Archive for February, 2009

the Day of Fasting

February 27, 2009

Welcome back to our continuing pursuit of the Lord.  Today I would like to begin our reflections by reading a very brief portion of today’s Old Testament reading. 

“Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.”

Today is Friday – traditionally a day of fasting and abstinence for members of the Christian community,  because it was on a Friday that Jesus gave his life for his people.  Fasting appears to have some special usefulness in growing closer to God.  But how do we do it?

The above quotation is taken from the prophet Isaiah.  After your visit here, I encourage you to follow the link to your right to review the entire passage in context.  I chose to present this sole sentence to focus on a continual obstacle to our search for Christ – busyness.  We are all wrapped up in our own pursuits.  We each have responsibilities we need to fulfill.  These things direct the course of our day.  Yet even as we go about ouir business (busyness) , there is a gnawing in our hearts telling us something is missing from our lives.  There is too much static, too much information, too many noises covering up the “still, small voice” that will speak to us of truth, love and beauty.  So we are soon swallowed up by our own pursuits,  when we should be preoccupied with the Lord’s pursuits.  You may find yourself immediately thinking that your pursuits and the Lord’s pursuits are vastly different.  Fortunately, this is not the case.  In fact, the Lord’s chief pursuit is YOU.  A close, intimate relationship with YOU.  And if we are focused on the pursuit of God, you can be sure that soon He and us will encounter one another.  Let us focus on that this Lent.   Let us seek God.  Let us continue to get to know Christ.  Until we know Him, we will not understand the purpose of fasting, giving alms, preaching to unbelievers and other important missions.  Remember, the disciples spent many hours at Jesus’ feet before they were sent out.

“Keep his fear and grow old therein”

February 25, 2009

I am not offering any extended meditations today, as I am grieving for my dear grandfather, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 91. But I’m including part of today’s Old Testament reading for your encouragement and mine. 

My son, when you come to serve the LORD,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Accept whatever befalls you,
when sorrowful, be steadfast,
and in crushing misfortune be patient;
For in fire gold and silver are tested,
and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and God will help you;
trust in him, and he will direct your way;
keep his fear and grow old therein.

Wisdom

February 23, 2009

I decided to begin this blog in part because I used to enjoy writing a great deal and I wanted to get into it again.  I  fell away from writing after years of school when writing assignments became not creative outlets but laborious chores.   I realize currently that I am struggling to find a comfortable style.  I appreciate your feedback, positive or negative.  Do my reflections resonate with you?  Are they too abstract?  Do you want more personal reflections?  I’m concerned that my tone may seem ‘holier-than-thou.’ I definitely don’t want that.  If I don’t approach this endeavor from a place of humility, I don’t think I’ll be successful in pursuing this  itinerant preacher “with no place to lay his head.” 

Today’s first reading spoke to me today. Here it is, for your prayerful reflection: 
Sir 1:1-10

All wisdom comes from the LORD
and with him it remains forever, and is before all time
The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain,
the days of eternity: who can number these?
Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth,
the depths of the abyss: who can explore these?
Before all things else wisdom was created;
and prudent understanding, from eternity.
The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom
and her ways are everlasting.
To whom has wisdom’s root been revealed?
Who knows her subtleties?
To whom has the discipline of wisdom been revealed?
And who has understood the multiplicity of her ways ?
There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring,
seated upon his throne:
There is but one, Most High
all-powerful creator-king and truly awe-inspiring one,
seated upon his throne and he is the God of dominion.
It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,
has seen her and taken note of her.
He has poured her forth upon all his works,
upon every living thing according to his bounty;
he has lavished her upon his friends.

