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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Divine One is in all, even me.

Fall colors at home
But you spare all things, because they are yours,O LORD and lover of souls,for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Wisdom 11:26-12:1
The Book of Wisdom was written in the first century BCE, most likely in Alexandria.  It was composed in Greek and is included in the Septuagint canon and thus included as scriptural by Roman Catholics but not Protestants.  It was written to the Jews in Egypt who were experiencing  persecution, often at the hands of other Jews who had succumbed to the Emperor worship imposed by Caesar Augustus.  In this post-exilic community, liturgical practices are less important to righteousness than righteous living.

The sentiment of this passage can be found in all the major religious traditions.  The Divine One is the source of all that is, all that has been, and all that will ever be.  The Divine One is the "lover of souls" and thus is the lover of my soul.  This is the reality of my existence and yet it is hard to accept and hard to keep in mind in the midst of the flurry of daily activities, even for a happily retired person like me.

I do not have to become someone other than who I am.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Simple? Yes. Easy? Not so much.

Lock 33 just bit past peak color
"What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”  Luke 14:11
This passage is translated differently in the more familiar versions.  "Those who exalted themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted."  Unfortunately that understanding can easily lead to embracing a false humility.  The way to being exalted is to act humble, even pretend to be humble, and then you will be exalted.  Of course, that is just a more effective way to achieve being exalted.

The translation from The Message, used above, avoids that complexity by going to the heart of the matter.   Jesus counsels us to simply be ourselves.  Don't exaggerate.  Don't wear false humility.  Just be who you are and, here's the kicker, "you will become more than yourself."

We will become more than we are because we always are more than we are.  The spirit of the Divine One animates us and defines who we are at our most fundamental level.  All we have to do is get ourselves (the flesh) out of the way so that the Divine One (the spirit) can shine through us and illuminate the life of all creation.  Simple?  Yes.  Easy?  Not so much.  Prayer is the pathway.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

We are in a battle.

Sunrise at altitude
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers,with the world rulers of this present darkness,with the evil spirits in the heavens.  Ephesians 6:12
Sometimes there are passages in scripture that set me back on my heels.  This is one of them.  Paul makes no bones about the struggle that we face.  It is not against ourselves or even against other people.  Our struggle with the "principalities and powers" of our present separation from the Divine One.  This is the darkness of our present world.  He equates those with the "evil spirits in the heavens."

It is the devil, the Evil One, who is in eternal and unrelenting conflict with the Divine One.  Our fight is with that Evil One.  I know there are different ways of understanding the identity of that evil one.  There is the more or less traditional and biblical approach.  The angels in heaven with the Divine One staged a revolt, were defeated and sent out of heaven.  These once holy and powerful forces for good became nefarious and tricky forces for evil.  It has been a long time since I believed that.

Another approach is to under the Evil One as a spirit of the evil that humans do to each other--individually and systemically--that has become so pervading that it presents as an actual spirit of evil.  I am more inclined toward this view but I have to admit that Paul seems to contradict that by saying our battle is not with "flesh and blood," that is with other humans or ourselves.

I am reminded of St. Ignatius Loyola whose spirituality was organized around a fundamental choice.  In his military culture, he saw that as a choice of whose banner we would rally toward:  Christ's or the Devil's.  He quite clearly perceived an enemy who was a person and whose goal was to take the world from Christ, to subvert us into disloyalty to the Divine One.

I guess I have two choices when an evil thought begins to form itself in my consciousness.  I can either experience it as something that an evil outside force or spirit is causing or I experience it as arising my own nature and humanity.  Either way, I cam called to resist it.  Whichever approach makes it easier for me to resist it is the one on which I should focus.  Perhaps even, both approaches are real.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The great reversal

Sunrise above the clouds
"For behold, some are last who will be first,and some are first who will be last.” Luke 13:30
Jesus frequently ends a story or address with a statement of the reversal that is inherent in his message.  He lived, as we all do, within a cultural and social setting in which norms and values were taken for granted.  One of those was simply that the favor of the Divine One rested more strongly on those whose social and economic standing was greatest.  In short, if you were rich, it was clear that the Divine One loved you more than others who were less rich and certainly more than those who were poor, sick, maimed, or otherwise excluded and on the margins.

