Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Prayer for our Country

Mark your calendar. Join us in Prayer!

Monday, Nov 5, at 7pm in church.

Father Craig will lead a Prayer Service on the eve of Election Day.

Come pray for our elected officials, our candidates, our electorate and our country.

Eucharist Adoration will also be celebrated all day from 8:30am until Benediction at 9pm.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Luke Chapter 16

Two parables and three distinct teachings make up this chapter.  The parables take on a different tone, especially the later one (vv. 19-31). Likewise, the three sayings that appear in the center of the chapter are delivered with a tone that is direct and unequivocal. Jesus is engaged in direct and serious teaching (vv. 14-18).

Lets look at some specifics.

The first parable is about the dishonest steward (vv. 1-8). The parable tells the story of a steward who was placed in charge of his master’s supplies. The steward squanders these supplies and is then called to account by his master. Fearful of his fate, the dishonest steward produces dishonest promissory notes and is later commended by his master for his prudence. Now, at first glance, it may be tough to find the value/virtue in this parable. Jesus, probably aware of that, explains the parable in vv. 8-13. The lesson of the parable is not so much about the prudence of the steward but is instead about where one decides to keep his/her value.  The lesson of the parable is given at the end of Jesus’s explanation (i.e. v.  13).

Following this parables, there are three ‘sayings’ by Jesus. There’s a saying against the Pharisees, one about the Law, and a third against divorce. In short order Jesus delivers these quick teachings in one or two sentences. It’s important to remember that while look offers these sayings in short order, the other Synoptic Gospels, offer longer explanations and further words from Jesus. Suffice it here to say that Jesus is prepping the crowd for the next parable.  Look at the sayings- all three are about the old Law that the Pharisees have held onto, together with their hypocrisy. Jesus will use the following parable to once again demonstrate the New Covenant that he brings, the New Law that will fulfill and transcend the Old.

The parable is about a rich man and Lazarus (a different Lazarus than the one Jesus raises from the dead in John’s Gospel). There’s a two-fold interaction here: there is Jesus teaching the parable to the crowd, with particular attention to the Pharisees gathered; and there is the interaction between the rich man and Lazarus. Both of them are archetypes for the crowd gathered, again, with particular attention to the Pharisees.

Notice the way the parable ends: it ends badly for the rich man. This parable is a clear indictment of the Pharisees. But what can the parable teach us? I think there are numerous nuggets here: the need for compassion; a warning against hypocrisy; a lesson about Trust in Jesus and the commitment of Faith and Discipleship. There’s a lot going on here. And at this point, Jesus is about to step it up a notch…

Point for Prayer
“Dear Jesus, imaginative and merciful, you open me to see how much creativity I need to be your disciple and how much mercy I must show to act as a disciple. Urge me to be more imaginative in growing spiritually than worldly people are in their quest for materialistic triumphs. Invite me more urgently to learn your basic guideline about giving mercy in order to receive it. Make me a just and merciful person” (150). Amen.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Luke Chapter 15

This chapter consists of three thematically related parables. Firstly: the parable of the Lost Sheep (vv. 1-7). Secondly: the parable of the Lost Coin (vv. 8-10). Thirdly: the parable of the Lost Son, also known as the Prodigal Son (vv. 11-32).  The themes that unite these parables are sin, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and restoration. I really shouldn’t say anymore, and just let the parables speak for themselves because they are easily written and easily understood.

The first parable, the Lost Sheep, is a companion piece to Jesus’s identification as the Good Shepherd; an identification that he offers in John’s Gospel (Jn 10). My favorite part of this parable is a subtle difference that occurs from this same parable in Matthew’s Gospel. Look at v. 5. In Matthew’s Gospel, the verse reads, “and if he finds it…” There’s a sort of condition that Matthew puts on Jesus finding the Lost Sheep. That is not the case here. In Luke’s version, again in verse 5, it reads, “and when he finds it…” In Luke’s version, there are no conditions to Jesus finding those who have wandered off- it’s just a matter of time. I love that!

Then we have a brief parable about the Lost Coin. This parable is similar in theme to the Lost Sheep. I will leave this to your own reading and prayer.

