Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Today's readings

This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.

In all fairness, I think it should be noted that even though Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, he was a very unwilling sign to be sure. Not only did he prefer to take a ship anywhere but Nineveh and end up getting swallowed by a big fish, even after this wonderfully successful preaching, he sat under a shade plant and lamented the mercy God had on the Ninevites.

But, that said, he was indeed a wonderful sign to the Ninevites. And they didn't require from him miracles and wonders. They heard his word – the word of the LORD – and reformed their ways, they straightened up their act. That's what Jesus is extolling here. It didn't take anything but hearing the word of the Lord for those evil Ninevites to turn to God for mercy. But the Israelites, who had in Jesus a much better sign than that of Jonah – a very willing sign for one thing – they still demanded a whole side show to test his words.

What about us? What does it take for us to make a change in our lives? Has God been trying to get through to us, but we keep holding out for some kind of sign? Shame on us when we do that – and most of us do at some point. We, like the Israelites, have a wonderful sign in Jesus, and we would do well to take up our own crosses and do what the Lord asks of us.

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent

Today's readings

Ancient sources say that we are to pray the Lord's prayer at least seven times daily. Why? Because the Lord's prayer in all its wonderful simplicity reminds us that God is God and we are not.

To those of us who are concerned with our own prestige and dwell on our own ego, the Lord's prayer says "hallowed be God's name." When we would like all of our problems solved on our own terms and everyone to do things our own way, the Lord's prayer says, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…" For those times when we over-consume the goods of the earth, or want more than we can afford, or covet things we don't need, the Lord's prayer says, "give us this day our daily bread" – because that's all we need. For us sinners who prefer to hold grudges against others, the Lord's prayer says, "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." And when we stray into all sorts of temptations and give in to all the wrong things, the Lord's prayer says "lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

The Lord's prayer is powerful in all its simplicity. Whether we say it seven times a day or even just once, we need to say it with full thought of what we are asking of our God. And God will hear and answer that holy prayer.

Monday of the First Week of Lent

Today's readings

Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.

Today's readings represent what I think is the scariest instruction we have in the Gospel. And that is that we have to be clear about the lengths the Gospel demands that we go. It's easy to see people as panhandlers, con artists, and the like. But the Gospel demands that we see these people as Christ. The first reading makes it clear: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD."

If that doesn't strike fear into the heart of everyone who has passed by a brother or sister in need, I don't know what would. And I would be willing to bet that all of us here – including yours truly – has passed up an opportunity to serve a brother or sister in Christ in some way. In doing that, we have neglected to serve Christ himself, and he is the LORD.

One of the greatest prayers of my heart is that I would be able to see people as Christ sees them. Some days I'm good at that, and some days I'm not. But the idea is to keep making the prayer, and keep trying to live it. This doesn't mean we have to be the soft touch who gives in to every plea – honest and dishonest. But it does mean we have to be willing to reach out to those in need with the same love that Christ has for them. Because he is the LORD.

We who approach the Altar today to receive Christ in the Eucharist must be willing to receive Christ also in our brothers and sisters. More than that, we have to be willing to be Christ to them. Because he is the LORD.

First Sunday of Lent: Remember and Proclaim

Today’s readings

Back in May, I was starting to pack up the vast array of stuff that had accumulated in my room during the five years I lived at Mundelein Seminary. I was sorting through files, books, clothes, belongings, the whole mess. This was not a task I really enjoyed, of course – I don’t think anyone really likes having to pack and move. When I thought about why I disliked packing so much, I realized that part of it is that I didn’t like the overwhelming task of going through everything to decide what would come with me and what wouldn’t. But another part of it, for me, is the emotional attachment that we have whenever we live somewhere for a while. Well, one afternoon during my packing, I happily came across a scrapbook that had been given to me by my coworkers just before I moved on to seminary, five years earlier. I stopped to look through the book, and all the memories of that time of my life came back to me. I laughed, I cried, and well, I didn’t get much packing done that afternoon!

