Monday, June 22, 2015

Saturday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - June 20, 2015

Saturday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
June 20, 2015      8:30am

All of us worry at times.
It may be about –
what the doctor will tell us,
how the treatments will go,
how we will be cared for in our older years,
our job security,
whether we will have enough money.
I think we all worry at times.
Jesus today calls us to place our trust in him.
If God takes care of the flowers and the birds, will he not also take care of us?

One of our prominent Catholic spiritual writers, Henri Nouwen, offers us some wisdom on this.
I want to share a few sentences from him and just leave that with us for our reflection today.
Henri Nouwen says this:

“Often we want to be able to see into the future.
Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step:
what we have to do in the coming hour or the following day.
The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark.
When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go.

Let’s rejoice in the little light we carry and not ask for the great beam that would take all shadows away.”

Friday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - June 19, 2015

Friday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
June 19, 2015      8:30am

In our culture, it is easy to get caught up in the newest and the latest.
Today’s advertising really attracts us to this.
The result is that we can set our hearts and our eyes on the latest style shirts or jeans or even cars.
We can also get caught up in the expectation that everything should be easy.
Many of the shows on TV present an unrealistic picture of life where things are either easy or you quickly walk away from them.
The result is that we can set our hearts and our eyes on this expectation of things being easy.

There are problems with these ways of our culture.
The newest and the latest almost always lasts for only a short time.
Its attraction wears off quickly and we want something else.
And then, in truth, the easy life does not exist.
We will end up with a lot of wreaked relationships and half-done projects if we expect things to be easy.

So, it is important where we set our hearts and our eyes.
This is Jesus’ point today.
If we set our heart and eyes on the quality of relationships with one another and with God, instead of on the newest and the latest, then there will be a firm foundation in our lives.
And if we set our heart and eyes on the belief that life and fuller life will come from denial of self and even suffering, instead of on the expectation that everything should be easy, then there will be real fulfillment in our lives.

As Jesus says, there will be light.
We will have light.

We will be living in the light of the Lord.

Wednesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - June 17, 2015

Wednesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
June 17, 2015      8:30am

We hear today’s gospel every year on Ash Wednesday.
Its focus on 1) charitable giving, 2) prayer, and 3) fasting makes it almost a perfect way to begin Lent.
Jesus’ consistent refrain in his three teachings is: do it in secret.
In other words, do it not to be seen or well thought of by others.
Do it for yourself, for God, and for your relationship with God.

One of our Catholic spiritual writers, Sister Joan Chittister, makes a comment that is very pertinent to Jesus’ teaching here.
I would like to read you what Sister Joan says – just three short sentences – and leave you with that as a reflection for today.

Sister says: “We can only do so much to make ourselves look better than we are, either physically or spiritually.
Then there is nothing left but the soul we bring to a situation with its kindness, its quality, and its openness.”
So, “Decorate yourself from the inside out.”

They are wise words, so expressive of what Jesus says in the gospel.
Be authentic, tending first and foremost your inner spirit and your relationship with God.

Make sure that our good actions flow from that and then they will be of real benefit both to others and ourselves.

Tuesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - June 16, 2015

Tuesday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
June 16, 2015      6:30am

The very last words Jesus says in today’s gospel are: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Now that is challenging.
Will we ever get to that point?
Of course not.
At least not in the way that we usually think of perfection – as having no defect, as being sinless, as being completely good.

One of our Catholic theologians, Father Richard Rohr, gives us an insight that may lead us to think about Jesus’ words here a bit differently.
Father Rohr says this:
“If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own.
A ‘perfect’ person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection (like God does), rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond any imperfection.”

Father Rohr’s insight is that Jesus calls us to holiness, to goodness.
And Jesus’ call to perfection actually gets fulfilled in our humble acceptance of imperfection within ourselves, in others and in the world around us.
This humble acceptance of imperfection leads us to a right relationship with God, a healthy and realistic sense of ourselves, and, amazingly, the love of others that Jesus talks about in this passage.

So, a different, and I think insightful twist on this passage today.

Monday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B - June 15, 2015

Monday of the 11th Week in Ordinary Time
June 15, 2015      8:30am

Jesus’ sayings today lead me to several reflections.

First, Jesus says, “When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other one to him as well.”
Here I do not think Jesus means that we should allow ourselves to be abused or disrespected, physically or verbally.
Instead, we have the right and the responsibility to protect ourselves and remove ourselves from situations like that.
I have especially advised women who are in abusive situations to get out and take their children with them.
Jesus does not will or intend this kind of thing.

Second, Jesus refers to the law of the early Hebrew Scriptures, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”
He is not teaching this or even reaffirming it.
Instead, Jesus quotes that law because it was an advance.
It limited the amount of retribution you could take for an offense.
So if someone hits you in the eye, according to that law, you could hit them in the eye, but you could not do more than that – like shooting them or something like that.

Third, what Jesus is really doing here is raising the bar higher.
He doesn’t want us even to take an eye for an eye.
Instead, he wants us to refrain from anything that is vengeful or destructive.
He wants us to deal with our anger and hurt in some other way, to process our feelings, and then not act out of them in vengeance.
He wants us to act constructively.

And fourth, underneath Jesus’ teaching is the great truth than real strength lies in restraint and not in hitting back.
Self-esteem comes not from diminishing others as they have diminished me, but rather from living out of a center within where God is present.
We realize our innate value and acquire a sense of this not by beating up another in return, but by responding to another as Jesus himself would do.

So, a challenging passage with much to reflect on today!