Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mad As...King David?

Today's Psalm response is from Psalm 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19.  The psalm is beautiful, and full of great depth of meaning:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,  to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,  and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.

I have to say, though, the little preface at the beginning of the psalm (added to let us know the why/when of the writing of this psalm) made me laugh out loud.  It reads:

A Psalm of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

David was in the courts of Achish (also known as Abimelech), when word came that he was "the" David...
“Is not this David the king of the land? Did they not sing to one another of him in dances,    ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands’?”  So David knew he was found out.  His reputation had put him in a tough spot.  He was afraid now.  But, using his wits, he feigned madness.  Drool running down his beard and all."Then said A′chish (Abimelech) to his servants, 'Lo, you see the man is mad; why then have you brought him to me?  Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to play the madman in my presence? Shall this fellow come into my house?' ”

So this was the occasion of the writing of this psalm.  God had delivered David, in what would seem a very unorthodox manner.

There are times in my own life when I don't see how I should have escaped a situation relatively unscathed.  Or if a bit wounded, how I came out of the predicament at all.  God delivers us from temptations and tough times, still strengthened by His grace.  Even if we have to admit we're a bit mad...  :o)

"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all."

The Least

‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’  Matthew 25:40

This is only a short portion from yesterday's Gospel reading.  But it says so much to us.  

Last night, I had the privilege of working with our parish St. Vincent de Paul Society.  Twice a week, our food pantry is open.  There are individuals available to help those who may have need with their rent or utility bills, and also helping with other resources (job search, community outreaches, etc.).

The temperatures in our area were subzero last night.  We still have several inches of snow on the ground, with many sidewalks not very clear.  One sweet lady had walked about two and a half blocks, and was going to carry four or five heavy bags of food, plus a sack of potatoes, all that way back--on foot, through the snow, in the cold.  I offered to transport her.  She was very reluctant, as we had "already done so much for her."  She finally accepted, though, and we were at her apartment in no time at all.  When she thanked me, and offered me a hug, it was my turn to gladly accept.  

When I returned to my car, I was so humbled.  I have often hear people speak of "seeing Jesus" in those to whom they have assisted or ministered.  That was my experience.  I felt I was not just doing it for that dear little lady, but for Christ.  I'm not sure I can adequately express the impact that short encounter made upon me.  

I do know I want to experience that again a multitude of times.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Who's in the Driver's Seat?

"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, 
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
'This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.' ”
 Mark 1:12-15

Today's Gospel reading is the same theme as every first Sunday in Lent:  Jesus in the desert, being tempted by Satan.  For most Christians, this is familiar territory.  For those who observe the Lenten fast, it is our example.  Christ spent those 40 days in preparation for ministry.  As we know from the other Gospel accounts (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), Jesus spent that time fasting. 

Mark's account says the Spirit "drove" Jesus into the desert.  He compelled Jesus to go.  Matthew and Luke use the word "led."  The concept is of One who is surrounded by the Spirit, and is being pulled forward into something God wants Him to do.  Not "forced," but "led."

This morning, our pastor, Fr. Joe, said something very profound:  "The wilderness is not just a place of desolation.  It is a place of learning."

These Lenten fasts can sometimes seem to last fooooreeever.  In the midst of it, it is tempting to just give in.  Jesus was tempted to make bread from stones.  After all, He was hungry, and He was God in the flesh.  Why not?  Clearly, Jesus knew it wasn't the time for that.  During our fast, we will be tempted to give up our fast because "we just can't do it" for a full 40 days.  There is a beauty and strengthening in the discipline and tenacity of sticking to our fast.  

Even if we feel that the "wild beasts" of our lives (the temptations) are pulling at us, let's hold fast (pun intended) to our resolutions, and allow this time to draw us ever closer to Christ. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Live and Let Live

This is my short take on today's Gospel acclamation.

Our joy should come when someone comes to knowledge of Christ and enters into a relationship with Him.  We should not be overjoyed when a wicked person dies.

Because God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The People of God

Last night, my husband and I experienced a sort of "deja vu" moment.  We were visiting Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Garfield Heights, Ohio.  I am pretty sure the majority of Catholics in the United States see the face of Catholicism as white or Hispanic.  I am also pretty sure they are wrong.  Last night was a beautiful time of prayer and worship with our African American brothers and sisters.  It was, to me, a coming together of the best of all I've known as a Christian--the amazing wonder of the liturgy and the worship of a community of many colors.