But I would like to offer a few reflection about the very famous passage about the Prodigal Son. First, the word prodigal means being reckless with spending money. Traditionally, this adjective has been used to describe the younger son who takes his father’s inheritance and blows it on women and other excesses. And true enough. But this story is as much about the father as it is about his sons, both younger and elder. You see, as much as this parable is about sin and repentance, it is also about mercy and restoration which are the gifts of the father. Furthermore, the father is gracious with these gifts to not only the younger son, but also to the elder. So, perhaps we can even extend the adjective prodigal to describe the father as well. He is lavish with his mercy and forgiveness. So, our reflection on this parable is much deeper than at first glance.  A few recommendations:

1.     Look at Rembrandt’s painting of this scene. It’s a beautiful picture. Just Google, “Rembrandt’s Prodigal Son” and it’ll pop up.

2.     Read Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”- a great book that delves into both Rembrandt’s painting and the deep spirituality behind this parable.

3.     Read Timothy Keller’s “The Prodigal God” – a great book about this parable applying the adjective to the Father, i.e. God.

Point for Prayer
“Forgiving Jesus, your love has moved you to seek the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost son and daughter. You show us the importance of evangelizing so that others may experience your love. You urge me to have a reconciling spirit that favors repentance in others. With the power of your Spirit I will open myself to these attitudes and behaviors” (144). Amen.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Luke Chapter 14

The beginning of this chapter reprises the idea of healing on the Sabbath that was brought up in the previous chapter. The healing of the man with dropsy (vv. 1-6) is similar to that of the crippled woman; and the point that Jesus makes in the process of his healing is the same: the Sabbath doesn’t exclude these ‘works’ of kindness- the New Law of Love that Jesus is ushering in fulfills and transcends the Old Law of Moses.

One image that we use to describe Heaven is the image that is given in the Book of Revelation: Heaven is like a wedding banquet. A meal, prepared by God for His Son, Jesus, and His people. In these next verses, Jesus talks about that wedding banquet, that meal, as he described who the guests are (vv. 7-14), and then a parable about the requirements for getting into the wedding banquet (vv. 15-24). The banquet  is a time and place where Jesus will present to the Father those who had believed in His Gospel and accepted his call to repentance and discipleship. Ironically, the passage seems to present the idea that there are some who are ‘automatically’ included in the feast because of their state during their earthly life: the poor, the blind, the lame, the cripple.  Are these invited because they have already had their share of suffering and were united to Christ because of it? Is there a sort of hierarchy of those invited, starting with the lowliest and ending with those of privilege, those who put off responding to the Gospel?

Luckily for us, Jesus takes the time to sort of distill the first part of this chapter in 8 verses (vv. 25-33).  It is here that Jesus makes clear the call to discipleship and the requirements for entry into the Kingdom of Heaven, a.k.a. The Heavenly Banquet. The one thing that has to be reconciled in all of this is the balance between the rather complex way Jesus presents the Gospel message of Repentance and Discipleship, and the rather easy, black-and-white, straightforward nature of the message itself.  Verses like 25-33 stand out for us because they are straightforward, without equivocation.

This then is the crux, I think, of discipleship. The invitation to Discipleship is easy and straightforward. The human person is capable of responding to the invitation and embracing it. Unfortunately, the human condition, mired in the tendency to sin and reject the Promise, is prone to rejecting and ignoring the Call. Luckily, we have the sacrament of Reconciliation and the vast treasury of Mercy that Christ left the Church. And it is this Reconciliation and Mercy that we will take up in Chapter 15.

Point for Prayer
“Jesus, host of the man meals of the Gospel, especially of the Last Supper, you teach us that at these dining experiences, we can learn many of the Gospel values you want us to have. Above all, in the Eucharist, we celebrate your sacrificial presence and table fellowship. May our beliefs, attitudes, and practices reflect our communion with you, both in the Sacrament and in our daily behavior” (136).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Luke Chapter 13

This chapter reiterates the essence of the Gospel: “Repent”! In the first five verses of this chapter, Jesus uses a historical happening (a tower falling in the town of Siloam and killing 18 people) to refocus all his teaching, all his miracle working, and all his predictions of his own death, to the single point of his Life and Gospel: “Repent!”

Likewise, the parable that follows and ends at v. 9, followed by the saying about the Narrow Door (vv. 22-30), all have to do with this renewed call to Repentance and the inevitably of death and judgment; Salvation for the just and rejection for the unjust. These two sayings alone could justify the fact that Herod’s desire to kill Jesus (vv. 31-33). Jesus words about Herod seems to indicate that Herod knew that Jesus thought he was unjust. Therefore, we can also assume that Herod was familiar with Jesus’s preaching.

