Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Light

At our Easter Vigil Mass, we have a tradition where the Church is kept dark to start.  

The new Paschal Candle is lit outside, and brought into the Church.  The priest lights his candle from that, and then lights the deacon's.  The deacon lights the alter servers' candles, and they in turn light the candles of the folks in the first pews.  Those folks light the candles near them, and so forth and so on.  One by one you can see the light being passed from one parishoner to the next.  Within five minutes, the previously dark church is aglow in beautiful light.  

It is a powerful symbol of the joy of Easter.

Much like the earliest disciples (Mary Magdalene included) learned of Jesus' resurrection and passed it on, we too are called to do the same.  

In fact, it is an important reminder that Easter is just the beginning of our year-long calling to spread God's word.

I wish you and your families a very Blessed Easter!  Please pray for the conversion of many today.

God Bless you.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Two words in the Passion that say quite a bit

There are two specific words in the Matthew's Passion that speak volumes.

The first is Rabbi.

Matthew tells us in one of his earlier gospels (Mt 23:7-8) that Jesus is not a fan of the term Rabbi.  And yet, Judas calls Christ this twice in today's reading.  

First, Jesus tells his Disciples that one of them will betray Him.  Matthew tells us that they all begin to ask "Surely it is not I, Lord?"   Only Judas asks Christ, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?"  Perhaps the weight of what he was about to do was so great, that he could not bring himself to use the term Lord. Or perhaps it was his way of showing that, in the moment, he was no longer a believer. 

The other time Judas uses this term is later that night, in the garden. Just before he betrays our Lord with the kiss, he proclaims "Hail, Rabbi!"

And here is where the second specific word is used.

In response to this, Jesus says something unbelievable. 

He says, "Friend, do what you have come for."

Jesus was just betrayed by Judas - to the point of a horrific death.  And He still greeted him with the word friend.  Not Judas.  Not traitor.  Not a word unfit for this blog. 

Friend.

It is a word we glance over as we read the pivotal pieces of the Passion.  But it speaks volumes to the love and forgiveness of our Savior.

I hope you have a very Blessed Holy Week.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

God's Time ≠ Our Time

There was one sentence in John's Gospel about Lazarus that stood out at me today.

Mary and Martha find Jesus and tell Him that Lazarus is very ill.  Yet, despite the fact that Jesus' friend - one He loves - is about to die, John tells us that Christ "remained for two days in the place He was".  

Another reminder for us that God will work His miracles, and reveal His story, on His timeline.  Not our human one.    

I hope you are having a Blessed Lent. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lenten Musings: Blindness, Recognition and the Light of the World

There was so much going through my head during today's reading from John (about Jesus healing a blind man) that I decided to do another bullet-point-format post today. 

  • The people in Jesus' time thought worldly problems were a result of sin.  Jesus tells them those problems are so that "the works of God might be made visible".  I wonder if the same holds true today. We pout about all of our worldly problems.  Instead of looking at them as punishment, perhaps we should look at them as an opportunity for God to show His love in our lives. 
  • "I am the light of the world" is one of my favorite lines from Jesus.  It conjures up such beautiful imagery.  It also reminds me of the hymn called "We are the light of the world" and how inspiring that is to sing.  I wish we all remembered that fact more often.
  • When the blind man returned to his neighbors, many did not recognize him.  It dawned on me that after people have a spiritual encounter with the Lord, they become a different person.  Perhaps unrecognizable to those that knew them before.
  • You did catch his response, by the way, when they ask him if he was the same beggar they think he is.  His Jesus-inspired answer was "I am."
  • It is a small storyline in this passage, but it always bothered me how the parents of the blind man did not support him out of fear.  Another example of how earthly rules made everyone blind to God's real intentions.
  • The blind man gets frustrated when the crowd asks him a second time how he regained his sight.  How frustrated God should be with all of us, that He has to tell us the same thing over and over ... and yet, His patience is incomprehensible!
  • The Jews said "We know that God spoke to Moses but we do not know where this one is from." These kind of statements often baffle me.  The ancient Jews certainly had their periods of disbelief with Moses, but eventually decided he was one of God's chosen ones.  Yet, Jesus is right there in front of them working miracles, and the leaders never give Him a chance. He is a threat from day one. It is this blindness, in retrospect, that is so hard to understand.  (Of course, I say that knowing full well someone could look at my life and comment about how blind I have been.)
I hope you are all having a blessed Lent.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Musings on the Transfiguration