For the first years of our marriage, most of them were spent in Highland Park, Michigan.  The congregation there was a beautiful palette of races.  Our times of singing and worship were heartfelt, full of passion, and a musical style that touched something deep within my soul.  Though I grew up in mostly-white southwest Kansas farm country, I have often felt there was a bit of the land of Africa in me, too.  Something about the fervor of it all resonates within me.

The typical American Catholic parish is not so.  Some, of course, more than others.  But I fear we are missing out on something very rich when we do not allow ourselves to fellowship with those of other races on an ongoing basis.  "We are one Body, one Body in Christ..."  And for anyone who thinks Catholics are too "unwelcoming" or keep too much to themselves, I give you one bit of advice:  visit Holy Spirit Church and get a new perspective on that matter.  ;o)

Since becoming Catholic, the liturgy speaks to me in a way too deep for words.  Thus, the combination of the two is something I am at a loss to describe.  (Heavenly?)
I will let the rest of this post speak for itself.


A Pleasing Sacrifice

I was planning to focus on one of today's Mass readings, but they all flow together so beautifully.  The readings are from Isaiah 58:1-9a, Psalm 59, and Matthew 19:14-15.  Each of them talks about how we are to fast and repent.  It's not about giving up "things" so much as having a heart that is contrite (remorseful, penitent) and a humble attitude.

Artwork by Ronald Barba

But the thing that just popped out to me is the verse before the Gospel, from Amos 5:14:

"Seek good and not evil so that you may live, and the Lord will be with you."

That pretty much sums up the whole Christian life, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Life or Death Decision

I open with an apology for not posting yesterday.  I have some good excuses!  The Oremus study instructed us to reflect on the passage that most spoke to us (from the previous days' readings).  It was Ash Wednesday, so a busy day for me.  And...I just didn't get to it.  :o)

For the next several days' reflections, I will choose one of the daily Mass readings.  We have a reading from the Old Testament (usually--sometimes a New Testament reading), a Psalm, and a reading from one of the Gospels every day.

Today's Old Testament reading is from Deuteronomy 30:15-20:

"Moses said to the people:
'Today I have set before you
life and prosperity, death and doom.
If you obey the commandments of the LORD, your God,
which I enjoin on you today,
loving him, and walking in his ways,
and keeping his commandments, statutes and decrees,
you will live and grow numerous,
and the LORD, your God,
will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy.
If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,
but are led astray and adore and serve other gods,
I tell you now that you will certainly perish;
you will not have a long life
on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.
I call heaven and earth today to witness against you:
I have set before you life and death,
the blessing and the curse.
Choose life, then,
that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God,
heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.
For that will mean life for you,
a long life for you to live on the land that the LORD swore
he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.' ”

The key phrases/words:



The choice set before them mirrors the choice given to Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis:  the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Adam and Eve had the same options Moses is giving to the Israelites in Deuteronomy.  If they chose one tree, they would continue to walk in communion with God.  If they chose the other tree, they would know God's judgment.

The consequences of their actions seem a bit unfair to us.  After all, why should it matter if one chooses to eat from a certain tree?  What is the problem with walking in our own ways?

The answer is love.

Though that may appear a bit simplistic, think it through.  The God who made the universe, and who knows the beginning from the end, asks for us to love and obey Him.  He gives us the option of choosing.  But the beautiful thing we see here is that He tells us the outcome of each decision.  He gives us the 4-1-1, the "heads up," the insider information...it's very clear.

Join me in choosing life.  I vote for life, prosperity, and blessing over death, doom, and curse!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Truly, My Hope Is In You

What a beautiful psalm to meditate upon, as we begin Lent tomorrow!  It seems as if this could have been the song in Jesus' heart as He entered the wilderness.  He was in a dry and thirsty land, yet found His refreshment in His Father's presence.

We all have those "dry" times in our lives.  It seems we are walking in a spiritual desert.  All around us appears as a wasteland.

Oh, but let us gaze upon Him in the sanctuary.  There, we will find a fountain to replenish our souls.

For His steadfast love is great!

Ready for Lent???

Monday, February 16, 2015

Unfathomable Love

Today's reading is from Romans 8:31-39.  Rather than re-post the entire passage, you can read it at the link provided.

Key thoughts on this passage today:

- God is for us.  He's on our side!

- He gave Jesus up for us.  He provided the means of our salvation.

- He loved us that much.

- He is the only one who could judge us, yet is the one who provides justification for us.

- Jesus intercedes for us.  I don't know about you, but that really amazes me.  The only one who could
   condemn is the one who prays for us.  No condemnation.

- NOTHING can separate us from His love.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.  Wow.

This is not a 50 Shades kind of love, friends.  This is the real deal.