Saturday, July 18, 2015

Four Hundred and Thirty

If you are like me, you might be wondering how long it will take for society to reverse its course and return to God.  After all, it certainly feels like we are headed in the opposite direction.  Have been for years, right?  Maybe decades?  

For better or worse, one of the readings from Saturday gave me some perspective.  In the first reading, Exodus 12:37-42, we are reminded that the Israelites spent four hundred and thirty years in Egypt before God led them out of their slavery.  

Four hundred and thirty years.  

Four hundred and thirty years ago today, the U.S. wasn't even a country.  The Anglo-Spanish war had just begun, and we were in the early stages of the Elizabethan era in England.  

In other words, it was a long time ago.  

When you read about the Israelite's slavery in the context of thousands of years, it feels like a blink.  But can you imagine being an Israelite 30 years into that period, wondering how long it would last?  Not realizing there were another four hundred years to go?  

What does that mean for us today?  The optimist in me says that perhaps this generation will help shift society back to God.  But reading passages like Exodus makes me wonder if we are simply in the middle of a much longer "slavery".  

Each of us can make a difference, of course, with our actions and our prayers. But sometimes it is hard to tell which chapter of the story we are in - or even how long that chapter is!

God bless you, and our world.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pairs

"Jesus summoned the twelve and began to send them out two by two." 

"If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up."  Ecc 4:10

Pairs.

They show up quite a bit in the Bible.  

In today's reading, Jesus sends the apostles out in pairs.  He knows that they will be witnesses together and strengthen each other.   In Mt 8:10, Jesus tells us that he will be there where two come together, and in 10:2, Matthew even lists the apostles in pairs.  Important events such as preparing the Upper Room, and securing the donkey for Palm Sunday also involved pairs.   

What I find interesting, is that today, we seemed to have moved to either side of that number.  At one end, we have less intimate, large gatherings that number in the hundreds or thousands.  At the other end, we have many people doing things (including praying) by themselves, without the support of another.  Both, of course, have their places.  But I can't help but wonder if we are missing some wonderful opportunities by not working in twos more often.  

God Bless you.
 
 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Are We Contagious?

This weekend's Gospel included the story of a woman afflicted with hemorrhages. 

In the spirit of "every-time-I-hear-a-Gospel-reading-I-see-it-in-a-new-way", I noticed "contagiousness" from a different angle.

In Jesus' day, people believed touching a person who was hemorrhaging would make them unclean.  There was a belief that such diseases were contagious.  (Obviously some were in the physical sense, but more importantly, they believed they were contagious in a spiritual sense as well.) 

The woman, however, knew that Jesus was also "contagious" ... that if she could just touch him she would "catch" his holiness and be cured.  

She, of course, was right. 

This reflection made me think about which kind of 'contagious" we are.  How often do we think about contagiousness in a good way?  Or role model it?  When people come in contact with us, do they leave more holy?  On the flip side, do we try and surround ourselves with holy people so that we "catch" more goodness? 

Or are we contagious in a bad way?  There are many events that have taken place these past weeks that are examples of this bucket.  Groups and individuals have made decisions and spread teachings that are contaminating followers in ways that are not in line with God's teaching.  And because many of these followers do not surround themselves with Jesus or other holy people, they are getting spiritually sicker. 

I pray this week for all those who are spiritually sick.  May they find a way to "catch" Jesus and may the Holy Spirit strengthen us to help them find Him.  

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Barnabas

This week we celebrated the Feast Day of St. Barnabas.  

As such, I took a little bit of time to reflect on what a important player Barnabas was in our Faith.

Surprisingly, it is not clear when Barnabas converted.  Some think he was in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified, and one of the 70 Disciples.  Others believe he was converted sometime after Pentecost.   He first appears to us in Acts, where he sells his land and gives the proceeds to the community.  

What is very clear, however, is the courage and conviction he had.  For example, he stood as sponsor for Paul after his conversion.   This was no small task, considering that the Apostles must have been terrified of Saul, the man that passionately persecuted them.  We all know what Paul and Barnabas went on to do for Christianity, but the brave task of believing in the converted Saul often gets overlooked.  

