Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Primacy of the Prophet

…he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked.

In the Old Testament there are three distinct voices and traditions held in tension – the priestly, kingly and prophetic.  Each has its own perspective and concerns, all of which are important:  worship of God has great importance, as does the right ordering of society and proper functioning of the law.  But the priestly and kingly tradition have their origins in the prophetic tradition and rely upon the prophet for their full meaning and mission.

Jesus highlights this fact by stating that judgment is based solely on our care and concern for the poor and marginalized (Matt 25).  He further emphasizes this fact in parables where care for the poor is intrinsically tied to judgment – the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Good Samaritan – and his real life exaltation of the poor widow in the Temple is proof of this primacy.  Law and worship exist for us to live our mission to care for the poor and marginalized. 

God chose Israel because of its lowliness, poverty, and marginalization.  God rescued this vulnerable people from rich and powerful empires.  Our faith is in imitation of the God who cares for the poor, which obliges us to be the prophet in our own times: to have our worship and laws reflect this priority and to lead us all to the reign of God. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Journey is the Destination

Remember how the Lord…directed all your journeying in the desert.

When God delivered Israel from slavery in Egypt, he led them into the desert where he continually provided for their needs:  protection from enemies, food, water, and his companionship.  Despite all this, the Israelites continually complained and longed for a permanent homeland they could call their own.  We know the rest of the story:  they get there, but it wasn’t as great as it was cracked up to be.

Instead of being a blessing, the homeland instead became a curse, largely because it was a false god from the beginning.  Our homeland is not on earth:  paying fealty and wrapping oneself in the flag is an ancient idolatry.  The journey was and is the destination, for it represents the fact that no place on earth is our homeland – that our true home lies beyond this world.  The desert in fact represents this earth well – a barren place that does not satisfy us.

Today’s feast reminds us of this truth.  The body and blood of the Lord Jesus is our food for the journey in this world that cannot satisfy us.  The Eucharist is, as Thomas Aquinas penned in a famous hymn: a holy feast in which Christ is our food/His passion is recalled; grace fills our hearts/And we receive a pledge of the glory to come.  So we journey onward together, not allowing one another to fall into the idolatry of nation worship and longing, as we look forward to our ultimate homeland – the reign of God.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Trinity of Love

…live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.

How many times does God have to remind us of his love for us?  Throughout salvation history God’s promise of love is continually repeated to the human race.  In the first reading we see God’s loving kindness expressed to the people of Israel in the Mosaic covenant.  The most vulnerable and weak of human peoples finds the loving kindness of God come upon them and protect them throughout their history.

The Gospel text too reminds us that the most dramatic expression of God’s loving kindness – not just for Israel, but for the whole human family – is found in the person and mission of Jesus, God’s son and our brother.  Through Jesus’ ministry, his death and resurrection, and his example we find the incarnation of God’s love in the world for the human family.  This concrete expression of divine love fulfills the loving kindness of God in the Old Testament and provides the human family with its mission and vocation.

And if we live this Trinitarian love we shall have peace – within our hearts and in our communities.  There is no other way for the world to have peace – to live a life of love.  It will not come from political programs or movements or revolutions.  Love alone will lead us to peace – to the reign of God.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Upper Room

All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer…

When people think about the ministry of Jesus and places associated with it, very often our mind goes to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Caparnaum, Bethany, Jericho, the sea of Galilee, and Jerusalem.  What we tend to overlook, however, is the upper room – the place of the first Eucharist, the place of prayer, of appearances of the risen Jesus, and of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

In our own lives we tend to think about the places where we are in the midst of activity – work, home, the sports field, and many other places.  But where is our upper room, the place of prayer where we encounter the risen Jesus, await the Spirit in our lives, and where we are propelled into the world to do the work of God? 

In this week of anticipation of the feast of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit, it might be good for us to construct our upper room so that we are ready to be continually swept outward to do the deeds of Jesus, and to lead ourselves and others to the reign of God.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Times and Seasons

When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted.

It is perhaps comforting for those of us who live with doubts that even the disciples of Jesus, on the verge of seeing him ascend into heaven, doubt in the midst of their worship.  We might wonder why it is they doubted after seeing all they saw.  They might very well ask us the same question in return, and in each case the answer is the same.

The disciples are preoccupied with earthly understandings of Jesus as the Messiah – will you restore the kingdom of Israel, i.e. when will you (and us) wield earthly power, smash our enemies, and rule this earth?  In response Jesus tells us that it is not for us to know the times and seasons of God’s doings.  We are to follow the Lord Jesus – his teachings and example.  Focus on the big, eternal picture, not the temporal one.

So our doubts are our own creation, for we are centered so often on the wrong things.  We create God in our own image to fit our own preconceived ideas, our politics, and our preferences.  And when God does not conform to our creation we doubt.  But still we worship, and in that worship may we come to know God as he is, to know ourselves as we are, and follow the way of the Lord Jesus to the reign of God.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Seeing God

Master, show us the father…

So many people attempt to look for God in visions, allocutions, mystical experiences, breakfast items, and in so many other esoteric locations.  Many travel to various places whenever an alleged apparition occurs, looking to see God or the Virgin Mary or some other appearance.  And like the disciples in today’s Gospel, we need not go far in order to see Jesus and the Father.

“As often as you do it to one of these least ones, you do it to me.”  Jesus is present in every single human being.  Whenever we encounter another person, we encounter Christ, and we have the opportunity to serve the Lord Jesus in the person of our neighbor.  “You are made in God’s image.”  “Your bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit.”  Each person is an image of God, a temple of God’s spirit.  When we encounter another person, we see the face of God himself, and in serving our neighbor we are serving God.

We need not go far in order to see God.  We just have to meet another person and therein we find the entire Trinity of God in that very human being.  Only in this recognition can we come to peace in our hearts, peace in our world, and ultimately arrive at the reign of God.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Voice of the Shepherd

Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.

Sheep are like most domesticated or farm animal.  They learn the voice of their owner/master, and they will follow that voice wherever it leads them.  When a strange voice looks to lead them the sheep or other animal will not trust it.  Sheep and other animals develop a capacity for listening to their master and for not trusting the voice of those that seek to lead them astray.

Jesus encourages us to cultivate this sense of listening to the voice of God in our lives, much as sheep do in his analogy.  Many voices call out to us in every age.  Most of those voices only have their own self-interest at heart and care little for us.  Many are passing fads and ephemeral pleasures that only lead to emptiness.  But one voice continues to call out to us and seeks our good.  That is the voice we need to cultivate our ears to hear. 

We moderns may not like to be compared to unintelligent barn animals, but a survey of trendy items on the internet will find the analogy to be more accurate than not.  We trade away our human dignity and birthright as children of God for a lot less than stew.  But if we learn to listen to the voice of God and follow it in our lives, we fulfill our human dignity, live as authentic children of God, and eventually arrive at the reign of God.