Everyone has their own memories. Whether it’s scrapbooks or photo albums, or even just stories shared at the dinner table, we treasure the memories of the people, places and events that have made up our past. Those memories make up who we are now, and have helped to shape the people we will be in the future. It’s important for us to revisit those memories from time to time: to find the scrapbook, to flip through the pages of the photo albums, to tell the great family stories around the dinner table. Memories are meant to be shared, to be retold, and to be treasured. Memories make us who we are, whether as individuals, or as families, or as nations, or as a Church.

In today’s readings, we are called to look again at the memories that we have as a people. The first reading has Moses instructing the Israelites on how to present their offerings to God. It’s not just the sacrifice that’s important here, it’s why the sacrifice is made in the first place. Which is why Moses tells them to re-tell the story: that their father (probably Jacob) was a wandering Aramean, whose household was tiny, but that God preserved them and made of them a great nation in a land flowing with milk and honey. That’s why they bring the first fruits of their crops as gifts for the Lord. Retelling the story is an occasion of gratitude and the sacrifice is made with great joy.

The Gospel reading is kind of the negative portrayal of remembering. Because the devil would like nothing more than for Jesus to forget who he was and why he was here. He would have Jesus forget that real hunger is not satisfied by mere bread, but must be satisfied by God’s word. He would have Jesus forget that there is only one God and that real glory comes from obedience to God’s command and from living according to God’s call. He would have Jesus forget that life itself is God’s gift and that we must cherish it as much as God does.

But Jesus won’t forget. He refuses to turn stones into bread, remembering that God will take care of all his real hunger. He refuses to worship Satan and gain every kingdom of the world, remembering that he belongs to God’s kingdom. He refuses to throw away his life in a pathetic attempt to test God, remembering that God is trustworthy and that he doesn’t need to prove it.

In the second reading, St. Paul calls the Romans to remember their own faith. He reminds them that the word that was preached to them is not something far off and remote, but is very near to them: on their lips and in their heart. Their salvation comes from the Lord, and the Lord can be trusted with their eternal lives. So, St. Paul says, it is fitting for the Romans to remember this and to proclaim it in their lives.

The way that we live our memories as a Church is through Liturgy. In the Liturgy of the Word, we hear the stories of faith handed down from generation to generation. These are the stories of our ancestors, whether from the Old Testament or the New. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we re-present the story of Christ’s Passion and death, and as we do that, it becomes new for us once again. There’s a part of every Eucharistic Prayer that recalls Jesus’ suffering and death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. This is called the anamnesis, which is translated as recollection, or remembering, but is perhaps best rendered as a re-presentation. Because our remembering as a Church isn’t just some kind of fond reminiscence, it’s not just a recalling of some events that happened hundreds of years ago, no … our anamnesis is a re-presentation of Christ’s passion and death and resurrection, the whole Paschal event that saved us and made us the people that we are. When we as a Church gather to remember, we are there, right in and among that saving sacrifice that made us God’s own people once again.

This Lent our community is developing habits of faith, hope and love – habits of the soul. Today, the habits suggested by our Liturgy of the Word are remembering and proclaiming. We must be people who remember who we are, who remember our stories, who remember our ancestors in faith, and who remember, above all, the salvation we have from Christ’s Passion, death, and resurrection. We must also be people who proclaim what we believe. We must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we must proclaim that Christ is our salvation, we must shout from every place where we find ourselves that God is faithful and just and that everyone who turns to God will be saved.

And then we have to live that way. We have to be the scrapbook. We have to be the photo album, we have to be the story that is told at the dinner table. Our actions can proclaim our faith in the Christ we remember. Our service to our brothers and sisters in need can shout to a world that needs to hear it that God has concern for the poor and the needy. Our very lives can be an anamnesis of the God who is our salvation, and of our Christ who pours out his life for us at every Eucharistic feast. We are a people called to remember and to proclaim that our God is faithful and alive in our midst.

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Today’s Readings

In Hebrew, the word for “righteousness” is tseh’-dek, which has the connotation of right relationship. Indeed, it was the whole idea of right relationship that was preached continuously by the prophets. That right relationship was one that should be directed toward God and toward others. To live in right relationship with God and others is the vision of true peace.

This is the call of Isaiah in today’s first reading. God makes it clear through Isaiah that showy fasting, mortification and sacrifice is not what God wants from humankind. God, who made us for himself, wants us – all of us, and not just some dramatic show of false piety, put on display for all the world to see. God doesn’t want fasting that ends in quarrelling and fighting with others, because that destroys the right relationships that our fast should be leading us toward in the first place.

