Thursday, August 6, 2015

It is good that we are here!

Last night while I was out exercising with my 8 year old daughter I began meditating on the readings for today's Feast Day. To be fair, there are myriads of different messages and a vast plethora of
theological and typological things happening. So much so that you could really reflect on just about anything and find something deep in the imagery and events of those excepts from scripture. My daughter, however, in her youthful innocence said something (which I'll write about a little later) that triggered me to think about this statement of Peters.  "Rabbi, it is good that we are here!"'

  If we look back to earlier in this passage we find that Jesus has already informed them that some of them will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming on a cloud of glory. That sounds like a very positive thing indeed. Yet, it also infers that some of them will have died as well. Facing our own mortality is never easy. Then Jesus goes on to start describing what must happen in Jerusalem, that he must go down to die a heinous death. How horrible to hear your friend, your teacher, your brother; speak of their own death in such terms.

 Then as the Holy Spirit and the glory of God is revealed in Jesus at this moment, we see that the apostles were terrified! How terrifying indeed, for it proves that not only is Jesus the Messiah, but everything he said is going to come to pass! Peter blurts out something that is a good thing, but also shows our mortality. "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." Why would Peter want to do this? Well it was a holy moment to be sure, and what had just happened was something amazing. I am sure he was awestruck. Also, his fear had something to do with it. Peter did not want to go back down the mountain. Going down the mountain meant facing Jesus death and betrayal. Going down the mountain meant leaving this glorious moment, where the true gory that Christ is due was revealed. Going down the mountain meant facing his own death, his own inner demons, as well.

 Why would I think of this as my daughter and I were jogging around the block? Something she said struck me as profound for her young age. We were talking about how when we jog around she really enjoys it, because she gets to see new things. She isn't always in the same spot. Then I mentioned that her mother and I had talked about going to different parks and recreational areas so that we can see new spots while we exercise. Then my daughter said the strangest thing, "Yeah but we don't want to go to Japan or China."

 I said, "Why not there? I am sure there are many beautiful gardens and things to see in those countries."

 She replied, "Because in some places there I can't say that I love Jesus! They might kill me!"

 I explained to her that while that was true in some parts, that there were many places in those countries were she would be free to talk about her love for Christ. I also explained that there were many people in those countries who also loved Jesus, and were willing to speak about it even if it meant being hurt.

 You see, just like my daughter, I'm often afraid to come down off the mountain. While some people are called to cloistered life in a monastery or nunnery, many of us are laypeople. It is our job to be the domestic church. To go out into the world and to spread the light of Christ as we go. Our environment doesn't change, rather we are to change our environment. In the second reading, Peter talks about his experience on the mountain top. "You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." Peter reminds us that by the virtue of our baptism, we have received the Holy Spirit, and we too are lights in the world. We are not supposed to place those lights under a basket, but on a hill for all to see.

 We must experience "metanoia," a fancy Greek word meaning a complete turning around of our lives(almost a turning upside down or inside out), until we too shine with the glory of Christ. We are not supposed to spend all of our time behind closed doors. Our religion does not end when we leave the Sanctuary. We receive Christ in the Eucharist, then we are charged to go forth and share the good news with the world. We must be transfigured, and conformed to Christ so fully in our lives, that the very places that we journey can become small reminders of the glory of Christ, and in our own way help bring God's Kingdom right here to the now.

 How about you? Are you ready to come down the mountain? Are you being transfigured by the Holy Spirit to shine your light into the darkness of the world? Are you ready to be the hands and feet of Christ?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Hot Burn Baby

As I sat in adoration yesterday reflected on the readings for today in preparation for this mornings Communion Service, I began to muse on the actions of the Israelites as they were journeying through the desert. It reminded me of an incident in my own life from when I was a small child. My mother
had warned me over and over about the stove. She told me "Hot burn baby, and mommy too." She knew what was good for me. Being the stubborn mule of a child that I was, I didn't believe she knew better. So I waited till she was out of the room and I pulled a chair over to the stove. I turned the electric eye on as high as it would go. As soon as it was red hot I put my hand down on it. Of course.. she was right, it burned me.

She took me to the doctor and he put some salve on it. Then he told her, "you take him home and bust his butt." Why? Because I didn't listen. It's kind of like those Israelites here in the desert. In the past few days we have heard how they saw all of these miracles. They saw the plagues in Egypt. The red sea parted. Pharaoh's army swallowed up in the waters. Then when they grumbled about not having their fancy foods from Egypt, God himself provided bread from heaven miraculously on the ground for them to eat. Now he has led them day and night with a massive pillar of flame and smoke. Something to remind them every day of the power of God. He led them to the promised land and said "Here it is, everything you could ever want, fertile soil, plenty of water.. a land of milk and honey. Take it, I give it to you." They don't believe him. They grumble and complain. They spread rumors about how tough it will be. They refuse to go. They don't think the Lord knows better than the they do.

