Archive for February, 2011

Worry or Faith?

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Wars, rising gas prices, falling home prices, high unemployment, failed marriages, and corruption within governments.  We read, watch and hear stories about bad news several times per day and we wonder why we’re anxious?

What thoughts do we allow to dominate our minds?  Are they thoughts and worries provided to us incessantly by the media or are they the promises brought to us by Jesus?

It’s imperative that we choose the food we feed our mind wisely.

This weekend’s gospel passage from Matthew should be read at least once a week (if not daily) in order to stay faith-focused.  This (Jesus) really is the bread of life.

Even back in Jesus’ time, people were worrying about food, drink, health and clothing – not much has changed, huh? In response to the worry that Jesus saw everywhere he gave us these words:

No one can serve two masters.

He will either hate one and love the other,

or be devoted to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon (money/wealth).

Where are we placing our faith?  Is it in God or is it in wealth?  Can peace on earth and everlasting peace be provided with accumulated wealth? That’s what Jesus meant when he said we can’t serve two masters.  When we place our faith in God, we trust that we’ll always be fed, clothed and provided for just as he provides for the birds and flowers.

Jesus asks the people some really great questions:

  • Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
  • Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life span?
  • Why are you anxious about clothes?
  • If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

If we were really faith-filled, how much would we be worrying?

The next part of this passage is really good. “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ ALL THESE THINGS THE PAGANS SEEK.”   If the pagans are asking the exact same questions, what is different about a mind that is filled with Jesus’ promises and a pagan’s?

A pagan is an individual who does not acknowledge God.  Do we have faith and trust in God – yes or no?  Are we talking to God? Are we listening for answers?  Jesus is the foundation of our faith.  If we really believe in Jesus, we should know what he said and then trust those words.  Repetition of Jesus’ words provide us with peace and hope as we live in a world surrounded by anxious people.   It’s not just the media that can cause us to feel anxious; family and friends who are not faith-filled are often sources of anxiety-producing thoughts.

Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.

When we place our trust in money or material goods, our foundation is unstable. With God as our foundation, we trust that we will always be in good hands – fed, clothed and loved. With these promises deeply rooted in our minds and hearts, we are filled with peace within and are able to share this peace and light with  those around us.

Be certain that you’re feeding your mind with the bread of life.

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So, You Want To Be A Christian…

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

This weekend’s readings give us many clear instructions on what it means to be a holy Christian.

In the first reading (Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18), we’re clearly told not to “bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.”  Not only are we instructed not to hate, the reading goes on to say that we’re not allowed to take revenge or hold grudges against “any of your people.”

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Assuming that we do in fact love ourselves, imagine what our families and communities would be like if we really did love our neighbors as much as we loved ourself.  How’s that for a goal?  Do you think that it’s achievable?

In case we’re not feeling that great about ourself, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 3:16-23) will remind us of just how loved and valuable we are.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”  If we are in fact temples of God and if the Spirit of God is living in us, we’ve invited God to live within our mind, heart and within every cell of our being.  We are holy because we belong to God.

In this week’s gospel (Matthew 5:38-48), Jesus instructs with specific examples as to how we’re to move away from hatred and revenge and embrace love. Think of how this lesson compares with the norm in our culture:

When someone strikes you on your right cheek,

turn the other one as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,

hand over your cloak as well.

Should anyone press you into service for one mile,

go for two miles.

Give to the one who asks of you,

and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

Take a deep breath. Just when you might think that you can adopt that teaching, Jesus immediately gives us more:

You have heard that it was said,

‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

But I say to you, love your enemies.

and pray for those who persecute you.

It’s easy to love people who are like us and who are lovable.  The challenge is to love those who are different from us and those who challenge us and hurt us. They are the very people Jesus asks us to love.

As Jesus looks upon each of us with the loving eyes of a father or brother, we are to love each person we encounter with that same unconditional love. We’re to pray for those who are deliberately hurting and persecuting us.  Our goal is purity of heart.

Is it easy being a Christian? No.  As we take on the mind of Christ and pray for God’s grace, we become more and more Christ-like each and every day.  Love takes over the space where revenge and hatred used to reside.

You and I are the temple of God. As we embrace the Spirit of God living within us, we understand that nothing is impossible.