So, if we really want to fast, says Isaiah, we need to put all that nonsense aside. Our true fast needs to be a beacon of social justice, a wholehearted reaching out to the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. As we get into our Lenten practices these days, we too might find that our self-sacrifice ends up pushing us away from others, and ultimately from God. That’s not a sign to give it up, but maybe more to redirect it. If we give up something, we should also balance that with a renewed effort to reach out to God and others. Right relationship should be the goal of all of our Lenten efforts this year. And we can truly live that kind of penitence with joy because it comes with a great promise, says Isaiah:

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!

Chair of St. Peter, Apostle (Feast)

Today’s readings | Today’s feast

Every Christian disciple ought to love St. Peter, a man who was zealous with his faith and his words, even if his words and actions seemed to lag a bit behind. One of the most famous examples was his walking on the water. You know the story, seeing Jesus walking about on the water at night, he calls to him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you across the water.” Jesus says, “Come.” Peter sets foot on the water and begins to walk, but soon enough he notices the waves and the wind and begins to falter, sinking into the water. Jesus, of course, reaches out and pulls him out. Peter seems here to be a failure, but at least he tried to put his faith into action. I would suggest that there may have been eleven bigger failures who were not even brave enough to get out of the boat in the fist place.

Another example, the one in today’s Gospel, is when Jesus asked them, “Who do people say that I am?” And they all had plenty of examples. When he asked, “But who do you say that I am?” it was Peter who responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Then just a few verses later, after Jesus tells them that he must suffer and die, Peter rebukes Jesus, and Jesus says famously, “Get behind me, Satan.” Peter is on top of the heap one moment, and cast down the next. But at least he had courage enough to speak up for his faith, even if that faith was slightly flawed.

The biggest failure Peter had, though, was after the Last Supper. Having pledged to stand up for Jesus no matter what, he denies three times that he even knows his friend and Lord. When the cock crows, he remembers that Jesus predicted his failure, and he breaks down and cries. But after the Resurrection, it’s Peter – the one who denied his Lord three times – who has the opportunity to profess his love three times. “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep.”

And it’s the feeding of those sheep that we celebrate today. The chair of St. Peter commemorates the faith that Peter professes in today’s Gospel. A faith that is admittedly not quite perfect, but a faith that is perfected by Jesus after the Resurrection from the dead. Because of this profession of faith, Peter receives the servant-authority of the whole Church, which is passed on in his successors. This is an authority that makes the popes the servant of the servants of God, the one who has the direct line of teaching going back to the Apostles themselves.

We servant disciples can celebrate Peter in a special way today. Our faith is a lot like Peter’s most of the time, isn’t it? It is a faith that is strong, but not quite perfect. We say the wrong things sometimes, sometimes we miss the opportunity to witness, often we don’t follow through in action. But Jesus is continually perfecting that faith in us so that we might come to truly believe and truly live as his own.

Ash Wednesday II

Today’s readings [Prayer Service]

Ash WednesdayA couple of years ago when I was in seminary, I was a fire chaplain for one of the local fire departments. On Wednesdays, we only had one class, and since it was Ash Wednesday and our teacher was a pastor of a parish, he was obviously busy, so we had the day free. I went with my friend Jeff, who as also a fire chaplain, to the station to see how things were going and to spend some time doing some ministry there. When we got there, though, there really wasn’t anyone around. The receptionist told us they had all gone out on a fire call, and it looked pretty big.

So Jeff and I got the address and headed out to the scene of the fire. This was the first major fire I ever worked on, and when I got there and saw this four unit condo on fire, I said something like, “Oh my gosh! That building’s on fire!” Jeff thought I was nuts, I think, but we pressed on and checked in with the fire chief. We asked where the families were, and he indicated an apartment building across the street. So we went there and introduced ourselves.

We talked to the families that were there for a while, and then had to get some other information, and during a lull, I asked the woman whose apartment we were trampling with our wet boots and stuff if she knew these families before. She said no, but she wouldn’t have thought of not opening her home to neighbors in trouble. I noticed she was wearing a sweatshirt with the letters WWJD on it – what would Jesus do? And I thought, she obviously knew the answer to that question, and was not afraid to live it.