Barnabas also had the courage, and forgiveness, to give John Mark a second chance.  John Mark had left Paul and Barnabas during one of their journeys, and such actions must have upset Paul.  But Barnabas was open to giving John Mark a reprieve - despite it leading to he and Paul going their separate ways.  (Later, Paul spoke highly of John Mark, the man who is believed to have written one of our four Gospels.)

Of course, both of these acts are overshadowed by the courage Barnabas showed by preaching the Word in hostile and foreign environments.  

Barnabas is believed to be martyred while preaching the Gospel, but remains a shining example for all Christians. 

God Bless you.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Three Thousand vs Negative One Hundred Million


In my last post, I lamented about the projected decline in Christianity.  

But as I reflect on Pentecost this week, I am reminded that Peter and the other apostles baptized about three thousand men into the faith that day.  

That is quite a feat, even by today's standards!

It struck me that the reason those people converted was because Peter had the strength to preach the Word to them.  Yes, they were, I'm sure, also impressed by the Miracle of the Tongues. But if Peter had not followed up with the Gospel, they would have simply thought it some kind of magic or sorcery.

I can't help but think that highlights one reason between the growth of Christianity back then, and the projected decline now.  

Maybe we are not preaching enough.  Not spreading the Word.  Not living the Way so that others can follow.

Back then people were quite amazed that they could hear the sermons in their native language.

Perhaps a miracle today would be if more people said anything at all ...

God Bless you, and may the Holy Spirit strengthen you.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sad Statistics

I read an article from Pew Research the other day that saddened my soul.

It was entitled The Future of World Religions, and it does not present very encouraging predictions.

Christianity, according to the article, may no longer be the world's most dominant religion sometime around 2050.  In fact, cumulatively through 2050, Pew predicts that 40 million people will switch into Christianity while a whopping 106 million will switch out (by FAR the most out of any religion).  And those switching out are mostly expected to switch to an "unaffiliated" status.

Can you imagine that? Christ asked us to continue to spread His word, and the world is going in the opposite direction.  

In the U.S. alone, Christianity will shrink from 78% in 20101 to 66% by 2050.   Europe will see a similar decline.  Conversely, Christians in sub-Saharan Africa will rise from 24% to 38%, and stay about the same in Latin America.  

Are all these stats and predictions 100% percent accurate?  Of course not.  But the mere chance that they might be is eye-opening.

The good thing is that we can help influence this course through example and prayer.  

Please join me in praying for the strengthening - and growth - of our Faith around the world.

God Bless you.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

About Those Sheep

Based on today's Gospel from John, I wanted to learn a bit more about sheep and shepherds to feel more in-tune with Jesus' teaching.  Here are some of the things l learned:

  • Sheep are useless by themselves.  Completely.  Which is why shepherds pay such close attention to their flock.  (It is no irony that humans are also useless by themselves, and also need The Good Shepherd.)
  • When a sheep starts to wander off, the shepherd may use a slingshot to shoot pebbles at it to get its attention.  (Think of all the signs that God sends our way when we wander off...)
  • Sheep have excellent hearing.  Which, of course, helps them to know their Shepherd's voice.
  • They can, however, also remember human faces for over a year. This is despite them being considered one of the dumbest animals on the planet.  (New research, by the way, disputes this, and states they could be as intelligent as monkeys.)
  • When wolves attack a sheep, they often nip at it from behind.  Wolves are also capable of killing an entire flock, and scattering the remains over a large area.  Some experts believe they are capable of doing this just for fun.
  • The right shepherd will lead the flock to better pasture (which was not always easy to find in Israel).  The wrong shepherd would lead the flock to a slaughterhouse for personal gain.  
  • I read one article that stated from time to time, a sheep would get carried away by a river when crossing.  After being rescued by the shepherd, and returned to its flock, the other sheep would surround the shepherd and express their thankfulness with sounds of joy.  (This immediately brought to mind the parable of the Prodigal Son.)
  • Even more fascinating, I read a story about a shepherd who did not have to count his sheep anymore.  He knew by "sense" if one had wandered off.  (And yet another one about a shepherd who could identify his sheep blindfolded just by feeling their face!)

Prayers that we always follow Jesus, our Good Shepherd, and that we always recognize His voice in a world of wolves.  God Bless you.