Archive for November, 2010

Are you prepared for a guest to drop-in?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

We tend to be a reactive society. We think about how we can become more valuable contributors at work after we’ve lost our job. We start our exercise routine or quit smoking after the heart attack or diabetes diagnosis. A very good friend of mine installed a new security alarm two weeks ago –  a few days after his 16-year old daughter returned home from school to a home with a burglar still inside. Although his daughter was not harmed, she is now petrified of going home when no one is there and his wife’s entire jewelry collection was stolen.

Why do we wait for something bad to happen before we decide to act?

This weekend celebrates the first Sunday of Advent.  I always thought of advent as a time of preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  It is, but it’s also considered a time of preparation for Christ’s return and for the end of our time on earth (yes, you and I will eventually die!) Advent causes us to ponder questions like, “Am I ready for Christ’s return today?”  and “If I were to die today, would I be ready for my meeting with Jesus to review how I’ve spent my precious time on this planet?” With that in mind, each of the readings have to do with hope, looking forward, staying awake, being prepared and walking in the light of the Lord – t-o-d-a-y!

In the reading from Isaiah (2:1-5),  he is offering hope to a nation that was petrified of being attacked by the Assyrians. Rather than being worried about war, Isaiah offered the people a vision for Judah and Jerusalem that didn’t include being attacked. Instead Judah and Jerusalem would become a destination site for people of other nations.  People will come in peace, without their swords and spears, and say, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”

Isaiah offered the people of Judah hope in a time of uncertainty and war. We’re offered that same gift today in these readings. Isaiah says that the people of Judah must remain faithful to their covenant with God not only to survive, but they’re also being called to be examples to other nations of how to “walk in the light of the Lord.”  You and I are called to be examples too. Are you and I people who walk in the light of the Lord?  Is Christ’s light visible in you?

Paul’s letter to the Romans (Romans 13:11-14) was written at a time (about AD 58) when Paul expected Jesus to return to earth while he was still alive.  Although the reading is quite short, Paul is sending a loud and clear wake-up call to the Romans, “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.”  I wonder if the Romans thought that they were sleep-walking through life?  Is it possible that you and I are walking through life asleep (or half-awake?) Today is our personal wake-up call.

Paul now tells us exactly what we need to do in order to wake-up: “Let us then throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Do you and I awaken each morning and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” as we would slacks or a sweater?  Is “putting on Jesus” part of our daily routine? If not, in what ways could you intentionally wear Jesus on a daily basis?

Paul describes the Romans’ darkness (non Christ-like behavior) with words like orgies, drunkenness, promiscuity, lust, rivalry and jealousy. Did you ever notice how we tend to act differently depending on what clothes we’re wearing?  Think of how your posture and language change when you take off dirty old sweat pants and put on your best suit.  I literally feel like a different person when I change my clothes. Paul is asking us to deliberately become different people – Christ-like.  Are we being asked to behave in a way that will allow us to be prepared for Christ’s return at any second of any day?  Yes.

Matthew’s Gospel (24:37-44)  continues with the themes of staying awake and being prepared. At that time, the people were looking for security and his disciples asked the question, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?” Like all of us, they were seeking security. They wanted to know when it was happening so that they’d had time to prepare. Jesus wants us to be ready for his visit at all times and tells them, “Be sure of this; if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.”  My friend Vinnie would have installed his house alarm three weeks ago had he known the exact day and time that the home he’s lived in for twenty plus years would be broken into.

“So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  While many people are focusing on parties, presents and trees (things of this world), you and I have about four weeks to contemplate our readiness to meet Jesus.  As we attend parties during this holiday season, we can make sure that we’re always wearing the “armor of light.”

If Jesus chose today as the day of his return, would you feel prepared to greet him? Would you feel that your house was in order? If not, what do you need to do to get ready?  Now is the time. Use your time wisely.

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Jesus Christ The King

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

On this weekend’s feast of Jesus Christ the King, we hear and learn from three different and wonderful readings. The first reading from Samuel (2 Samuel 5:1-3) talks about Jesus’ royal ancestor King David. In this short passage, David is appointed king of Israel by the elders of all the tribes of Israel. Although David became Israel’s greatest king, he was human like us and therefore imperfect. We’re reminded that God’s will can be accomplished through David and each of us – despite our imperfection. Reminders like this fill me with hope in today and the future.