That was Ash Wednesday two years ago, and it made a big impact on me. I realized it was so important for me to live those four letters – WWJD – during Lent, and really all year long. But doing that is a process. You have to develop new attitudes, new habits – new habits of the soul. This Lent is all about doing that for us.

We are called to repent, to break our ties with the sinfulness and the entanglements that are keeping us tethered to the world instead of free to live with our God. Our Church offers us three ways to do that during Lent. First, we can fast. We can give up snacks, or a favorite food, or eat one less meal perhaps one day a week, or we can give up a favorite television program or activity. Fasting helps us to be aware of the ways God works to sustain us when we’re hungry. The lack of television provides us with a silence that can be filled by God’s presence. The whole idea of fasting is that we need to come to realize that there is nothing that we hunger for that God can’t provide, and provide better than we could ever find in any other source.

Second, we can pray. Sure, we’re called to pray all the time, but maybe Lent can be the opportunity to intensify our prayer life, to make it better, to make it more, to draw more life from it. Maybe we are not people who read Scripture every day, and we can work through one of the books of the Bible during Lent. Maybe we can learn a new prayer or take on a new devotion. Maybe we can spend time before the Lord in the Tabernacle or in adoration, especially during our 40 hours devotion we’ll have next month. Maybe we can just carve out some quiet time at the end of the day to give thanks for our blessings, and to ask pardon for our failings. Intensifying our prayer life this Lent can help us to be aware of God’s presence at every moment of our day and in every place we are.

Third, we can give alms or do works of charity. We can save money for Operation Rice Bowl, or perhaps help to provide a meal at Hesed House. Maybe we can devote some time to mentoring a child who needs help with their studies, or volunteer to help in our school or religious education program. Works of charity might be a family project, perhaps volunteering at a soup kitchen together, or shopping together for items to donate to Loaves and Fishes. When we do works of charity, we can learn to see others as God does, and love them the way God loves them and us.

And none of this, as the Gospel reminds us today, is to be done begrudgingly or half-heartedly. None of it is to be done with the express purpose of letting the world see how great we are. It is always to be done with great humility, but also with great joy. Our acts of fasting, prayer, and charity should be a celebration of who God is in our lives, and a beautiful effort to strengthen our relationship with him.

This Lent, through a book you can purchase here or at a bookstore, and using our parish website, we are being challenged to develop habits of the soul. I’ve read that it takes 21 days to build a new good habit. With the 40 days that Lent provides, maybe we can all focus on one thing we could do to make our lives more joyful, or more prayerful, or more charitable. Whether we give something up to escape the entanglements of the world, or whether we perform acts of charity to love more freely, or whether we pray in new ways to become more thoughtful, we can build the habit that will last a lifetime, a habit that will lead us to the joy of eternal life.

It is my prayer that this Lent can be a forty day retreat that will bring us all closer to God. May we all hear the voice of the prophet Joel from today’s first reading: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart!”

Ash Wednesday I

Today’s readings [Mass for the School Children]

What are you going to do for Lent this year? Are you going to give something up? Are you going to pray more? Are you going to do something nice for someone or do something for the poor and needy? Those are the three ways that we observe Lent in our Church: we fast, we pray, and we give alms, we give to the poor.

ashwednesdayWhy do we do these things for Lent? We do them because Jesus gave his life for us. We do them because we have sinned and have broken the relationship between God and us. We do them because God loves us, and we want to love God and others more. Lent is a time when we can change our hearts and change our lives and become more like the people God made us to be in the first place.

So one of the things we are asked to do during Lent is to pray more. Maybe you can take some time to read a little bit of one of the books of the Bible every night. Or maybe you can learn a new prayer that you didn’t know. Maybe every night you can take a few minutes to thank God for the blessings he has given you that day, and to say you’re sorry for the ways that you haven’t followed him that well. When we pray more, we can grow closer to Jesus who loves us so much he gave up his life for us.

