Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Today’s readings

Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is a perplexing one, to be sure.  But in the light of Easter, we can see that Jesus was proclaiming that God is doing something new.  Not only that, but God wants us all to be part of that new thing.  Addressing Nicodemus, Jesus said that the old ways of worshipping and living were no longer sufficient, and really no longer needed.  God was looking not just for people’s obedience, but also, mostly, for their hearts.

We see those hearts at work in the early Christian community.  The reading from Acts this morning tells us that the believers cared for one another deeply, and were generous in that care.  “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”  They were even selling their possessions to give to those who were in need.  Nobody felt needy, nobody felt cheated, nobody felt like they were doing more than their share.  People were worshipping not just with their minds, but also with their hearts, and their worshipping didn’t stop when they left the worship place.

So the same has to be true for us, really.  We have to be willing to give of our hearts, to believe not just when we’re in church, but also when we are in the rest of our life.  We have to trust God to take care of us when we stick our neck out to help someone else.  We have to trust that even when we are doing more than other people are, God will take care of the equity of it all and never be outdone in generosity.  We have to worship not just with our minds but also with our hearts.

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

Today’s readings

Today’s Scriptures address another one of the ways that we fallen human beings tend to avoid the truth. Sometimes, when we are confronted with the truth, we attack its source. If we cast doubt on the one bringing us the truth, then we don’t have to follow his or her words, right?

The prophet Jeremiah takes the nation of Israel to task for this in today’s first reading. These are a people who have heard the truth over and over. God has not stopped sending prophets to preach the word. But the Israelites would not listen: in fact, most often, they murdered the prophets. They preferred to live in the world, and to attach themselves to the nations and their worship of idols and pagan gods. They had been warned constantly that this was going to be the source of their demise, but they tuned it out. They “stiffened their necks,” Jeremiah says, and now faithfulness has disappeared and there is no word of truth in anything they say.

Some of the Jews are giving Jesus the same treatment in today’s Gospel. Seeing him drive out a demon, they are filled with jealousy and an enormous sense of inadequacy. These are the men who were religious leaders and they had the special care of driving away demons from the people. But they chose not to do so, or maybe their lukewarm faith made them unable to do so. So on seeing Jesus competent at what was their duty, they cast a hand-grenade of rhetoric at him and reason that only a demon could cast out demons like he did.

We will likely hear the word of truth today. Maybe it will come in these Scriptures, or maybe later in our prayerful moments. Maybe it will be spoken by a child or a coworker or a relative or friend. However the truth is given to us, it is up to us to take it in and take it to heart. Or will we too be like the Jews and the Israelites and stiffen our necks? No, the Psalmist tells us, we can’t be that way. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Monday of the Twenty-seventh Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Have you ever been sure of the Lord’s call in your life and it just terrified you?  I have.  And for those of us who have been in this position, we can perhaps understand Jonah’s reaction in today’s first reading.  He had been called by the Lord to preach to the people in Nineveh.  And let’s be clear about this: the people of Nineveh were unspeakably evil and had long been persecuting the people of Israel.  And so for Jonah, this call was a bit like being called to preach to the people of ISIS or something like that.  Not only did Jonah fear for his life in going to them, but, quite frankly, he also could not possibly care less if they repented and God had mercy on them.

But it’s a little hard to run away from God.  He always catches up with you sooner or later.  If that weren’t true, I wouldn’t be standing here today, I can tell you that!  It would certainly be easier for us Jonahs if we would just give in to God’s will at the beginning and not have to do all this running.  But sometimes the human heart just isn’t ready for radical change.

That was true of the scholar of the law in today’s Gospel reading.  I think his question is more about testing Jesus than really wanting to be converted, but even so, he can’t help but get caught up in Jesus’ teaching.  The question is, is he ready to “go and do likewise?”  The reading ends before he can make that decision, but the implication is that it will be very hard for him to really love his neighbor in the same way that the good Samaritan loved the robbery victim.

And so those of us who look a lot like Jonah or the scholar of the law today, need to pray for softening of our hardened hearts.  Will it take three days in the belly of a big fish for us to finally give in to God’s will?  Or can we just give in and trust?

Monday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

One of the great problems that many people have with living the spiritual life is that they want it on their own terms.  So often, we think we know what God wants, or even worse, we want God to want what we want.  And so we act according to our own desires instead of God’s, and then we’re surprised when it doesn’t work out.  If we’re honest, we all struggle with this on some level from time to time in our lives.

In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees expected the disciples of Jesus to fast.  But Jesus hadn’t asked for fasting, he asked his disciples to follow.  The Pharisees couldn’t see that, and they complained about the actions of Jesus’ disciples rather than focusing on their own spiritual lives and what God wanted from them.  They wanted everyone to be religious in the same way they were, including, quite frankly, God himself.

Juxtaposed against this is the description of Jesus as a servant in the letter to the Hebrews.  Jesus is the Son of God who could have insisted on his glory and expected everyone to fall into line or be damned.  But that was not the Father’s will, and so for him, that is not his will either.  Instead, he suffered, learned obedience, and became the source of salvation for all of us.

We are all asked by God to do something all the time.  It’s not up to us to decide what God wants or how he wants us to do it.  Our task as disciples is to follow, to obey the Lord.  Because that’s the only way we’re ever going to triumph over sin and death, the only way that we will ever be truly happy, the only way that we will find our salvation.

Monday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

One of the great problems that many people have with living the spiritual life is that they want it on their own terms.  So often, we think we know what God wants, or even worse, we want God to want what we want.  And so we act according to our own desires instead of God’s, and then we’re surprised when it doesn’t work out.  If we’re honest, we all struggle with this on some level from time to time in our lives.

