who are part of our lives.
Being ready is not something we have to do once and then we are set. No, it is a constant state of readiness that is expected. Since we do not know "the day nor the hour", we have to make sure we are not caught off guard. Our lives, like that of our brother Chris, should be consistently lived in the way that God expects. If we try to do this, should the Lord suddenly (or even not so suddenly) return for us, we will not be surprised and not upset by His reaction.
So don't delay - get ready. Who knows, it just may be today.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Watering Down Prayer

Well, I really got on a "soapbox" this morning. The Gospel for today is Luke's account of the Lord teaching His disciples to pray (Luke 11: 1-4). This "Lord's Prayer" has been handed down from generation to generation of Christians for two thousand years. As I was drinking my coffee, I read an article in the local paper regarding a county council's fight to keep saying "The Lord's Prayer" at the start of each meeting. Now I know that many people with good intentions think that anyone objecting to such a practice is being too sensitive, but this article proves why I am not in favor of having our prayers become part of government business.
You see, the brilliant minds who are trying to keep reciting this prayer are arguing that it is not an "exclusively Christian prayer". Excuse me??? They have even come up with various quotes from the sacred books of other religions to show that it contains "non-denominational textual statements of supplication and belief, and as all-inclusive as a prayer may reasonably be."
Hogwash!  These are not merely meaningless words that can be spoken by anyone. It is a prayer, taught by Jesus Christ and a sacred part of our religion. Our Christian religion! Whether Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or any other  Christian denomination, we do not merely recite these words, we pray them. And they are not words that just anyone can or should say without faith - faith in the Author, Jesus Christ. How dare they try to take our prayer away from us!
Now I see nothing wrong with a moment of silence to open a public / government / school meeting. I can and do pray at these times. But I refuse to allow people to take my Lord's prayer and turn it into a meaningless stream of words that anyone can recite without thought, intention or faith. Rather than preserving faith and Christian values, this is one of the reasons they are being eroded. I blame those who try and force expressions of faith on others for the weakening of faith in our country. They are not fighting for the right to pray, they are fighting for the right to say words which they obviously consider to be meaningless, inoffensive and generic. Sorry, but I object. I object to using this prayer given to us by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as a weapon. I object to removing it's meaning and importance to Christians everywhere. And I object to having so-called Christians give the impression that they speak for all followers of Christ, when most of us would rather pray the words our Savior gave us in a context where they retain their power and meaning.
If you would like to read the article, you can find it here:|newswell|text|Home|s.
For now, I hope you will take some time today and reflect on what this prayer means and how we should use it:
Our Father, Who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What's Yours Is His

Today in the Gospel of Matthew (Matt.21: 33-43) we hear the parable of the tenants. When the owner of the vineyard sent his servants to collect his share of the harvest, the tenants killed two different groups of them and finally his own son. You see, they had forgotten that they were only tenants. They had deluded themselves into thinking that they were the owners.Jesus wanted to make sure that everyone, especially the chief priests and elders, remembered that they were not the "owners of the vineyard" - that they were not God.
We also need to remind ourselves that we are merely stewards of the things God has entrusted to us. When we act as if the earth and its resources belong to us, we have lakes that are so polluted that fish cannot survive in them. When we think that we can control others, relationships break down. Even the money we earn is not really ours. How much belongs to the government, mortgage company, credit card issuer, grocery store, etc. It simply passes through our hands.
This week I hope to reflect on how I am treating what belongs to God. Whether it is the natural world, the people who are part of my life, or even the material things that are in my possession, I have to be careful that I ask what God wants me to do, how God wants me to treat them that will best reflect His wishes. My own desires and wishes have to take a back seat, since I will have to answer to God one day. I do not know when that day will be, but I need to be ready to give that accounting.
How about you? I would like to invite you to join me in evaluating what kind of tenant/ steward you are. After all, what''s yours is really His!