I especially like the words, “The word of God on high is the fountain of wisdom.”  Like the secondary title of this blog suggests, I am seeking Jesus with faith that in Him is all wisdom and knowledge.  He can offer eternal treasures – in fact, He himself is the “Hidden Treasure”, which Matthew’s Gospel speaks of.  I am enjoying this blog because it has helped me stop my compulsive websurfing and opened the door for me to read and reflect on God’s Word.  Even in just these few days I notice a difference within myself.  The Word of God is reverberating in my mind and heart.  As I go about my day I continue to think about the words I have read that day, and what they can tell me about Jesus.  A person dearest to me recently asked me, “What’s the big deal about Jesus? Why all the focus on him?”  It’s a great question, and ultimately the most important question.  I feel like I need to encounter Him all over again to really answer that question. 

In today’s Gospel reading (Mark 9:14-29) Jesus heals a young man possessed by a mute and deaf spirit.  Whatever your belief about Jesus, I could argue that He seems to have cured me of a mute spirit – hence this blog! As for whether or not what I am writing is preferable to silence – well that is for you to decide.  At the very least, if your visit today connects you with God’s Word, then all is well!

“He rewards those who seek Him…”

February 22, 2009

Do you ever make judgments about people you have never met?  Perhaps you observed a person act a certain way in a particular context and allowed that sample of data to shape your entire opinion about that person.  But you likely would be failing to appreciate that person’s distinct personality that distinguishes him from everyone else.    It takes time to get to know someone.  In our desire to know Jesus, we will not only need to encounter him once, but many times, in many different settings.  In the early morning.  Late at night after putting the kids to bed.  On the running trail.  On the mountain.  At the gym.  In your cubicle.  In the bedroom.  We will need to listen to what Jesus is saying and doing over and over again to understand who He is.  

So let us take some time to read today’s Word. 

Jesus took Peter, James, and John
and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.
Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses,
and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Rabbi, it is good that we are here!
Let us make three tents:
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 
He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.
Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them;
then from the cloud came a voice,
“This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, looking around, the disciples no longer saw anyone
but Jesus alone with them.

Here was a literal mountaintop experience of Jesus, where He was manifested in power and glory.  It frightened the disciples so badly, they scarcely knew what to say.  Now as I read this Gospel passage, I am drawn towards the Voice from the cloud.  The Voice does not announce something stern and commanding, which would seem to fit with the awe-inspiring grandeur of the light and cloud.  But instead it announces simply, “This person is deeply loved by me.  I want you to know him too!” 

A friend of mine recently welcomed twin boys into his family.  He, who had never been a father before, now has two beautiful sons.  He uploaded videos of himself holding the newborns onto facebook so that his friends and family could see his newborn children and share in his joy.  It was his way of saying, “These are my beloved sons! Look at them! Listen to them!”  All his family will be rejoicing in the blessing of these new lives, eager to form lasting relationships with each of them.  In a similar way, it appears that God is letting us know about his very special child, his Son.  He is announcing to us the coming of someone very special –  his very own offspring.  There is no stronger love between parent and child.  Let us share in the Father’s joy by welcoming His Son into our hearts.

Ever Ancient, Ever New

February 20, 2009

Welcome.  I hope your time spent today contemplating Jesus and His Word proves fruitful.

Today I would like to continue to reflect on our tendency to seek out new, fresh, and stimulating internet content at the expense of connecting with God.  Take a moment to consider these words from St. Augustine:

“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”

 Notice how Augustine searched for God outside of himself, whereas in reality God was within him.  He “plunged” into the outside world of created things in search of God, but these outside things did not satisfy.  It was only when God Himself broke through Augustine’s shell of superficiality that he was able to truly encounter God.  After that “taste” of God,  Augustine found within himself with a voracious hunger for God that clamoured for satisfaction. 

I want to experience the same hunger and thirst for Jesus.  I want to return to his Word, which is both “Ancient” and “New” at the same time.  It is Ancient in the sense that He first proclaimed the Gospel 2000 years ago, long before I was created.  But it is also ever New, in that its power to save me is present in the here and now. It can transform my life if I let the Word take root in my being. 