Certainly Saul struggled with it.  Anointed as king over Israel, he was given very clear instructions as to what God wanted.  God wanted Saul and his army to overtake the Amalekites and destroy them from the face of the earth.  This sounds harsh, but we need to read it spiritually.  The Amalekites represented the worldly, sinful influences that the Israelites – and we! – struggle with, so they have to go.  But Saul allowed his soldiers to do what they wanted: they kept the livestock and justified it by sacrificing the best of them to God.  But God didn’t ask for sacrifice, he asked for obedience, and that disobedience will prove to be their undoing.

Similarly, the Pharisees expected the disciples of Jesus to fast.  But Jesus hadn’t asked for fasting, he asked his disciples to follow.  The Pharisees couldn’t see that, and so they too acted in disobedience.

We are all asked by God to do something all the time.  It’s not up to us to decide what God wants or how he wants us to do it.  Our task as disciples is to follow, to obey the Lord.  Because that’s the only way we’re ever going to triumph over sin and death, the only way that we will ever be truly happy.

Monday of the Second Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

One of the great problems that many people have with living the spiritual life is that they want it on their own terms.  So often, we think we know what God wants, or even worse, we want God to want what we want.  And so we act according to our own desires instead of God’s, and then we’re surprised when it doesn’t work out.  If we’re honest, we all struggle with this on some level from time to time in our lives.

Certainly Saul struggled with it.  Anointed as king over Israel, he was given very clear instructions as to what God wanted.  God wanted Saul and his army to overtake the Amalekites and destroy them from the face of the earth.  This sounds harsh, but we need to read it spiritually.  The Amalekites represented the worldly, sinful influences that the Israelites – and we! – struggle with, so they have to go.  But Saul allowed his soldiers to do what they wanted: they kept the livestock and justified it by sacrificing the best of them to God.  But God didn’t ask for sacrifice, he asked for obedience, and that disobedience will prove to be their undoing.

Similarly, the Pharisees expected the disciples of Jesus to fast.  But Jesus hadn’t asked for fasting, he asked his disciples to follow.  The Pharisees couldn’t see that, and so they too acted in disobedience.

We are all asked by God to do something all the time.  It’s not up to us to decide what God wants or how he wants us to do it.  Our task as disciples is to follow, to obey the Lord.  Because that’s the only way we’re ever going to triumph over sin and death, the only way that we will ever be truly happy.

Today’s readings

Wouldn’t we like to figure out what’s going on in God’s mind? Wouldn’t it be great to just be able to see the big picture as God sees it so that we can always do the right thing? But that’s just the point. The meaning of everything isn’t ours to know. God gives us what we need in order to follow him. If we would just open up our hearts and minds we could see what we need to see in order to be good disciples. But often we forget the grace we have been given and ignore what’s right in front of us in order to see what we want to see.

I often wonder, if we really could see the whole big picture, would we be more obedient to God’s will?  Maybe it’s our disobedience, and not God, that keeps us from seeing everything as it truly is.

When it comes down to it, though, God is God and we are not. That is what St. Paul has been trying to tell us these past couple of weeks as we’ve been reading from his letter to the Romans. We have been disobedient and cannot be obedient apart from God’s grace. Thanks be to God, he has poured out his grace and mercy upon us. We cannot see what God wants us to see apart from God’s grace. Thanks be to God, he gives us his vision when we ask for it and are disposed to receive it.

We cannot give anything to God that he has not already given us. Our desire to thank him is itself a gift from God. God made us for relationship with him. We are called to be obedient to God’s grace and mercy that we might be able to see ourselves, others, and the whole world as we really are, and to know God’s plan for our lives. The Psalmist certainly received what he asked for today, and we can too: Lord, in your great love, answer me.

 

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

Today’s readings

Saul is proof that God’s ways are not our ways.  How is it that God would pick for one of his chief Apostles a man who imprisoned and murdered the followers of the Christian Way?  That had to surprise even, and perhaps especially Saul, whose life was turned completely upside-down.  Poor Ananias had to be quaking in his boots to carry out this command of the Lord.  But thankfully both Paul and Ananias were obedient to the Lord’s command, and we are the ones who have benefited from that.  Not only has the Word of God been passed on through their faithfulness, but we see in their lives that obedience to God’s will, while it may not always make sense, is the way that true disciples live.

St. Boniface, bishop and doctor

Today's readings | Today's saint
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Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God,
a workman who causes no disgrace,
imparting the word of truth without deviation.

St. Paul encourages his friend Timothy today to remain faithful to God and the Gospel and to be a tireless worker for the Truth.  Those qualities make this reading such an appropriate one for the feast of St. Boniface, bishop and martyr.

Boniface was a Benedictine monk in England.  He gave up the real possibility of being elected abbot of his community in order to reach out to the German people.  Pope Gregory II sent Boniface to a Germany where paganism was a way of life, and where the clergy were at best uneducated and at worst corrupt and disobedient.  Reporting all of this back to Pope Gregory, the Holy Father commissioned him to reform the German Church.  He was provided with letters of introduction to civil and religious authorities, but even so met with some resistance and interference by both lay people and clergy.  Yet, he was extremely successful, centering his reforms around teaching the virtue of obedience to the clergy and establishing houses of prayer similar to Benedictine monasteries.  Boniface and 53 companions were finally martyred during a mission, in which he was preparing converts for Confirmation.

What guided Boniface, what guided Paul and Timothy, was the words of today’s Gospel reading, those words which tell us the greatest of the commandments:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

And:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

When we love as we are loved, we cannot help but remain close to God and be vessels of grace to others and of life to the Church.  Boniface, Paul and Timothy were men who loved this deeply.  We are called to love that way too, today and every day, for the honor and glory of God.