The Transfiguration is such a complex event, that I always have random thoughts going through my head while I read it.  Some are serious, some less so.  Rather than try to weave them into one coherent post, I thought I'd just jot a few of them down in short form.
  • One question I always ask myself ... how did Peter, James and John know what Moses and Elijah looked like?  (Nametags? Did Jesus tell them afterwards?  Did they have divine inspiration?) 
  • Someone once pointed out to me the contrasts between this event and the Crucifixion. They are eery.  Transfiguration: Jesus is up on a mountain, bathed in light, with His apostles around Him, and the voice of God praising Him.  Crucifixion:  Jesus is without clothes, nailed to a cross, with Peter and James nowhere to be found, two thiefs next to Him, and silence from God.
  • We all lovingly smile at Peter's comment during this scene, but what often gets overlooked is that God cuts him off.  Matthew tells us that "while he was still speaking" God speaks. 
  • Scholars argue whether the Transfiguration occured on Mt. Tabor or Mt. Hernon.  This might not matter to the casual reader, but to the apostles it would have.  Mt. Tabor is 1,886 feet high, while Mt. Hernon is almost 5x higher at 9,232 feet high!  
  • Matthew does not mention this, but Luke does - the apostles were sleeping during part of this, and awoke to see the splendor.  It is a lovely thought with much symbolism ... the beauty we can see when God awakens us.
  • Jesus asks Peter, James and John not to say anything to anyone until after He is risen.  How hard must that have been for them!  
I hope you are all having a Blessed Lent! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Time: A perspective

When we read through the Bible, years and months feel like seconds, don't they?

Take today's Gospel, for example.  

Matthew tells us that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert.   Forty days!!  We skim past that as we read about the various temptations Jesus faced.  But do we really appreciate how long that is?  If you are reading this on March 9, 40 days ago was January 28th.  Imagine being in the desert since then, facing the blistering sun during the day, and cold at night. All while fasting.  I don't know about you, but a day of fasting feels like a week to me - and that is while I sit in my comfortable, climate controlled environment.  

This got me thinking of other time spans that I gloss over in the Bible.

For example, Jesus is crucified, and dies in a few short paragraphs.  But I constantly forget he spent six long, grueling hours on the cross.  When I get a splinter in my finger, I rush to get it out as quickly as possible so the pain will stop.  Jesus had nails driven through his hands and feet ... and they stayed there right along his bruises for 360 long minutes.

I never realized, until this year, how long John the Baptist spent in prison.  Never even thought about it since we go from him being arrested to beheaded in a few words.  But scholars think he spend almost two years in prison.  And I'm pretty sure it wasn't the kind Martha Stewart served in.

Mary and Joseph depart Nazareth and arrive in Bethlehem in a few sentences.  But that journey probably took five to seven days.  Walking all day.  And Mary was pregnant! 

The Israelites spent a few pages suffering in Egypt.  But in reality, it was almost 400 years.  To put that in perspective, if you started counting today, your great-great-great grandchildren would still be in Egypt. 

There are many, many more.  But hopefully you get the point of this post.  The ironic thing is that we have no idea what time feels like for God.  Does a second feel like a year?  Or a year like a second?  

God Bless. 

 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Double worry

I once participated in a seminar where the leader spent a great deal of time trying to remind us what is in our control vs. what is out of our control.  

First, he started with "the past", and reminded us that not one person in the room could change it, no matter how hard we all try.  Therefore, we should not waste time worrying about it. 

Then he moved to "the future", and told us it was nothing more than a theory.  Not one of us could actually guarantee it would even arrive.  Therefore, again, we should not waste time worrying about it.  

His goal of the seminar was to teach us about "the present" and how we react to it.  When something happens - it happens.  It is already in the past.  Therefore the only thing we can control is the present - which is how we react to it.  We can choose to be positive or negative. Etc etc.  

Of course, it sounded so easy when he said it.  On paper it looks as simple as 1+1=2.  

Putting it into practice in real life is much harder, of course.  

In this week's Gospel, Jesus is trying to give us a similar message. He points out how useless our worries are - especially those regarding the future - and that God will provide for us the same way He does for all living things.  My favorite line in this passage has always been:

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life?

That is such a powerful line.   

But this week, I spent time thinking about Matthew's last line in this reading:  

Sufficient for a day is its own evil

In that phrase, Jesus is basically telling us that each day brings with it particular cares, worries, issues, problems, etc. To worry about the things of tomorrow is basically doubling the worry we face today.  

And with everything going on in our lives, who needs that??

God Bless you.