Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

New Life

July 13, 2010

Yes, this site has been largely abandoned.  But I’m still alive.  And even more joyous is the fact that my wife and I have welcomed a new person into the world, a precious baby girl.  I find myself fully immersed in the responsibilities of adulthood and parenthood now, in a way that is irrevocable.  And because it can be overwhelming, even now I feel the need to get organized.  More specifically, to ensure that I stay connected to God, despite all the tasks to attend to.

I found myself re-reading some of my previous posts and it is like preaching to my self.  I am still seeking Jesus, and I’m frustrated that my communication with God is not the first priority in my life.  I want to change that.

I know I need to cut out all the constant stream of useless information and make way for the Gospel.  So that is what we will do.  I plan to return to the original aim of this blog and spend some time in reflection on the Good News.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Lord, please transform my intentions into actions!

“This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of heaven has come near. Repent and believe in the Gospel!

Darkness

March 30, 2009

“Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.” – from Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is the arguably the most famous and most loved of all the 150 psalms.  It is very familiar to most Christians.  For those of you who are not familiar with it, I recommend you read the whole psalm for its beautiful and timeless images depicting God’s faithfulness and love.  When I read this particular passage, some thoughts come to mind.  In this time we are all facing uncertainty, especially here in my Midwestern state.  There is great fear of financial ruin in the form of job losses, foreclosures and bankruptcy.  Things upon which we used to depend are turning out to be unreliable.  How will we cope with this uncertainty?

The psalmist’s faith shows that he had no fear, even in the darkness, because he believed that God was at his side.  Notice that he does not pray to God to take away the darkness.  That would be an understandable approach to being in such a tenuous and unnerving state.  But instead, he praises God for simply being at his side.  The presence of God was enough for him to feel safe and secure.  So, perhaps God will not alter the failing global economy overnight – to make us all “feel better”…so we can go back to seeking fulfillment in materialism and trivial pursuits.  Instead he may let the darkness remain, while we fumble around in the dark, until we finally decide it makes sense to seek out an unfailing source of light.

 Jesus spoke to them again, saying,
“I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life.”


The Door Will Be Opened!

March 5, 2009

The Gospel of St. Matthew 7:7-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which one of you would hand his son a stone
when he asked for a loaf of bread,
or a snake when he asked for a fish?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will your heavenly Father give good things
to those who ask him.

As you read today’s Gospel passage, did you find yourself reading more quickly than you normally do?  I did.  I believe that is partly because I have heard and read these words many times before.  They do not sound “new.”  And I think it is also because of my internet surfing habits – we are used to quickly scanning a page for interesting information, while trying to ignore pop-ups, advertisements, and other portions we just simply aren’t interested in.

Now is the opportunity to …s  l  o  w. . . .    d  o  w  n.   Jesus first spoke these words over 2000 years ago, but he is also speaking them to us today in the here and now.  If we skim the surface of his preaching without “plumbing the depths” we will fail to benefit.

If we are properly attentive to today’s Gospel reading, we should experience these words as a difficult challenge.  Even in our culture where we have become accustomed to instant gratification, even we recognize that we don’t always get what we want when we want it.  But here Jesus is telling us Ask and you shall receive.  What comes to mind when you consider what you want to ask of God?  If you ask, do you believe that he will give it to you? And if he does not, does that mean he does not exist?  Or does it mean he does not care about you?  Or does it mean you asked for the wrong thing? Or perhaps what you asked for will be granted, but not yet.  “God’s delays are not necessarily God’s denials,” as someone once observed. 

But there is a deeper issue involved in this matter.  When we ask someone for something, it is usually someone we know and trust.  Jesus uses the image of a parent and child.  A child is totally dependent on his parents.  If his parents do not provide him with food, shelter, clothing and other basic necessities, his life will be at risk.  When the child asks his father for something to eat, the child has the belief that his father has the ability to provide what he is asking for, and will do so because of their familial relationship.  Jesus had complete trust in God, whom he frequently addressed as “Abba”, a word which is equivalent to our english word “Daddy.”  This is a word used by a trusting, dependent child.  Jesus is saying to us that God is a loving parent who wishes to give us good things, and we should have faith that He will provide them if we ask. 

What “good gifts” do you seek?

“It shall not return to Me void”

March 4, 2009

Let’s start today with an Old Testament reading…

Isaiah 55:10-11

Thus says the LORD:
Just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me void,
but shall do my will,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Something will happen to us when we hear the Good News proclaimed.  Something within us will change when we listen to the Word and receive it into our hearts.  Notice the images the Lord uses to describe the action of His Word: rain, snow, earth, seed, bread. These are all things found in the natural world, ordinary things we may encounter on a daily basis. But since God is involved, there is also the involvement of the supernatural.  We need to keep this in mind as we meditate on the Word of God.  The Bible is no ordinary book.  It is not merely a collection of stories.  As Pope Benedict XVI described it in his book Jesus of Nazareth, the Gospel has performative qualities.  It can transform  whomever hears it proclaimed.  Hence, we see how the disciples, when confronted with two simple words, “Follow Me”, they dropped everything they were doing and began walking with Jesus. 

I hope today’s blog encourages you to “drop what you are doing” for a moment and walk with the Lord.  Listen to what He tells you…

Refresh My Soul!

March 3, 2009

The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.  

We tend to think of laws as rules and regulations that limit our freedom.  We resent when others place demands on us.  Perhaps there is something that Jesus commands us to do but we find ourselves recoiling against it.  We think that if we follow his teachings, our individuality will be stamped out, or we will be deprived of joy or pleasure in some way.  It is hard to understand, but in fact joy is found in doing God’s will.  Think of the saints who sang unceasing hymns to God even when they were in the midst of deep suffering.  Something was sustaining them, allowing them the ability to rejoice in God.   One of the most moving scenes in the Bible is in the Acts of the Apostles, in which Paul and other believers were imprisoned for preaching the Gospel.  Let us stop to recall this scene, right when the townspeople are bringing Paul and his companions in front of the local authorities.  

They brought them before the magistrates and said, “These people are Jews and are disturbing our city and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or practice.” The crowd joined in the attack on them, and the magistrates had them stripped and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After inflicting many blows on them, they threw them into prison and instructed the jailer to guard them securely.  When he received these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and secured their feet to a stake. About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened, there was suddenly such a severe earthquake that the foundations of the jail shook; all the doors flew open, and the chains of all were pulled loose. 

Clearly, sincere and heartfelt praise to God has power.  It has power to make miracles happen.  Prayer and praise can connect us to God and bring us joy.  You may think you are seeking security, pleasure, or prosperity, but in fact your soul is seeking joy.  Joy is a gift that transcends all earthly circumstances.  In fact, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”  Today, praise God, no matter what chains are weighing you down.  Be assured that God will hear your prayers and break the chains of sin in your life.

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.