Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Time of Peace

There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain.

Every Advent we hear the words of Isaiah proclaiming the coming of the Messiah and the reign of peace that will accompany his coming.  And each year we look around our world to see more ruin, more bloodshed, more devastation.  Has the Messiah not come?  Has God been unfaithful to his promise?  Why do these horrors continue?

Yes, the Messiah has come, and yes God is indeed faithful.  But these horrors continue because we look upon God as a cosmic vending machine.  In our minds we think that God will automatically grant this peace.  We merely insert the coins of our prayer and remembrance of God’s promise and, we think, God will grant the peace.

But the Messiah came to show us how to live in such a way that peace is a reality in our own lives and in our communal lives.  He came not with magic wands but with teaching and example so that the reality of peace promised long ago might be made real in our lives in every age right up to the final coming of the reign of God.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

As We Wait in Joyful Hope

So, too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.

The Scriptures present three different ways of waiting for a big event.  The first way is akin to the days of Noah:  there was no expectation or awaiting anything.  People simply did not think of anything in particular save for the passing cares of their lives.  So, one posture is not to await anything at all.

The second posture is to await something in a tense and anxious way, for we have convinced ourselves that what we await is something awful and terrible.  We cower in fear and bury our treasure in the sand rather than use it in a profitable way.  Here there is no real preparation for what awaits, but instead a paralysis of fear that produces no real fruit.

Then there is the anticipation of something good that we await, like a child this time of year who waits with great excitement for Christmas morning.  This is the posture of real hope and expectation.  For what we await is a true gift and blessing – the gift of Jesus, the gift of his coming again to lead us at last to the reign of God.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Behold the King

Today you will be with me in Paradise.

Ancient Israel wanted to be like other nations, and so wished to be ruled by a king and not the judges God appointed for them.  The first king of Israel, Saul, foreshadowed the painful and tragic history of what kingship resulted for God's people - betrayal, idolatry, and exile time and time again.  When we cease being a priestly nation and go after the allures of the world we should not be surprised at the outcomes.

A priestly people comes to realize that Christ our King reigns from the cross, and that the decrees he pronounces from that throne are those of mercy - mercy for the penitent thief, mercy for all of us who recognize our sinfulness and need for such mercy.  God's kingship in the person of Jesus is one of self-sacrificial love for his people rooted in the mercy of God.

We have just left behind an election in our nation where so many people of faith fell victim to the desire for an earthly king.  Some think their king has been elected, and some think their king has been defeated.  But our king is not of this world.  He still reigns from the cross, still proclaiming mercy, still calling us to journey forward to the reign of God.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Confusion and Persecution

Teacher, when will this happen?

Today's Gospel is ever cited as an indictment on our times - a "proof" text designed to tell us that we are living in the last days in the lead up to the second coming of the Lord Jesus.  It is comforting to know that this text has been offered up in every age and place for the same purpose.  What time in human history could not be described as it is in this Gospel text?

Truth can always be discovered in every age and place.  Storms cannot dispel God's presence; they merely challenge our peace of soul.  But we recall that Jesus slept calmly in the boat in the midst of the storm and rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith.  Jesus paid no heed to the chaos of the storms, and neither should we.

So let us pay no heed to the apocalyptic meteorologists of our times and remain fixed to the person of Jesus ever present among us in the midst of our storms.  For in doing so we can can see the glory of the resurrection that awaits after the time of trial and suffering - the resurrection to the reign of God.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Laws of God

The Laws of God

For they are the children of God.

In today's first reading seven brothers choose death rather than disobey the dietary law prohibiting the eating of pork.  Today's proponents of religious freedom will point to these men as heroes who would rather face death than transgress God's immutable laws.  Indeed, we are approaching the Jewish feast of Hannukah where the people of Israel will celebrate the great miracle of the Maccabean resistance.

In the Acts of the Apostles Peter will receive a revelation from God in a dream that now it is lawful to eat that which for centuries was prohibited.  God's law given to Moses and all the people of Israel is now abrogated by God through a dream to one man.  How are we to understand this movement of God over the centuries up to our own times?

To discern God's will in our lives is a great challenge.  It requires daily practice of the examen and constant meditation on the word of God and the great Tradition.  We do not know the way, but we do know The Way - the One who leads us ever forward to the reign of God.  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Get Out of the Way

I must stay at your house.

Ministry and discipleship are often thought of in terms of what we do - evangelizing, advocating, serving, praying.  All of these are indeed essential, but one can often forget the purpose of all these activities:  introducing others to Jesus.  We can also lose sight of the fact that our work is not our own and that we cannot get so absorbed in our work that we neglect the bigger picture.

Today's Gospel is about a whole bunch of people who lost sight of the bigger picture.  They were so focused on their own work that they forgot about the fact that their work is about introducing others to Jesus.  Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but the crowd as so self-absorbed that they could not get out of the way to allow that encounter.  Then, once the encounter took place, they were indignant that Jesus would have such an encounter.  

Sometimes the most important work of discipleship is getting out of the way.  Once a person is introduced to Jesus, then we must recede from the scene and to allow that relationship to exist and proceed on its own dynamic.  To paraphrase a famous prayer, we are stewards, not messiahs; servants, not master gardeners - all of us walking together to the reign of God.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Posture of Prayer

The Posture of Prayer

yet he hears the cry of the oppressed.

Election season is upon us, and with it the posturing and promises of candidates to the electorate.  We have grown accustomed to this and pay it little heed, as we should.  More troublesome, however, is the phenomenon of religious anointing of candidates who claim to assure us of the "catholicity" or "fidelity" of a candidate to particular segments of our Catholic social tradition. 

Let us leave that problem aside for the culture warriors whose cottage industries depend on such questions.  Instead let us focus our attention on two points:  the fact that the cries of the poor and oppressed are especially important to God, and the cry of sincere and hearty repentance and humility are especially heard by God.  Such postures of prayer indicate God's preferences and point the way for us in finding importance in them as well.

If our daily lives are spent listening and responding to the cries of the poor and the oppressed, and if our own prayers are filled with hearty repentance and humility, we then see the postures of the world for what they are - ephemeral and insincere.  And in finding the postures God prefers, we find landmarks and clues that point us on our journey to the reign of God.