Jesus did not want his followers to be misled into accepting this prevailing thinking.  The father loved and cared for all equally.  Each of us, no matter our life circumstance, is called to love the Divine One and to express that through love of others as though they were family and neighbors.  Jesus focused on the individual's relationship to the Divine One and to others.  He did not spend much time at all talking about what has become known as "social sin."  In fact, even the socially acceptable practice of slavery is not condemned in the New Testament but rather slaves are told to obey their masters cheerfully and willingly.

First century Christianity played out under the prevailing notion that Jesus would return any minute, claim the world for the Divine One, gather all into the divine life, and end the world.  With that mindset, the important message had to do with getting one's life righteous with Jesus and the Father and to not be misled by worldly success which would shortly be shown to be irrelevant, i.e., the Great Reversal.

Once it became apparent that the Second Coming was not imminent, Christian thought began to focus more closely on how to live a Christian life within the social, political, and economic context of the world.  A focus on personal spirituality and an individual relationship to the Divine One would not be enough unless it was expressed in a live that sought to change the structures of society that were clearly at odds with the fundamental Christian message, with the Divine One "there is no partiality."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Someone is at work in me!

Pond along the Brighton Brickyard Trail
Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,by the power at work within us,to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesusto all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:20-21
It is almost too much to believe, isn't it.  Christ is at work in me bringing to reality far more than I could ask or imagine.  All I have to do is calm myself and let it happen.  I cannot know what is happening or even if it is happening.  It is by faith that I suspect it.  I see hints now and then.

This same process of transformation, conversion, growth, whatever takes place in all and each of us.  Some can open themselves to it more fully and others have a difficult time even noticing.  But the spirit of the Divine One is within each of us bringing us to the fullness of life.

It takes my breath away.

Is there no end to this?

Fall colors at Lock 33, Erie Canal
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.  Luke 12:48
This scripture passage has often, in my experience, been used by parents and teachers for all the wrong reasons.  I was a good student in high school and typically found myself in what would today be called honors classes.   We were often told to be mindful of this scripture in terms of our academic achievement.  Our academic behavior should be exemplary because we had been gifted with above average academic ability.

It was a powerful motivational tool for me and I assume many of my classmates.  It was powerfully motivating because it set an unattainable standard.  No matter how well I or the others did, we could always do better or do more.  It was like the time in grade school when I brought home a report card with  A's and was deflated when she did not show much excitement saying, "I expected you to get A's."  She then returned to her sewing.

Now I realize that that interpretation of the passage is terribly misguided.  It is an example of taking words out of context and then using them for other purposes.  Jesus never talked about human achievement in positive terms.  In fact, he typically talked about a great reversal in which those who seemed to have come in first were actually last.  So what do these words mean?

Clearly these words refer to the life of the Spirit of the Divine One which exists in each of us to the extent we embrace it.  The more we embrace, the more our lives should reflect that interior reality.  This is a constantly changing standard.  There is no absolute level or standard.  The more we accept the grace of the Divine One, the more our lives are to reflect it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Divine One is here...where am I?

The last dahlia of the season.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,to all who call upon him in truth. Ps 145:18
This a simple, searing truth.  Like all similar truths, it is easily forgotten in the press of our "real" lives.  

The Divine One is everywhere, all the time.  Within me.  Outside me.  Within all that is, has been, or ever will be.  Much like the dahlia in the back garden pictured above, the Divine One is there but not really present to me until I look and see it.  The dahlia is present regardless of my attention but it cannot be present to me until I attend to it.  

