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.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All in?

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, "I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood."
Luke 21:1-4

This little scene has nothing to do with contributions to a church...even though it has been used by church fundraisers over and over. This story is placed at the beginning of chapter 21 which is filled with Jesus' teaching about the end times and about what will be required of those who follow him. The previous chapter ends with the notice that the chief priests and leaders were searching for a way to rid themselves of jesus after his teaching in the temple on his arrival in Jerusalem.

In this context this story is about the extent to which one will be a disciple. Nothing less than total and complete commitment will do. Those who think they an follow Jesus and continue their ordinary life in the world are either fooling themselves or do not fully comprehend what Jesus is teaching.

My discipleship requires that I give over and give up my very life to Jesus the Christ, that I hold nothing back. Remember the rich young man who couldn't do thsi because he had so much? I do and the memory unsettles me.

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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christ the King

So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?"
Jesus answered, "You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.
Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."
John 18:37

One can only communicate through one's culture. Thus for Jesus and those of his time, the powerful image of King was appropriate language to describe the Divine One and the Messiah. A king was one who held all power, whose commands could not be contradicted, and who served not through merit but through his very being. It was only natural to think of the Divine One as a king. And yet, he was not really a king at all. If he were a king, it was not a king as most people of his time would recognize. One had to be oriented to the "truth" before one could even listen to the voice of Jesus the Christ.

The danger in such "royal" language was its misunderstanding. There was a seed implanted early on that the Roman Empire would use to make Christianity the state religion of the empire. This "royal talk" would infect the language, structure and consciousness of the governance of the Church. This reached its peak during the late Medieval period and has stubbornly continued today.

Jesus used other language to talk about himself, language that Paul emphasized. It was a radically communitarian language in which we became integrated into the very body of Christ which itself contained all that had been, is, and will be.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Which God?

At that moment there was a gigantic earthquake—a tenth of the city fell to ruin, seven thousand perished in the earthquake, the rest frightened to the core of their being, frightened into giving honor to the God-of-Heaven. Revelation 11:12-13.

Contrast this with the parable of the prodigal son in which the father receives back the wayward son with love and rejoicing. In that rejoicing, he disappoints his older son who clearly feels that the father should withhold his acceptance and affection from the sinner.
It is easy to see how the concept of God described in that passage from Revelation would gain such traction with people. It seems so much in accord with our human instincts for rectitude and judgment. Yet, we at the same time realize that compliance based on fear of destruction is really manipulation and coercion. The God that Jesus described and the person that Jesus was both bespeak a God who profoundly respected the freedom of each individual and desired a life based on a free living from the spirit within to the life without.
Today is the memorial of St. Andrew Kim and the other Korean martyrs. One can hardly imagine that they were martyred for such a God of vengeance and violent punishment. It seems more likely that they were martyred for the God of the prodigal son parable. Shouldn't our lives reflect that reality as well?
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sweet in the mouth but sour in the stomach

“Go, take the book held open in the hand of the Angel astride sea and earth.” I went up to the Angel and said, “Give me the little book.” He said, “Take it, then eat it. It will taste sweet like honey, but turn sour in your stomach.” Revelation 10:8-9

The mysterious Book of Revelation reminds me that the Word of the Divine One is sweet to taste but acidic and sour to digest. The writer uses this all too human experience of food that tastes so good we perhaps over eat and then suffer the consequences of indigestion. This is not meant to be applied literally to the prophecy from the Divine One but it still connects with the meaning of Jesus and his teaching.

His teaching of love and compassion is comforting, even sweet to hear and think about. But when we consume it so that it becomes part of us and seeks to change our lives, it is difficult and even unpleasant. That is because ti calls us to change our view of the world from an egocentric one to a compassionate presence, absent judgment and rationalization. It is hard to give up a view of ourselves as the right perspective on reality and to let what is infuse us. It feels like dying to self.

But that is the path to which Jesus called his disciples, a path that ends in the words of Paul, "Now not I live, but Christ lives in me." Help me drink deeply of the sweetness and experience fully the sourness so that I too may arrive at that point.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Thursday, November 22, 2012

All I have to do is open the door!