Today let us pause to put aside the pursuit of “new” information that does nothing to bring us closer to God.  Instead let us return to the source and allow the ancient newness of God’s Word to speak to us:

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them,
“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,
take up his cross, and follow me.
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake
and that of the Gospel will save it.
What profit is there for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit his life?

Who do you say that He is?

February 19, 2009

So now we return to our fledgling expedition into the mysterious ocean of God’s identity.  Today’s Gospel reading is a perfect starting point. 

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi.
Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
They said in reply,
“John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others one of the prophets.”
And he asked them,
“But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said to him in reply,
“You are the Christ.”
Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him.

This Gospel passage speaks directly to the heart of the matter – who is Jesus? Is it possible to understand who He truly is amidst all the conflicting accounts and opinions?   Do I depend upon my own experiences of Jesus, or do I trust the testimony of others?  As powerful and compelling as the witnesses of others may be, I still desire that personal experience that becomes inseparable from my own history.  I want to encounter Jesus in a pure, open, unobstructed way.  I want to be able to say with John, “I have heard you.  I have seen you with my own eyes. I have looked upon you and have touched you with my own hands.”  I recall these powerful words that John Paul the Great spoke to the youth in Switzerland in 2004:

“Christianity is not just a book of culture or an ideology, nor is it merely a system of values or principles, however lofty they may be. Christianity is a person, a presence, a face: Jesus, who gives meaning and fullness to human life.”

It appears that Peter had come to a conclusion about Jesus, because he identified Jesus as being the Christ. As for me, it is too early for me to provide a response to the Lord’s question.  Today I can only say, “Lord, I wish to sit with you.  I wish to eat and drink with you.  I want to listen to your words and ask you questions.  I want to spend the day with you, learning about what you have to say about God and about life.  Help me be open to what you have to say.” AMEN.

Put Out into the Deep!

February 18, 2009

Before I discuss the primary purpose of this blog, I want to discuss the topic of the internet.  I use the internet every day, perhaps even compulsively.  By that I mean that I find myself repeatedly returning to the same web sites over and over, constantly looking for more recent news and updates.  I find that I am hungry for fresh up-to-the-minute information, and I am often frustrated when my clicks yield nothing new.  Despite the vastness of the internet, often times I feel like I have exhausted my search for novel, stimulating content,  as if I have already viewed everything there is to know about history, current events, viral youtube videos and the lastest sports scores.  But of course this is not true; I simply have been limiting my web surfing to a relatively small number of web sites.  These are sites that I have visited almost daily for several years, for better or for worse. 

While I feel ever-increasingly connected with the latest news in my local area and beyond, I have found myself more disconnected from God.  Does anyone remember God?  How can I grow in my knowledge of God when I am constantly drowning myself in a steady stream of information, which, while providing temporary interest, in the end leaves me no closer to understanding Him “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”?  That scripture passage strikes me now as I type this.   Some would argue that it is in fact the Internet that contains “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” However my faith tradition teaches me that it is Christ whom I should be contantly “visiting” in order to increase my knowledge and love of God.  

Social networking websites provide us with instant updates about the thoughts, feelings and activities of people we know.  So while a visit to your Facebook page informs me that you are getting over a cold, this new information keeps me focused on the present moment at the expense of my history.  And by my history, I mean the Paschal Mystery,  the life, death and resurrection of Jesus that offers me the opportunity to live a holy, transfigured life.  I find myself wondering, why I am not compulsively searching the Gospels to satisfy the deep longings of my mind and heart, in a manner similar to my compulsive web surfing?  

With Lent fast approaching, I believe it is time to “put out into the deep” – the deep that is the mind and heart of Christ.  Please forgive the inevitable pun, but rather than surfing the internet, it is time to “surf” into the deep, vast ocean of God.  Put out into the Deep! Duc in Altum!

IN PRINCIPIO

February 18, 2009

Welcome to Seeking Jesus.  This is an occasional blog regarding my ongoing pursuit of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.