The same with the Divine One.  Until I slow down and quiet down, I am not present to the divine that is within and all around me.  And the Divine One cannot be present precisely to me.  The good news is that the Divine One waits for me everywhere as soon as I begin to look and see.

Monday, October 17, 2016

So, what's in your barn?

Port of Pittsford in mid October
"‘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 12:20-21
This parable speaks so directly to me that I get uncomfortable when I hear it and even more uncomfortable when I reflect on it.  It touches me in some tender spots.  Using comedy, George Carlin did the same thing with his routines on "stuff."  "Everybody's gotta have a little place for their stuff. That's all life is about. Trying to find a place for your stuff." 

The message of the parable is clear.  If your barn--your life--is filled with stuff and not with the spirit of the Divine One within, you have focused on the wrong things.  I don't have a barn and I don't have crops but I do have an IRA and a savings account.  From time to time I check the balances to see where I stand.  When things are good and the balances are stable or even growing, I feel safe and secure and begin to relax.  Perhaps I even begin to make plans to spend some money on extra things or special experiences.  When the balances are declining, I begin to feel vulnerable and I might begin to worry.

Being financially responsible and secure is obviously good.  It provides a sense of calmness in my life.  But if it all ends there, then like the farmer in the parable, I am putting my faith and hope in the wrong things.  I have filled my barn up money, security, strategies rather than with the faith and hope of the Divine One.  It is not about being rich or being poor.  Fullness of life is about being filled with the Divine One, not my self.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Prayer changes me...not the Divine One

Sunset from summit of Mt. Lemmon, AZ
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen oneswho call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them?  I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”  Luke 18:6-8
 These lines are the conclusion of the parable about the unjust judge who will finally render a just verdict for a widow because she ceaselessly harangues him to do so.  Any parent understands this dynamic.  Eventually you give in because the child keeps pestering you about something that is not really that important to you but which is very important to the child.

The parable seems to suggest that this is a good way to deal with the Divine One in a quest for justice.  Can this be true?  Is the Divine One a parent who needs to be pestered into doing what is right and just?  This seems counter to our understanding in so many ways.  Yet here it is.  What are we to make of all this?

First, let's be clear.  The Divine One's love and concern for us is not conditioned on our prayers.  Praying for divine intervention in our lives is not a way to cause divine intervention to happen.  Either there is a divine intervention or there is not but the quantity and quality of our prayer is irrelevant.  Otherwise we have substituted our own efforts for grace and reduced the Divine One in some kind of anthropomorphized parent who attends to the "squeaky wheel" and doesn't have time for the others.  The Divine One loves each of us fully and completely and desires powerfully that we experience love, mercy, and justice in our lives and our relationships with others.

Faith and prayer is important, not because they have an impact on the Divine One but because they change us.  Unceasing prayer and faith in the love and mercy of the Divine One change us and allow us to become more fully incorporated into the interior life of the triune Divinity.  Prayer, experiencing the reality of the divine life within each of us, deepens our response to that reality so that our lives become clearer expressions of that life and love in our world.  So it may seem that we are "pestering" the Divine One with our prayer but really we are constantly reminding ourselves of our deep and abiding faith.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Welcome to the family.

Azaleas add splash of color to Rochester Spring in Highland Park
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,in accord with the favor of his will,for the praise of the glory of his gracethat he granted us in the beloved.  Ephesians 1:4-6
Here is the reality which it is still so difficult for me to accept.  The Divine One has a plan for me...and for everyone.  That plan is nothing less than making me a son, a member of his family, as Christ is.  through my relationship with Christ, I enter into the interior life of the Trinity, entering hand in hand with Jesus.

This requires nothing more than simply accepting that reality.  I don't have to measure up; I have already been measured and found to be just right.  This is our common destiny.  Perhaps it is expressed differently in the many different religious traditions but they all come to the same point.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The fundamental choice: Life in the flesh or life in the spirit.