"'The Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the source of God's creation, says this:
"I know your works;
I know that you are neither cold nor hot.
I wish you were either cold or hot.
So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.
For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,'
and yet do not realize that you are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich,
and white garments to put on
so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed,
and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
"'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
then I will enter his house and dine with him,
and he with me.
I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory
and sit with my Father on his throne.
"'Whoever has ears ought to hear
what the Spirit says to the churches.'"
Revelations 3:14-22

While some passages from Revelations may be difficult to understand with obscure and poetic references, this one is pretty simple and direct. This is directed to the church in Laodicia which had been co-opted by the affluent and success oriented culture of that region. One gets the impression that the church had been planted and disciples gathered but eventually it became part of the prevailing culture. All the right words were said; all the correct gatherings were held; all the money was contributed. Yet, there was an absence of spirit and life. They neither sinned nor prayed but followed all the rules and withheld the one thing desired by the Divine One: their love of God and neighbor.
They were rich and affluent and had no need of anything. Yet in the midst of that affluence, they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Clearly the church in Laodicia sounds like the church in America, subject to the same temptations to think they we do not need anything; we have it all. We do have it all...all of the wrong things. We lack the one thing necessary.
Jesus knocks at my door, every second of my existence. He desires deeply to enter my life and to share fellowship and nourishment with me. All I have to do is open the door and he does all the rest. How hard can that be?
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The judge and the widow

"While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being,
because this widow keeps bothering me
I shall deliver a just decision for her
lest she finally come and strike me."
Luke 18:5

The Irish Jesuit site, Living Space, referencing Sr. Melanie Svoboda, provide a different interpretation of this well known parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow. What if I view the unjust judge, not as the Divine One, but as me? The Divine One then becomes the widow badgering me to do the right thing, the just thing. This makes more sense and surely speaks more directly to my life and concerns. While it is true that the Divine One cares for us and will provide the everlasting life to which each of us is called, there is no guarantee that justice will be done in this earthly pilgrimage unless I and others do justice for those less powerful, on the margins and forgotten by those in power.

I pray that I will hear the demands for justice and will be the channel for the Divine One to do justice in the world.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Am I the master or the servant?

Jesus said to the Apostles:
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
Luke 17:7-10

It is so interesting to me that I typically read this story as an allegory in which I am the master. This, of course, complicates my understanding because the behavior of the master seems at odds with the typically generous and solicitous attitude displayed by Jesus in the gospel stories. Leaping over 2000 years of social and cultural history, I feel that I as master would of course invite the hard working servant to share a meal with me.

But if I read this as an allegory in which the master is The Divine One and I am the servant, a different meaning emerges, surely the one the early church meant to convey.

I am a creature of the Divine One and I am to live out that reality in my day to day life. I have obligations based on that reality to live a life of faithfulness. When I live that life, I don't deserve any special praise or thanks from the Divine One because I am only doing what I was created to do. The reward comes from living that life and living it to the fullest.
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Scribe Within

"Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes
and accept greetings in the marketplaces,
seats of honor in synagogues,
and places of honor at banquets.
They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext
recite lengthy prayers.
They will receive a very severe condemnation."
Mark 12:38-40

These familiar words of Jesus always make my blood boil. They bring to mind people who clearly are overly invested in their own self importance. Often these are the very people whose mission is to serve us and the rest of the human family: religious leaders, political leaders, scholars, successful people of all kinds. Those who are rich in the goods of this world can tend to feel that they are worth more as human beings than those who are poor or suffer lack. Sometimes these are quite ordinary people whose sense of self importance blinds them to the plight of others and the call from the Divine One to care for them, to be concerned about them, to just take them into account.

Psalm 146 is used in today's liturgy and it makes clear that those who are part of the Reign of God established by Jesus the Christ are to be different: to feed the hungry, provide relief to the imprisoned, to attend to those on the margins of society, to pay attention to those whom the world forgets and counts as unimportant. A reading of this psalm provides a wonderful format for an examination of my life and the ways in which I respond or fail to respond to the call to discipleship.

The real problem is not the scribe without, but the scribe within...and there is a scribe in each of us, in me. Will my life express my "scribeness" or my discipleship?
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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It is really that simple

The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
'He is One and there is no other than he.'
And 'to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself'
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
Mark 12:30-33

Jesus responded that this scribe was "not far from the Reign of God" because he got it and it was simple. Religious practice while necessary is not sufficient for one to be a true disciple of Jesus. One must love others as one loves one's self.

One of the important and unique insights of Jesus was that this injunction to love was not restricted to one's neighbor narrowly construed. It is still easy for us to "love" those who are like us, who are members of our group. Jesus asks us to stretch our notion of neighbor to include everyone and to exclude no one. Typically when we think about the concept of neighbor, we are trying to include some groups and thus exclude others. The message of Jesus is that no one is to be excluded from the Reign of God except by their own choice.

So who is my neighbor? Who is deserving of my love and concern? The victims of child abuse and those who abuse them. Innocent victims of violence and those who inflict that violence. Those addicted to drugs or alcohol and those who enable them. Those who are discriminated against and those who discriminate. Those who are poor and those who impoverish them.

There is no end to those whom I am to love.

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Location:Charissa Run,Rochester,United States