This is a blog that I post to several times a week although not necessarily daily. These reflections are triggered by the scripture found in the lectionary used by many Christian denominations. While I am part of the Catholic tradition, these posts are not --or rarely--sectarian. I try to put myself in the space of a of Jesus Christ and listen to words that come to me as I read and pray the scriptures. Each post also includes a photograph. These rarely have any connection to the content of the post but are simply pleasing images that I capture as I make my pilgrimage through life.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Two views of the same reality

Today's lectionary readings provide us with two different views of the reality of the incarnation: what does it mean that the Divine One became a human being who created a new reality through death and resurrection?

For Paul writing to the Ephesians, it means a new, life-changing reality at the very core of our being.
I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.Ephesians 3:16-20

This lyrical out burst is Paul's attempt to put into words what is beyond all understanding, namely, that Christ dwells deep within us and is the source of a new life of fullness and love, a life that is so new and different that we become new beings in a radical fashion.

The gospel reading is from Luke and is far from lyrical as Jesus talks plainly about what discipleship will be like. It will not be peaceful and calm. He says he did not come to make everything nice and comfortable but rather to shake everything up, to turn everything upside down.
"Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”Luke 12:51-53

A disciple of Jesus the Christ will continue to live in a world that is at odds with the new life created through the baptism with Christ into death and new life. Once one becomes incorporated into the body of Christ--a way of saying once one becomes Christ--one cannot go on living as one did before. This will put one at odds with the others in one's life who have not undergone this transformation/conversion and who thus continue to live a life unformed by this new principle of life.

Both visions are true. They indicate the fact that the Reign of the Divine One has come in its fullness but not yet. We live in the in between times.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sometimes the parables don't need any explanation

"There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, 'What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?'
And he said, 'This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, 'Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!'"
But God said to him,
'You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?'
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God."
Luke 12

How will it be for me?

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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Unexpected Christian Leadership

Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.”Mark 10:43-45

As someone who has been in positions of leadership and authority in organizations, I know the true difficulty of this saying of Jesus. I know that this is not the only time that he articulates the great reversal of life in the Reign of God. Those who have it all have nothing at all and those who have nothing have eternal life in its fullness.

This so inconsistent with prevailing values in our culture--really in any culture--that it seems either laughably idealistic or just plain sappy. When one is in a position of authority, one comes to understand that such a position is to be used for the benefit of the organization, for the common good if you will. One's own personal benefit become irrelevant. If it does not, if it becomes a focus of one's leadership, one simply becomes toxic for the organization.

The discipleship to which Jesus calls us is the antidote to that toxicity. Our life is truly not about us at all but about our capacity to hear the word of God and then act on it. That word always calls us to the fundamental dynamic of the life of Jesus: dying and being raised into new life. A life lived for others in a psychologically healthy fashion is the path to the Reign of God announced by Jesus.

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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Saturday, October 20, 2012

We are Christ

At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. Ephesians 1:22-23

It is essential to understand "Church" as the Body of Christ if this passage from Paul is to make any sense at all. The institutional church of structure, hierarchy, processes, and rules--all necessary in some way for human concerted action--is not the Church but rather serves the Church. We together are the Church which is the Body of the Christ. We are the way that Christ as head is to be present in the world, our world of everyday reality.
Each of us is called to a vocation of accepting that reality and to speaking and acting in the world in a way that expresses the deepest reality of the Divine: all embracing and all inclusive love.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Reign of God has come near

“When you enter a town and are received, eat what they set before you, heal anyone who is sick, and tell them, ‘God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!’"Luke 10:9

On this feast of St. Luke, this is the final sentence of commissioning of the 72 disciples Jesus sent ahead of him to the towns he would later visit. The fundamental message was simple: The Reign of God is at hand, is close to you, is right under your nose. The Reign of God is here right now in each one of us if only we respond to the offer of life and love extended by the Divine through Jesus Christ. We don't have to wait for some by and by. Right here and right now, if only we say yes.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Religion was not the focus of the teaching of Jesus