Another thing we are called to do during Lent is to fast, or give something up. Maybe we’ll give up candy, or cookies, or a television program that we like. We give things up so that we can know that we can depend on God to feed us with the things we really need.

And we are also called to do acts of charity, or almsgiving, during Lent. That might mean that we save up some money to give to Loaves and Fishes. Or maybe we can find out something that they need at Hesed house and collect that and bring it to them. Or maybe we can help a younger brother or sister with their homework. Maybe we can try to be nice to people and try to love our families more. When we do acts of charity, we can practice loving people the same way God loves us.

A long time ago now, I used to give up chocolate every year for Lent. But right before Lent one year, some of the kids in my youth group said, “Mr. Mulcahy, we hope you’re not giving up chocolate for Lent this year.” When I asked them why, they said, “because every year when you do that, you get crabby.” And see, that’s not why we give things up, or why we do anything for Lent. We do those things because God is so good to us and God loves us and we want to love God and others more like he loves us. So whatever we do for Lent, we shouldn’t be crabby about it, we should do it with joy because it is bringing us closer to God.

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Listen to this from the first reading again:

Study the generations long past and understand;
has anyone hoped in the LORD and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?
Compassionate and merciful is the LORD;
he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble
and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth.

On this “Fat Tuesday,” what more could we rejoice in but our God who is trustworthy, compassionate and merciful? I just thought that last part of the first reading was so wonderfully uplifting, and it really sets our hearts on the right path for Lent. Tomorrow we enter into that sacred and penitential time, but we don’t do that because we’re bad people and God-forsaken. We do that to get closer to our God who loves us enough to be our source of protection against the storms of life and the forgiver of our sins. Our God is a God who moved heaven and earth to send us his only Son for our salvation. Our God is One that we can celebrate this Lent as we change our hearts to love him more, to love him more like he loves us.

What are you giving up this Lent? How will you be responding to the call for fasting, prayer and almsgiving? What is it that you will change in your life? Whatever you do, I hope you do it with great joy, knowing that our God can be trusted with our very lives and with our eternal salvation.

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time: Icons of God’s Mercy

Today’s readings

The hard part about reading from our Lectionary is that, while it is very good, sometimes the little bits we get of the story aren’t really enough for us to understand, or at least to fully appreciate, what is going on. That’s the case, I think, with today’s first reading. So I could assign you all the entire first book of Samuel to read as homework and take a quiz next week … or I could just summarize for you. Should we take a vote on that one? Okay, I’ll summarize!

Here’s the story. Saul has been king of Israel for some time, but, like a lot of the kings of Israel, God wasn’t all that pleased with him. In fact, God rejected Saul and sent Samuel out in search of Saul’s successor. Samuel comes to Jesse in Bethlehem, because God has told Samuel that the Lord’s anointed will be found among Jesse’s sons. Now you may know this part of the story. Jesse presents to Samuel his oldest son, who is handsome and rugged in appearance, a guy who really looks like he could lead a people. Saul is all set to anoint him king when God tells him to forget it; that isn’t the one he has chosen. God says that even though this son – Eliab – looks like a king to Samuel, it’s not Samuel’s judgment that really matters here. The wonderful quote is that humanity may judge by the appearance, but God looks into the heart. So Jesse presents his other sons, one by one, and Samuel finds that God hasn’t chosen any of them. Just then Jesse appears to remember his youngest son, out tending the flocks. His youngest son is David, and when he is brought in, the Lord instantly confirms the choice and Samuel anoints him as king.

So that’s how David was chosen. But the problem is, Saul is still alive. And apparently he wasn’t copied in on the memo about David being the Lord’s anointed one – clearly he wasn’t too happy about it. So Saul, who is by now not just disfavored by God, but also a little insane, makes it his life’s work to hunt David down and kill him. In the chapters that follow there are a couple of nice interludes of hope, including some efforts to work together (mostly on David’s part), and a strong friendship between David and Saul’s son Jonathan. But that’s about it. For the most part, the remainder of that first book of Samuel is taken up by Saul trying to kill David.