Then we see in the Gospel reading a complete turn around. We see a woman who is the "they." The enemy. The "other." She should be going to her own gods, her idols for help. Instead a Canaanite comes to a Jewish Rabbi and begs for His help. He even almost insults her, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs," Jesus responds. Then she makes a declaration of faith, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” How powerful a statement this is! Jesus commends her faith and performs a miracle because of it.

  I think that is our lesson for today. To trust in the power of God, to trust even when it seems it might be difficult. No matter where he is calling us, no matter how difficult the odds, we should be trusting and step forth in faith. How hard would it be to swallow your pride and go to the 'enemy,' and ask them for a favor? Even after they call you a dog? Are you ready to step out in faith and go where God leads you? To undertake even those tasks that look like they are too hard to overcome? There is a beautiful saying in the 11th chapter of Luke that expresses it so well. " “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Let's believe in those promises, stepping out into the land of milk and honey. In this world of strange happenings and skewed moral compasses, we need our faith more than ever.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Problem of the Eunuch..

Tonight I saw someone wondering about something that I too wondered about many years ago.  You see I grew up in a church that taught people that Baptism was nothing more than a symbol.  It was kind of a public declaration, a promise ring of sorts, that you did when you were 'saved'.   You did it not because it did anything to you, but to show others that you were converted.   Not only was it only symbolic.. but you could do it as many times as you wanted, until you finally actually stuck with it.  Baptism was basically the same as saying, "Look at me, I am a Christian."

Tonight after reading some others asking themselves why get baptized then, why would Jesus command it? Etc if it were only a symbol... it struck me that there is a fatal flaw to the reasoning that it's just a symbol.  That flaw lies in the story of the the Ethiopian Eunuch in Chapter 8 of the book of Acts.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this scripture he told him the good news of Jesus.  And as they went along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What is to prevent my being baptized?”  Acts 8:35-36

One has to ask themselves some logical questions and get logical answers.  That's what I love about being Catholic.  We reason things out (and people have been doing so for 2000 years.)  So what is going on here? Well the Eunuch has realized he needs someone to teach him about the Scriptures, and God sends someone along, an authority, to help him understand what he's reading.  After Philip explains it all to him, the Eunuch wants to be baptized.  Why is that a problem to 'symbolic' baptism? Well let's reason out why the Eunuch would want to do so, and why would he be excited by the prospect?

The Eunuch it says in a previous verse is had "come to Jerusalem to worship."   The Eunuch was not allowed in with the Jews, because he wasn't a Jew.  He was a gentile.  That posed a problem for the Eunuch because he was a God fearing man. The Gentiles, as you see from the image, were not allowed in the inner areas of the temple.  They could approach but not go inside.  Then the women were a little closer to God, then the men even closer, then the Priests actually in his presence.  So to 'get closer' to God, the Eunuch would have wanted to be a Jew.

There is a problem there.  He can't be a Jew.  Why not?  Well he lacks the proper equipment to be circumcised.   That means he can never become one of the children of God, one of the chosen race.  The Jewish people didn't see circumcision as just a symbol, they saw it as making you one of them.  Literally becoming one of God's people.  "I will be your God, and you will be my people."   Circumcision then was something the Eunuch would have wanted badly but could never do.  He would always be an outsider.  Always in the outer court of the Gentiles, never one of the 'in crowd.'

Why then would baptism seem like something he would want? Because he realizes that there is nothing preventing him from becoming part of the Body of Christ.  He doesn't say to Philip, hey thanks, I believe.  He rather says, "Here is water, let's do this!"   He's excited because God has just made a way for any man, not just the ones who are 'complete' in their body, but even those who have been disfigured can now become part of the family of God.  He can become of the Children of God now, via Baptism.  Baptism meant something to him, because it was more than a public confession.. it was a Sacrament!

More verses to read and study: Matthew 3:16; Matthew 28:19; Mark 1:8; Mark 16:16; John 3:5; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:16; Acts 8:36-38; Acts 11:16; Acts 16:15; Acts 16:33; Acts 18:8; Acts 19:3-6; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:25-26; Col. 2:12; 1 Peter 3:20-21,

Dressing up, Dressing down, Dressing out?

10 the Lord said to Moses: Go to the people and have them sanctify themselves today and tomorrow. Have them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day; for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.  Exodus 19:10-11 NAB

I've been reading a lot about modesty lately.  In reading those articles I often find articles also about 'dressing up' for Mass.  In reading about that I've felt convicted a few times about wearing my blue jeans and t-shirts.  I normally try to spiff up a little you know, a polo shirt or a button down shirt, Some slacks or khakis.   That's my look really for Mass.   I kept feeling though like I should be wearing a 'shirt and tie.'  I quickly pushed that out of my mind, it's summer!  It's 85+ out there, I already sweat enough as it is!