But the Master said to him, “I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees! Didn’t the One who made the outside also make the inside? Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your handsLuke 11:39-41
Jesus was quite clear about what was important behavior. He came to help us understand and complete the Law by rising above simple rule following behavior. This little vignette is an example. Ritual washing before meals--and by extension all religious practices and religion itself--were meaningless and without power if a person's spirit was not aligned with the Spirit of the Divine.
In modern theological terms, we would say that orthodoxy without orthopraxis is essentially meaningless. No amount of "right thinking" makes up for a lack of
right living." In fact, the only purpose of right thinking is to lead to right living. "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and do it!"
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Am I blessed?

While Jesus was speaking,
a woman from the crowd called out and said to him,
"Blessed is the womb that carried you
and the breasts at which you nursed."
He replied, "Rather, blessed are those
who hear the word of God and observe it."
Luke 11:27-28

How often do I say that I am blessed because of what I have: loving wife, lovely home, good health, large family, membership in several communities, good friends, more than sufficient resources? And yet, Jesus makes clear that if I am blessed, it is not because of any of these, as important as they might be.
I am blessed if I hear the word of God and live it. I can do this only because God makes it possible in me. It is nothing that I do so that I deserved to be blessed. My only role is to hear the word of God and then respond to it with an unconditional yes. Do I do that? That is what determines whether or not I am blessed.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sometimes one word can make a big difference.

“When a corrupting spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn’t find anyone, it says, ‘I’ll go back to my old haunt.’ On return, it finds the person swept and dusted, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits dirtier than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse than if he’d never gotten cleaned up in the first place.”Luke 11:24-26

I never quite understood this little vignette told by Jesus after he had been challenged by religious leaders and other big shots for casting out devils. They claimed he was doing this by the power of the Devil. Jesus clears that up by giving the lesson of the house divided against itself cannot stand. But then he goes on to speak the words quoted above.
This translation from The Message adds some key words that helps me understand this rather than just putting it off on a shelf because it didn't make any sense. What was the meaning of a devil--having been cast out--then roaming in the dessert and finally returning to the same person--house--and finding it all set in order. That devil then moves in with other evil spirits. This translation adds the notion that while the house had been set in order, it was vacant. The spirit of God had not been invited in to fill up the house or the person and thus it was possible for the evil one to resume residency.
It is not enough that I cast out my demons if I do not somehow replace them with the spirit of life and love offered to me every second of my life by the divine and holy one. Jesus makes clear that not doing evil is not enough to change my life. I need to say yes to God's offer and to live my life into and out of that reality. When I do that, there is no room for evil in my life.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Real Meaning of the "Our Father"

When his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he taught them what has become known and familiar as "The Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father." We know that Jesus is portrayed in the gospels as praying often, especially before significant events in his life. It is unlikely, at least in my mind, that he was repeating formulaic prayers which is what we typically do with the Our Father.
Prayer is fundamentally placing oneself consciously in the presence of God by calling to our consciousness the underlying reality of our identity and our relationship with the Divine. The Irish Jesuits in their edifying web site--Living Space--have helped me understand the Our Father as a set of themes for reflection during a time of prayerful relationship with the Divine.
Often we become caught up in the controversy about whether to call God father or mother or both or neither. We have traditionally used the masculine form because of cultural bias about the superiority of the male over the female. But this issues misses the point of Jesus' instruction. The Divine has no gender. God is neither Father nor Mother and yet is both. The parental notion is as close as human conscious can come to the creative reality of the divine.
Call God "Our Father" is not about the nature of God so much as about the nature and relationship of all of us. If God is precisely our Father, then all of us are sons and daughters of the same parent. In fact, we are brothers and sisters to all people who ever have been, are now, or will be. Even more, we are brothers and sisters to all that has been, is now, or ever will be. "Our Father" is meant to remind us that we are united ontologically with all--people and things. It is this radical equality which should be reflected in our solidarity with all people and in our stewardship of all creation.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States