U. S. Capitol
"It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on." Galatians 5:18-21  Translation from The Message.
Paul is trying his best to tell the Christians in Galatia that there are two roads for their lives.  One way is to remain in the flesh, i.e., to remain in all the inclinations, passions, addictions that revolve around oneself.  The other way, the way of Christ, is to be open to the work of the spirit of God in us and seek a life organized around justice and love.  That is a fairly abstract statement and the typical bible translation uses words and phrase that seem foreign and remote to us, at least to me.

The translation of The Message, on the other hand, tries to uses words and constructions that are more idiomatic to 21st Century English-speaking people.  That rephrased list above is powerful.  It shows what a life would look like if we gave full reign to our individual self interest and discounted the lives and desires of others.  It is not pretty.   Even though I struggle with all those inclinations and urges, I can honestly say that I do not really want to live a life described above.

Left to my own devices, however, I think I tend to drift in that direction.  The other path of the spirit is truly the one I desire but it requires focus and commitment and not just a one-time commitment but one that I have to renew every morning as I begin my day.  Whatever are the failings of the past, I can start each day with the intention to walk the path of justice and love and to allow the Divine One to work in and through as far as I am able.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Religion's yoke of slavery

Sunset in Loose Park in Kansas City
For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firmand do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1
The essence of any authentic spirituality is freedom.  A forced or "complied with" spirituality is a contradiction in terms.  A relationship with the Divine One can only be authentic if it proceeds from interior freedom.  Otherwise, it becomes rule keeping which is always external, working on the outside rather than proceeding from the inside out.

Why then does so much religion seemed consumed with rules and rule keeping?  There is a difference between spirituality and religion.  Spirituality is the deep and abiding relationship between our deepest selves and whatever ultimate source of meaning is operative for us.  For me that source is the Divine One.  For others it might that as well or perhaps ideals such as justice and mercy.  But it is that fundamental underlying relationship which is the source of authentic human behavior.

Religion is the cultural manifestation of that relationship as it is shared with others over time.  As a creature of human culture, religion begins to focus on orderliness and consistency.  There is a concern with initiation and relationships with other traditions.  In short, the entire functional and dysfunctional panoply of human organizations comes into play.  This almost always means there are rules, rule givers, rule enforcers, and rule followers.  Whether absolutely necessary or not, it appears that rules are a feature of human organizations.

What Paul is calling us to remember, however, is that the rules and following the rules is not at the heart of things.  Without the interior freedom of authentic spirituality, the rules simply become the "yoke of slavery" and become a hindrance rather than a help.  He calls us back to spirit of freedom given by Christ as the wellspring of our life.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Cypress seed pods in the Cal State Fullerton Arboretum
As they were going they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed,returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.  Luke 17:14-16
How often does it happen that we do something generous for someone and they seem not to notice.  They never thank us for what we did for them.  In such situations it is difficult to maintain one's composure.  We can focus on not being thanked and begin to feel taken for granted or disrespected.  The focus becomes ungratefulness and its impact on me.  "Look what I did and that person never thanked me!"

The gospel story is about the ten lepers whom Jesus cleansed of their leprosy, only one of whom returned to give him thanks and that one was a Samaritan, an outsider, a foreigner, a heretic.  In the first reading, Naaman is cured of his leprosy by Elisha and returns to thank him with a gift, a gift that Elisha refuses.  Paul writes in the second reading that even if we are unfaithful, Christ "remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."  It is not that that thankfulness is important to the healer, the giver but rather to the one who has been healed, the one who received the gift.  When someone does something for me, it is not so important to them that I thank them but it is essential to me.  That sense of gratefulness is to be part of my identity so that I cannot not thank someone because that is somehow who I am.