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Colossians 1:12-20) he is filled with joy and thanks. Paul thanks God the father for Jesus who “has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light” and “is the image of the invisible God.” Because of Jesus, you and I will be “transferred to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” God, who up until this point has never been seen by humans has made himself visible in human form as Jesus.

What a gift God gave to us. He loved us so much that he sent us himself in the form of a human. Jesus told us first hand about his Father, his Father’s love for each of us and how to develop and maintain a relationship with God. We learned that by making a place for Jesus in the temple of our earthly body, we invite the divinity of Christ to live and dwell within us. You and I become walking, talking extensions of Jesus’ love each and every day and share that gift with everyone around us.

In this same passage the words “all things” are repeated five times as a reminder that everything comes from God.

For in him:

• were created all things in heaven and on earth

all things were created through him and for him

all things hold together

• we know that in all things he himself might be preeminent

• all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him

In summary, all of creation and salvation come from God through Jesus.

In Luke’s Gospel (Luke 23:35-43), Jesus is hanging on the cross being sneered at by the leaders and rulers. This reading reminds us that we have faith in the only king who not only rules over people, but who rules over death. Through our faith in Jesus, we’re promised to rise from our death and live in the splendor of everlasting life with God. With that belief, how can we allow worry and fear to infiltrate our minds?

Throughout Jesus adult life we know that it was very common for him to spend time with society’s outcasts – tax collectors, lepers, adulterers, etc. In his final moments prior to his death and resurrection, he again spends time and shows solidarity with outcasts – criminals. One thief jeers and challenges Jesus by saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The second thief has received and accepted the gift of faith and says to Jesus, “We have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

To those tremendous words of faith uttered by the second thief Jesus responds, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Pray for God’s grace so that you may receive tremendous faith in Jesus and that you will be filled with the fullness of God’s love all the days of your life. Listen to Jesus’ soft voice whispering in your ear, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The Kingdom of God is within you

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Gossip and Work

Monday, November 15th, 2010

When I think of Christianity, I think of love, service and charity. I don’t always associate it with hard work. One of the many reasons to read and re-read scripture is to remind us of all that can be forgotten.

This week’s letter from Paul (2 Thessalonians 3:7-12) to the Thessalonians gives two very clear and strong messages to the early Christians. Is it good to be prayerful, alert and ready for Jesus’ return? Yes. Does that mean that we should stop working and hang around on the coach all day in sweatpants doing nothing while waiting for his return? Not according to Paul!

Paul asks the Thessalonians to imitate his strong work ethic and behavior. Although Paul could probably have expected to be fed by his followers, he works to support himself and tells the Thessalonians, “We instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.” Wow! Are we expected to love, assist and financially support people who are incapable of working and providing for themselves? Absolutely. Should we expect people who are mentally and physically capable of working to perform some type of work in exchange for assistance with their food and shelter? Paul says, YES!

In the same relatively short letter, Paul also touches on the topic of gossip and being busybodies. Paul eloquently says, “We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others.”

Let’s review what was going on a little more than 2000 years ago my fellow Christians:

1. Some early Christians were not working to support themselves.

2. They were expecting others to pay their way through life.

3. Because they were sitting around with nothing better to do, they were sticking their noses into other people’s business.

Does that scenario sound more like 2000 years ago or November of 2010?

Paul’s very old advice will serve us equally well today: “Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food.”

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Faith and Resurrection

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

This week we focus on faith and resurrection in all three readings. In the first reading (2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14) seven brothers and a mother are willingly tortured after being arrested rather than violate God’s law (eating pork.) Can you imagine risking your life over the ingestion of a particular food? These people willingly accepted brutal sufferings and death because of their strong faith and belief that they will “live again forever.”

May our faith be as strong as theirs.

The second reading (2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5) has a very different tone. In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he’s writing to encourage the early Christians to remain faithful and to ask them for their prayers.

The Thessalonians had expected Christ’s second coming during their lifetime. They had to huddle together, remain strong and figure out how to remain faithful to Christ’s word as their disappointment increased with each passing day. Earlier this week I was waiting for a loved one to return home who was only 60 minutes later than I expected and I was worried and impatient.  Can you imagine what it must’ve been like for the early Christians waiting for the return of Jesus?