Which brings us to the story we have in today’s first reading. Saul gathers up three thousand men and goes on a David hunt. David is accompanied only by his friend and faithful companion Abishai. When they get to the desert of Ziph, Samuel decides to make camp there, and thrusts his sword into the ground. Thrusting his sword into the ground is the king’s way of signifying where his tent would be pitched. After this is done, they all take a little siesta. This, then, is how David and Abishai find Saul and his men, and they walk right into the camp.

Now let me ask you a question: how likely is it that in a military campaign, a person would be able to walk into an enemy camp and find all of them asleep to the point that they can walk in among them and have a conversation, and go completely unnoticed? Pretty much nil, I would think. So we are told here that God has put Saul and his men into a “deep sleep.” The Hebrew here refers to the same kind of deep sleep that Adam was put in when God took out one of his ribs to create the woman. Saul and his men are positively anesthetized – and it is clear to us that David is not only anointed by God, but also highly favored by him. So here we are: David and Abishai are standing right over Saul, with Saul’s spear stuck in the ground next to him. Clearly the best military decision would be to allow Abishai to thrust the spear into Saul and put an end to all this foolishness. But – and this is the whole point of this story that I have prolonged for you – that’s not what happens. David in his wisdom prevents Abishai from doing that, and instead they take away the king’s spear and water jug. Now, understand that taking the spear was an act that would greatly humiliate Saul, but at least he got to live. And not only that, David gave the spear back.

David, who had been stalked and tormented and relentlessly pursued by Saul for a long time, could have put an end to it right then and there. But instead he chose to become an icon of God’s mercy. This is such a remarkable story that it fully turns the universe upside-down. The word “anointed” has the same root as “Christ.” Saul was the Lord’s anointed, but he blew it. Now David is the Lord’s anointed, and his actions are so beautiful that the point the way to the Anointed One, Jesus Christ.

And today, Jesus speaks to all of us, we who also are anointed with the Holy Spirit in the image of Jesus Christ. We too are expected, just like David and Jesus, to be icons of the Lord’s mercy. We are expected to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. If someone strikes us on one cheek, we are told to turn and offer the other. If someone takes our coat, we are to offer the underwear also. If someone borrows from us, we are not to expect a return. All of the responses expected of us are completely counter-intuitive.

Indeed, all of today’s Liturgy of the Word has to make us bristle a bit with revulsion. After all, we have a right to be well-treated. We have a right to respect. We have a right to do business the way we want to do it. We have the right to punish those who treat us poorly. We have the right to strike back when violence is done to us. We are entitled people, for heaven’s sake, so what right does Jesus have to tell us to be merciful?

Perhaps we entitled ones can take a little solace in today’s Gospel. After all, there it is – the Golden Rule: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And hey, that only seems fair. We can certainly all get on board with that. That seems to level the playing field and let us all still be entitled people. And yeah, Jesus says, that’s a good start. But disciples are expected to do more. For disciples, the playing field isn’t supposed to be level, it’s supposed to be turned completely upside-down.

But rather, love your enemies and do good to them,
and lend expecting nothing back;
then your reward will be great
and you will be children of the Most High…

Why on earth should we do something this silly? This counter-intuitive? This completely unentitled? Well, Jesus tells us, because God himself is “kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” That’s the part of this story that literally jumped off the page at me this week. God is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Who on earth is he talking about? Well, I would have to say that I am blessed, and often I take those blessings for granted or don’t even appreciate them. I guess that makes me ungrateful. And sometimes I turn away from the path that God has marked out for me. And that would make me wicked. But I certainly can’t deny that God has been kind to me. After all, he has called me to be a priest – the best thing I have ever done in my life. And he sent me to the best seminary in the United States, offering one of the finest educations I could get. And then he sent me to this wonderful place, with people who have been welcoming and loving and challenging. And that’s just one area of my life where I’m blessed – there are lots more. So I got to thinking, maybe I’m not so entitled after all. Maybe – even in my ungratefulness and wickedness – just maybe I’m graced by the God who is mercy itself.

What about you? How have you been blessed? Are you too among the ungrateful and the wicked? Has God been kind to you anyway? Are you – anointed one – are you ready to let the universe be turned upside down and give up your entitlement in favor of being an icon of God’s mercy?

What would it look like for all of us to love our enemies and do good to them, to lend and expect nothing back? … Well, I guess it would look something like that (indicate the Cross).