So it is between me and Christ and thus the Divine One.  I have not been cured of leprosy.  Perhaps the Divine One does not directly intervene in my life or any life.  The fact that I am, that I have a life to begin with, is cause for gratitude and thankfulness.  Not because the Divine One needs it or even wants it but because it is an indication that I have accepted and embraced my true nature.  That is something the Divine One deeply desires.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The egalitarian lean of Paul's communities

Dawn over Rochester with Henrietta in foreground and Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay in background
In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:28  Translation from The Message
Nothing can be clearer from reading the descriptions of the early Christian communities in the Acts of the Apostles and the various epistles than their fundamental orientation toward equality.  The passage above describes the most basic differences between people and then makes clear that they make no real difference.  Since all are in a common relationship through faith with Jesus and thus the Divine One, all are equal.

To situate this quotation in our own American experience, we could add other differences:  race, sexual orientation, immigrant status, faith tradition, socio-economic status, class, income, political beliefs and others.  No matter the differences, they make no real difference within the community.  We are all equal in that common faith.

St. Albert the Great and his pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas, had a formulation that is important here.  It is often stated as "grace builds on nature" although more properly it is "grace perfects nature."  Our faith does not destroy our human nature; it does not require that we become somehow less human.  Rather it enlivens us to reach toward the perfection of our humanity.  This notion of egalitarianism is an example.  An egalitarian community does not require us to somehow deny essential elements of our human nature but rather it recognizes that humans are at their best when they are in sustained community with one another, a community that helps each attain perfection.

Admittedly this is an ideal but we are Christians.  Pragmatic idealism is our daily bread.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Inside out...not outside in.

Ten in the morning at Buckland Park
Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: “The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them.” Galatians 3:12  Translation from The Message
I often look at the scripture as translated in The Message.  This has been critiqued as only one person's interpretation but I find the straight forward language often helps me discover meaning that lies disguised in the formal, scriptural language.  This is one of those times.

Paul constantly writes about flesh (law) and spirit (faith.)  The first leads to a cul-de-sac of trying to follow rules, inevitably failing and then trying again.  It is a cycle that leads to a slow decline and finally death.  The second leads to eternal life unfolding within us and radiating out from us.

I first learned about religion as a child of course.  It was natural that there was focus on right behavior as there was in all areas of life.  Here is how it looks to be obedient, to be studious, to be cooperative, to be religious.  But it was always the case that sooner or later I would have to appropriate the faith as my own.  In another passage in the The Message translation, Paul writes "Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you."  No amount of rule following leads to faith.  Faith is something that the Divine One does for us, each of us, and which we only have to embrace.

There has to be a personal conversion in which I turn away from rule keeping in order to fully enter into the life of the Divine One.  It is a fundamental change at the core of my being that expresses itself in right relationships with the Divine One and with other people and indeed all creation.  This is what Yahweh means when the psalmist writes, "I desire a contrite heart, not sacrifice."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Ask for life and you will receive it...abundantly.

Fourth of July in Henrietta NY
"If you then, who are wicked,know how to give good gifts to your children,how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spiritto those who ask him?”  Luke 11:13
 Today's readings are all about the Holy Spirit.  Paul admonishes the Galatians who seem to have begun in faith but have subsequently fallen back into reliance on their own efforts to live according to the Law.  He is insistent that it is by faith and not our works that we are saved.  All our efforts to live according to the mandates of the Law simply re-enforce our life in the flesh and prevent us from deeply living into the life of the spirit which is the life of the Divine One.

Luke recounts the familiar story of a man who eventually gets bread from a neighbor late at night by simply being persistent and then ends with the lines above.  If we ask, we will receive.  If we seek, we will find.  However what we ask for and what we seek is the key.  These final lines make clear that the Divine One will always give us the spirit of divine life, the life of the Trinity if we simply ask for it, if we just seek it.  As long as we are caught up in our own works and living righteously according to the Law, we are simply living a life that cannot access this eternal life.  We are trapped in the flesh, in the only life we think we have.

Each of us in some way becomes aware of that option.  This is always presented within the context of our own culture and tradition and thus is not uniform.  Our faith, however, tells us that the Divine One desires each of us to live that divine life.  When we encounter that option, all we have to do is desire it, ask for it.  We know that the Divine One will give it to us because it is and always has been deep within us waiting for us to recognize it and accept it.  Once that happens it is able to more powerfully inhabit our lives and how we live in the world.  If we become confused and try to substitute our own efforts, the light dims and becomes less potent for us.