Having never physically met Jesus or heard him speak, is it more difficult for us to remain faithful than it was for the early Christians or do you feel like you really know him from studying and living his Words?

Paul is asking the Thessalonians to pray “that the word of the Lord may speed forward and be glorified, as it did among you, and that we may be delivered from perverse and wicked people, for not all have faith.”  Paul compliments them on their acceptance of Christ’s Word and reinforces his belief in them by reminding them that, “the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.”

When we keep Christ in our mind, heart and soul we are protected from any and all outside evil influences.  Faith in Christ and belief in our resurrection upon the death of our earthly body keeps us focused on our ultimate goal. This is the foundation from which each of our thoughts, words and actions originates.

In Luke’s gospel (Luke 20:27-38), the religious leaders were constantly  questioning Jesus and trying to set traps to see if they could catch him and prove him wrong. Do you remember trying to do that with a parent, teacher or coach?  The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, contrived a question based around a woman who marries each of seven brothers and unsuccessfully tries to conceive children with each. They pose this question to Jesus: “Now at the resurrection (which we do not believe in!) whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.”

I can hear the Sadducees thinking to themselves, “Gotcha!  There’s no way you can get out of this one!”

Because the Sadducees had used scripture when describing the scenario to Jesus, He decides to use scripture in his response to them.

“That the dead will rise

even Moses made known in the passage about the bush,

when he called out ‘Lord,’

the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob;

and he is not God of the dead, but of the living,

for to him all are alive.”

God is the God of the living and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are still alive!

There is life after the death of our earthly bodies We have received salvation because of Christ’s faithfulness to us.  Our responsibility now is to remain faithful to God and believe in his Word and promises. You and I will never die if we live in Christ.

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Love for Everyone and Every Thing

Monday, November 1st, 2010

In this week’s reading from Wisdom (11:22-12:2) we hear many wonderful things about God. I especially like this line describing God: “For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. In today’s, language we might say, “it’s all good!”

John Welshons has written extensively on many subjects including the subjects of grieving and death. On the topic of anger which often arises whenever there is loss of any kind, John writes, “But in point of fact, at some level, whenever we are angry about anything, we are really angry at God. We are really saying, ‘If I were God, I wouldn’t have put me in this situation.’” He goes on to say, “It’s all part of assuming that the Universe is filled with mistakes. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a perfection to it all.” John’s teaching aligns beautifully with the quotation from Wisdom. There is a perfection to it all because God has created it all!

In this week’s Gospel (Luke 10:1-10), we hear about a wealthy man and chief tax collector named Zacchaeus. In those times, tax collectors were considered to be especially dreadful people because they had gone to work for the Romans and were collecting taxes that would in no way benefit the local community. In addition, tax collectors were also known to pocket some of the collected taxes for themselves prior to making the payment to Rome.

Zacchaeus so wanted to see this man Jesus that when he heard that Jesus was coming his way, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus he called to him, “Come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.” Jesus wants to stay at the home of the chief tax collector??? What do you think the crowd thought of Jesus’ asking the chief tax collector to be his host? The people grumbled, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” Don’t you love the way they (and we judge) people? As if you and I do not sin or that Zacchaeus’ sins are worse than yours or mine!

Jesus loved everyone – including sinners – and we’re asked to do the same thing.

The other message that I received today is that if Jesus loved Zacchaeus and was willing to stay at his house, I’m very confident that you and I are worthy of Jesus’ love – despite our sins.

Zacchaeus, like all sinners, was used to being rejected by people and he was immediately accepted and embraced by Jesus. Have you ever felt unconditional love from someone? Have you ever given it to anyone? Upon feeling Jesus’ love, Zacchaeus was instantly transformed. He immediately said to Jesus, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” Jesus never asked Zacchaeus to do this. Was it Jesus’ love that inspired him to be so generous?

We know that Jesus loved the sinful Zacchaeus because he says, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Zacchaeus was seeking Jesus. I wonder if Zacchaeus thought that he was lost or didn’t realize it until feeling Jesus’ tremendous love?

Are you feeling a little lost? Do you ever feel like something is missing from your life? Jesus is still seeking us with His unconditional Love and will invite us home whenever we’re ready. Like Zacchaeus, we might have to give up some parts of our life in order to make room for Jesus. When we receive Jesus’ love, we might also be overwhelmed and filled with tremendous generosity and gratitude!

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