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Choosing Wisdom

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

The Book of Sirach was written in the late third to early second century BC by Ben Sira. Sira was a philosophy teacher in Jerusalem and the book of Sirach is thought to be a collection of his class notes.

In this weekend’s reading (Sirach 15:15-20), the Jewish teachings and traditions are guiding us how to live in accord with God’s wisdom.  The author suggests that we have many choices in life and that we choose to keep the commandments and to trust in God. We’re also encouraged to choose life over death and good over evil. He goes on to say that, whichever he chooses shall be given him.  In modern psychological terms, we get what we expect.

Each time that we act unjustly, it is the result of our choice.  Every thought, word and action we display is the result of choice.  Can we choose what to think?  Yes. Do we choose what we say?  Yes.  Do we choose each of our actions?  Yes again.

Upon whose wisdom do we call in order to think, speak and act?

Wisdom is the theme in the second reading from Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:6-10).  Paul is asking us to use God’s wisdom instead of the wisdom of our leaders and other mortals around us.  God’s wisdom is made known to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Are you receptive to the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we living our lives as a result of the world’s wisdom or God’s?  God’s wisdom is within our grasp.  Ask and it will be given.

In this week’s gospel from Matthew (Matthew 5:17-37), Jesus expands upon the commandments and Jewish laws so that we can happily and easily live and speak the truth of Jesus.

When talking about the commandment to “not kill”, Jesus elaborates on the word “kill” and says, “whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” He further tells us to not call our brothers and sisters fool, idiot or imbecile.  We’re asked to reconcile with everyone quickly. In this same reading he also expands upon the topics of adultery and divorce.

At the end of this section of the gospel, Jesus give us advice on the Jewish law, “Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.” There is no need to place our hands on a bible and “swear to tell the truth” and say things like “I swear to God” because we are ALWAYS speaking the truth.  In Jesus’ words, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’  Anything more is from the evil one.”

Common sayings these days are, “to be perfectly honest” and “to tell you the truth”. I cringe every time that I hear a radio or television personality or anyone else use these phrases because they’re implying that at other times, “I am not telling you the truth.”

Wisdom defined: Wisdom is a deep understanding and realizing of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to choose or act to consistently produce the optimum results with a minimum of time and energy. It is the ability to optimally (effectively and efficiently) apply perceptions and knowledge and so produce the desired results. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true or right coupled with optimum judgment as to action.

This week’s messages:

Put your faith in God’s wisdom

We have the power to choose at all times – choose wisely.

“What God has prepared for those who love him, this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”

Choose love instead of anger.

Choose words of praise for others instead of words of ridicule.

Always speak the truth. Say what you mean and mean what you say.

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He is the Son of God

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

In this week’s first reading (Isaiah  49: 3, 5-6), Isaiah learns that he is God’s servant and  a vessel for God to show his glory.  He also learns that God is his source of strength and that God will do the actual work through Isaiah in restoring Israel and bringing salvation.

The Lord tells Isaiah (and us) , “It is too little for you to be my servant.”  God says, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”

These readings speak to us just as clearly as they did to Isaiah. Today we can ask ourself:

Am I a light to the nations?

Am I being all that God is calling me to be?

Is God the source of my strength?

Does my service to God end as I exit the church doors or am I a shining light seven days a week?

In today’s second reading (1 Corinthians 1:1-3), Paul defends his authority, reminds us of our call to be holy and united and extends a beautiful greeting/blessing to the Corinthians.

Paul says listen to me because I’ve been specifically chosen to bring you this message. His words are, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” He’s writing to the Corinthians and to us as he says, “to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.”   To  be sanctified means to be set apart for sacred use.

Do you consider yourself set apart for sacred use?  This reading aligns perfectly with Isaiah’s message of what God is calling us to be.

Here is Paul’s greeting/blessing:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Can you imagine greeting or saying goodbye to  people that way?  Image if we were paying for family, friends and enemies to be filled with the grace and peace of God?

What will the world be like when that happens?

John the Baptist is holding center court in today’s gospel (John 1:29-34). He proclaims Jesus as the Lamb of God and the Son of God.  Although John didn’t know Jesus, he says that, “the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.

John testifies that Jesus is the Son of God saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.”  He knew that this was the sign that he was looking for because “the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’”

In no uncertain terms John emphatically proclaims, “Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.

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