If we focus on that core reality, our life begins to express the Divine One just as fruit appears in an orchard, naturally and in its time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Temptation, trial, test: which?

Relaxing in front of one of the eastern barrier gates of the Erie Canal
"Give us each day our daily breadand forgive us our sinsfor we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,and do not subject us to the final test.” Luke 11:3-4
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray, he gave a short prayer which we have come to call "The Our Father."  There are variant New Testament versions of this prayer but they all end with a Greek word that can be translated into English with three different words:  temptation, test, or trial.  The version I was taught and say ends with "Lead us not into temptation."

The meaning of this final petition is far from clear even though more than one billion people probably say this prayer every week.  The literal meaning--lead us not into temptation--is problematic to say the least.  Do we really think that we need to petition the Divine One not to lead us into situations in which we will be tempted to sin.  This seems unimaginable and inconsistent with other New Testament views of divine care.  The other two meanings are most likely eschatological, dealing with the end of the world and the last things.  We ask the Divine One to save us from undergoing a trial  or test of faithfulness when the world ends.  Again, this is problematic and hardly pertains to our everyday life, which forms the core of the preceding petition about our daily sustenance.

For me, this is an open question.  Every time I say The Our Father and those final words, I wonder exactly what it is I am saying.  Honestly, sometimes I pray to the Divine One to save me from pain and suffering during my personal end time of death.  I don't think that is the theological meaning ascribed to by the tradition but it is one that often comes to my mind.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Can I just sit and listen?

Early autumn on Keuka Lake
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”
Luke 10:42
This little story about Martha and Mary and Jesus is a familiar one.  It has had many meanings for many people.  For me this morning, a new message has emerged.  Perhaps it is better to say that a new aspect of the story has taken on greater meaning for me this morning.

We are all familiar with the traditional meaning.  Mary is spending time with Jesus listening to his words of eternal life.  Meanwhile, Martha is bustling about in the kitchen preparing food and generally getting ready to provide hospitality.  She is doing what most of us do when we are preparing to welcome guests into our home.  We clean, straighten up, do last minute maintenance that has been put off, purchase food, and prepare special little dishes.  We want our guests to feel welcome and often we want them to think well of us and our home.  The result is often a breathless anxiety as we bustle about trying to get everything done on time.  Often we can't and we have to leave a few things undone or hidden away in closets we know our guests won't open.  I think this is exactly what Martha was doing while Mary was sitting with Jesus.

Martha's anxiety finally builds to the point where she comes to Jesus and seeks his intervention to tell Mary to give her a hand.  While it would not have hurt Mary to do so, that is not how it plays out.  I would think better of Mary is she had invited Martha to sit with Jesus for a while while Mary took care of some of the preparation.  But the reality is probably that Martha would not have been able to do that!  She was choosing to be busy with preparations rather than be present with Jesus.  She finds something in activity, even frenetic activity, that makes her feel valuable.  Just sitting with herself and Jesus seems impossible to her.

Do I not find things to do, to keep busy rather than "the one thing necessary."  Why can I not simply calm myself and realize that in the end we all die and are raised to eternal life.  Why can I not live my life so that I experience some of that eternal life right here and right now?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Welcome to the Divine One's Neighborhood

Double rainbow in my neighborhood
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said,“Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law?How do you read it?”He said in reply,“You shall love the Lord, your God,with all your heart,with all your being,with all your strength,and with all your mind,and your neighbor as yourself.”He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;do this and you will live.”  Luke 10:25-27
 In today's first reading from Ephesians, Paul cautions strongly against deviating from the original message of Jesus which Paul received directly and which he delivered to the Ephesians.  No matter how much theology I read, I need to always return to the scriptures and test my understanding against them.  I am of one mind with evangelical Christians in this regard.  I do understand that not all human knowledge is there and that the scriptures are not authoritative when it comes to science.  But science is not what saves; the teachings of Jesus do.

