Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Loving God, Loving Others

Monday, March 21st, 2011

On this first Sunday during lent, the main themes are sin and temptation. Lent is a time of preparation for Easter and allows us the space to ascertain where we may have separated or drifted away from God. The first reading from Genesis (Genesis 2:7-9: 3: 1-7) tells the story of Eve, the serpent and Adam.  We get to think about the question: Are God’s instructions and commandments meant for our good – so that we can be happy, peaceful and close to God and each other or are they for God’s good?  If we believed that God’s instructions were for our good, we’d be even more likely to listen and follow.

The definition of sin that I like the best comes from the world of archery and means to be “off target.”  If our objectives are to love God and love  each other, then anything that deviates from this love (or target) could be considered sin (off target).  In Carl McColman’s book, The Lion, The Mouse and The Dawn Treader,  he writes “Whether arising from willful evil or negligent mistakes, sin always undermines love and separates us from God and from one another.”

In the garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by the serpent to eat from a delicious looking tree that the serpent promised that those who ate from it, “will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”  In Matthew’s gospel, (Matthew 4:1-11) Jesus is temped three times by the devil in the desert.  Each time that Jesus is tempted, he quotes scripture:

  • When the devil says, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread”,  Jesus replies:
    • It is written: One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
  • The devil then says, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” (off the parapet of the temple) Jesus’ response:
    • Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.
  • The devil tries one last time saying, “All these (kingdoms) I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” Again, Jesus knew exactly how to respond to this temptation:
    • Get away Satan!  It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.

I have the ability to remember song lyrics from the 1960’s and 70’s and lines from many movies.  Am I as good at quoting Jesus?  Are you?

We have been freed from sin by our savior, Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to be slaves to sin any more.  Just as Jesus was tempted many times, you and I are  tempted to deviate from loving God and loving others several times a day.  We can ask ourselves, “Is my mind filled with scripture like Jesus’ mind was when tempted?”   “When tempted today, could I quote from scripture to stay on target?”  “Do I ask God to be present with me in each of my thoughts, words and actions on a daily basis?”

St. Paul asks us to take on the mind of Christ.  Lent is a great time for additional prayer, study, worship and learning.  Daily reading of scripture allows us to fill our minds and hearts with the Word of God while developing the mind of Christ.

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Blessing or Curse?

Monday, March 7th, 2011

Moses tells the people (Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32),

I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse:  a blessing for obeying the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, but turn aside from the way I ordain for you today.

We’re all aware of the saying that, “ignorance is bliss.”  Not knowing something is often more comfortable than knowing it.  When we know that something is good for us and still choose not to do it, it often causes us to feel uncomfortable.  We feel that way because we know that there is a better way to live and we’re deliberately choosing to ignore that knowledge.

When we learn how to eat correctly and how to exercise properly and regularly in order to maintain a healthy body and don’t implement, we suffer mentally because we know better and we suffer physically with a body that is out of shape.

The same phenomenon happens spiritually.

Jesus sends a similar message in this week’s Gospel from Matthew (Matthew 7:21-27):

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.

As followers of Jesus, we’re asked to do more than listen to the word of God. We’re expected to live the word of God with our actions.  We’re expected to align Jesus’ words with our own. We’re called to be the presence of Jesus in all that we say and do throughout the week – not just for a couple of hours on Saturday or Sunday.

We’ve been blessed by hearing Jesus’ words and receiving the gift of the awareness of God’s love for every one of us.  As in the case with my knowledge of diet and exercise, now that we’ve been blessed with the awareness of how God asks us to live, we’re not supposed to turn away and ignore the advice. In Jesus’ words:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Build your house – your life – on a solid, rock foundation.

Listen to the words of Jesus.

Act on those words.

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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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