Then last night I felt the conviction again and talked to my wife about it. We both talked about the pros and cons, almost in a practical manner.  I was raised in a Baptist church where blue jeans and t-shirts were common for weekend services and everyone always said "God is no respecter of persons, he doesn't look at your clothes.'   You're right there.  God doesn't look at my clothes, he looks at my heart.  He judges my actions and their motives.

That brings me to this though... if I truly believe that Jesus Christ is physically present; body, soul and divinity; in the Eucharist... then how would I show that?   If the President were coming to town and having a banquet, I'd dress up for that.   If the bishop were coming to our parish, I'd be in my tux and knights regalia.  Yet, Jesus Christ is there every weekend.  He's not judging me based on my outside dress, but what are my motives? What are my actions?  Am I showing Him how much I love Him?   Am I treating Him with more respect and dignity than I would a visiting dignitary?

I still didn't want to wear my tie.  In fact, I didn't even know where it was.  I had 'halfheartedly' looked for it but had not found it.   Then while I was washing clothes last night I noticed my button up dress shirt in a pile of dirty laundry.  I grabbed it and just tossed it in with the others knowing I was going to need it for my scrutinies in a few weeks.  I washed clothes, and dried them.  Then while I was removing the clothes from the drier this morning to put it on my eyes locked on to something hanging behind the dryer on a pipe.  There, clean and crisp, was my tie.

I get it ok?  The shirt was right there.  The tie was right there.  All that was keeping me from putting it on ... was me.   So today I showed up to Mass in a tie.  Many people commented on my dress.  My daughter even asked me, why are you dressed up?  To which I responded, "I got invited to see Jesus this morning, so I dressed up for it."   She said, "Can you tone it down a little? That's too fancy for Mass."

We got a lot of work to do.  Starting right here in our own homes.  Our kids need to see us treating Mass as if it is worth dressing up for, because it is.  If our kids think that wearing a shirt and tie is too fancy for Mass?  We've missed the mark somewhere.  Yes, I know each persons best is different.  If your best clothes are honestly a pair of jeans and a clean t-shirt, don't feel bad for wearing them.  If you have a suit in the closet and you're wearing your ratty junk to Mass?  Something is wrong in our heart when we act that way.

Dress to show how you believe, offer yourself as a living sacrifice at Mass.  If you sweat?  So be it.  Uncomfortable collar?  Offer it up.  You're in the presence of the King of Kings.... it's time for us as Catholics to show the world what that means.

In Christ,


Friday, July 24, 2015

The dishes, again.

I looked into the kitchen this morning, after spending the day in bed in pain.  I lifted too much yesterday and was just unable to get up this A.M.  The dishes weren't done.  I for some reason expected to magically get up at noon and find them washed.  There they were though.  Still waiting for me.

I've put them off a good portion of the day.  Waiting for someone to decide that's their cleaning for today.  Then I made the mistake.   I went to the bathroom and decided to read the Pope's homily.  Doesn't that always kick your butt into gear?  I was reading about the wedding of Cana and how that Mary wasn't concerned with herself whatsoever.  She didn't go gossip to her friends about the poor organization.  She didn't run and say did you see that?  They ran out of wine!  How shameful!   No, rather she was concerned for the other.  Mother Mary instead went to Jesus.  She prayed.  Then she went to deliver a message.  She said "Do what he tells you."  Then the Pope used those words that convicted my heart, "after all Jesus came to serve, not to be served."

My mind began to meditate on so many things.  First and foremost on the life of Father Solanus Casey, whose example often convicts me to shame and repentance.   Father Solanus took the hardest chores, took the tasks he was given with obedience and joy.  He, even in his pain, often ran up and down the stairs to get where he was going.  Never complaining.  Even when in confined to a bed in the hospital, he would hear people's problems with compassion and joy.
Father Solanus Casey

Then my mind wandered to Mother Theresa and her example of taking the hardest job for herself.  My mind reels at how often I want someone else to do the dishes.  I think of my friends, one of whom hates the dishes and another who loves them.  What makes that difference?  Why do we hate it?  Why do we love it?  Isn't it really just perspective?

Then I go back to Thich Nhaht Hahn and his writing that doing the dishes can be a moment with God, a moment of interconnection and love.  If we think and ponder on the reality that is a plate.  How it got there?  How many things it touched on the way.  How many lives were involved to get these pieces of sand to my hands.   How that God created it all and it belongs to Him.  Ah, so much to think about, and what better way than to place your hands in the warm sudsy water and begin to contemplate the mysteries of the universe.

So here I am.. off to do the dishes.

Mother Teresa