So in this case, Jesus is speaking about loving the Divine One and loving neighbors as yourself.  The Jewish scholar then asks the key questions, "Who is my neighbor?"  The short answer is that a neighbor is anyone who lives in my neighborhood.  So where is my neighborhood?  Neighborhood is generally understood to be a relatively confined geographic area where people have frequent, face-to-face interactions.  In other words, neighbors are people you know personally although with varying levels of intimacy.  Almost by definition, someone you don't know cannot be a neighbor.

Again Jesus turns this everyday understanding on its head with the story of the Good Samaritan which he tells in response to the question.  It turns out that everyone is my neighbor.  Everyone.  Perhaps a more precise formulation is that I am called to treat everyone as though they were my neighbor, as though I knew them, as though I lived with them on a daily basis.

This is an example of Paul's admonition.  Whenever we try to think about how we live in the world as Christians, we need to go back to the fundamental messages of Jesus and use those to inform our thinking.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

More faith?

Los Angeles Cathedral
But the Master said, “You don’t need more faith. There is no ‘more’ or ‘less’ in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, ‘Go jump in the lake,’ and it would do it. Luke 17-6  Translation from The Message
When the apostles came to Jesus and asked him to give them more faith, this was his answer.  The familiar translation uses "mustard see" instead of "poppy seed" but we get the point.  The size or amount of faith is irrelevant.  In other passages, Jesus uses yeast as a metaphor for faith.  Even the tiniest bit of yeast is enough to transform dough into what seems like a living thing.  As the dough rises, there appears to be something alive that in turn animates what was before just bit of flour and water.

So it is with faith.  It changes us because it is a principle of life that works a change in our very being.  Faith is a relationship with the Divine One.  As Paul points our in today's second reading,
We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it.  2 Timothy 1:9.
We cannot somehow increase our faith because it is a gift.  In the history of Christianity there has from time to time been confusion about who is offered this gift.  The truth is simple:  everyone is offered this gift.  In fact, everyone has this gift already incipiently if not explicitly.  The Divine One is in each of us, all of us.  We don't deserve that and there is nothing we can do to increase or decrease that presence.  All we can do is simply accept that presence and let it shine through in our words and actions.  It is the yeast of our lives meant to transform us in our own consciousness of who we are as children of the Divine One.  But, no matter how we respond or what we do, we are, always were and always will be children of that Divine One.

Nothing can change that but we can let that reality change us.  I can only let that reality change me.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Can it really be that simple?

Fall mushrooms in Mendon Ponds Park
At that very moment he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,for although you have hidden these thingsfrom the wise and the learnedyou have revealed them to the childlike. Luke 10:21
And exactly what are these "hidden" things that the wise have difficulty accessing but the childlike can easily see and hear?  We know, of course, of those basic prescriptions of Jesus:  Love the Divine One and love your neighbor.  But these two seemingly simple commands become overly elaborated and complicated by rules and practices.  Once that happens, the spirit seems to disappear and we are left with compliance rather than love.

The simple truth is that all we need to do is simply to be...fully who we really are.  Paul writes a lot about the flesh and the spirit.  He makes clear that the spirit of the divine one is at the core of each of us.  We don't have to do anything or be anyone other than who we are.  We just have to let the spirit be fully alive in us.  When that happens, our life unfolds as fruit appears in an orchard:  naturally.  All we have to do is be fully aware of ourselves, others and the world around us.  It appears to be the case that human nature presents roadblocks and distractions to that simple act of being.  It is only by accepting the spirit of the Divine One that those inclinations and obsessions can be muted so that our true nature can emerge.

It is ironic that the more we try to fix things ourselves, the worse they can become.  Relaxing into the reality of the Divine One's love for each of us is the simple truth.