There is a healing episode in this chapter as well. Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath (vv. 10-17). This passage, and the words that Jesus exchanges with the leader of the synagogue gives him an opportunity, once again, to reiterate the purpose of his life and ministry: to heal and to bring about repentance for the kingdom of God. Likewise, this healing and repentance transcends the Laws of the Old Covenant.  Notice the reactions of the synagogue leaders: they are humiliated (v. 17). This is telling: there is no defense in front of the Gospel: it is only life giving, only healing, only Good. There is no argument against it or in spite of it. This is something we can remember when we engage our Faith in the public sphere- there is no system of thought, no philosophy, no ideology that can explain away the Gospel message; supplant the Gospel message or make it irrelevant.  It is wholly logical and is constantly in tune with time and place: the Gospel message is universal: Repent, believe in Christ Jesus and be saved in His name!

But Jesus’s preaching and message is not with its irony. This chapter closes with Jesus lamenting the fact that those who hear him now, will sooner rather than later turn on that message, and on the messenger, and offer him up to be crucified (vv. 34-35).  This is something that we can certainly apply to our daily lives, especially as we continue to struggle with our own fallen humanity and our desire to grow in holiness while at the same time confronting our ability to sin.  But remember Jesus’s parable of the barren fig tree from the beginning of the chapter (vv. 6-9), we are to retain the ability to bear fruit for the Lord- by this the Lord is glorified- that we bear Fruit in His name!

Point for Prayer
“Savior of the world, you have offered me salvation from all that would oppress me above all my sins. Help me to have a true and honest appreciation of the moral and spiritual state of my life. Assist me to be honest in evaluating myself and my behavior in the light of your teachings and expectations. Strengthen me with the love of the Holy Spirit and your gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation” (129).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Luke Chapter 12

This chapter, at 59 verses, is rather long and dense. Jesus is sort of all over the board in regards to the contents of his teachings here. It is possible that what Luke has done here is summarize a great deal of Jesus’s teaching with regard to the chronological order in which Jesus first gave these teachings. This is not a problem, theologically or otherwise.

One highlight can be the sayings of Jesus as it pertains to the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit (vv. 10-12). The full theology of the Holy Spirit is presented much more fully in John’s Gospel and in the letters of Paul. Furthermore, the Advocacy that Jesus presents here as the role of the Holy Spirit, will be developed and explained further in John’s Gospel.

This passage on dependence of God is one of my favorites in all of Scripture (vv. 22-34). It is at once a teaching about dependence on God, and the dangers of worry and anxiety, and also the costs that go along with depending on God and embracing our call to discipleship.  Worry and anxiety can really choke us- debilitate us; make us incapable of giving and receiving Love. The ability to trust in Jesus, and the Father, to provide, guide us, in good times and bad is probably the most fundamental disposition we can engender in our hearts. If all things from God work to bring us closer to Him and to the people we love, then we have no need to worry or be anxious because all things are for the Good.

There is a rather disturbing section to this chapter as well. Jesus has rather harsh words in vv. 49-53. His words are meant to demonstrate the inherent division that the Gospel message will cause. Those who hear the Gospel message will have to make a decision: do I follow Jesus or not? And sadly, there will be some who will follow and some who will not- even in one’s own family. This is tough to understand, perhaps. But, if you’ve ever been persecuted or made fun of, especially by those closest to you, then you know exactly what Jesus is saying here.

Finally, the chapter closes with a teaching about forgiveness (vv. 57-59) and a brief, and rather cryptic teaching about the ‘signs of the times’ (vv. 54-56). These closing paragraphs, taken in context with the whole of this chapter, seem disjointed from the rest of the chapter.  The saying about forgiveness in vv. 57-59 is straightforward. But the one about the signs of the times (vv. 54-56). Jesus is talking about himself here. Jesus is challenging the crowd to see in Him the Truth of his peaching and to repent and believe in the Gospel. The sign that the people are looking for is not in the skies but is instead in a person- Jesus Christ.

Point for Prayer
“Jesus, eternal Wisdom, you ask me to stop worrying, prepare for death, and act counter-culturally when necessary. Relax my heart. Remove from me any denial of death. Enable me to read the sign of the times. Help me walk the razor’s edge between this world and the next. Fill me with a divine perspective on life” (121).