Wednesday, September 29, 2010
In the first two chapters of the Book of the Prophet Habakkuk the prophet and God have a conversation. The prophet complains about what a mess the world is in. God agrees but then God says,"The upright, because of their faith, shall live."
Near the beginning of his second Letter to Timothy Paul tells him that if his faith is just smouldering he needs to stir it up into the flame it was when he first believed, so that he can better deal with the problems he is having as leader of his community.
In chapter 17 of the Gospel According to Luke Jesus tells the disciples that they must forgive someone as often as the person hurts them. Knowing that they don't have what it takes to do this, the disciples ask, "Increase our faith."
Whether I am trying to cope with the mess in the world and in the Church or in my personal life I can always use more faith. I think of faith as my relationship with God. Like any relationship, it must be constantly growing or it will smoulder and be snuffed out.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
We had finally had two days of rain, some of it very hard. This morning the rising sun peeked out under the clouds and threw an almost unearthly light on the shoreline and trees and bushes, before being hidden again above a completely cloudy sky.
I meditated today on Luke 17:5-10. The initial difficulty I have with the parable is that Jesus takes for granted that I would know what it is like to be the master of a slave. When the slave comes in from doing hard outside work, wouldn't I expect him to fix my meal and wait on me before he gets anything to eat himself? I have a hard time imagining myself into such a situation.
But what really brings me down is telling God, after I have done my duty, that I am an "unprofitable slave." The Greek word used by Luke means "unprofitable." It doesn't seem to fit the context. Neither do some other attempts to translate the word as "useless, worthless, humble, good for nothing." I can say that by doing a retreat day and some Masses and going to a funeral and taking time for meditation I have merely done my duty and expect no particular praise. I realize that I can do those things only because God is doing them in me. In that sense I might be God's "humble" slave, but I can hardly think of all that as "unprofitable" or "worthless."
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Yesterday morning I meditated on Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man ignoring the poor man at his gate. I asked God who the poor man was that I was ignoring. The answer that occurred to me was Americans who are Muslims. I'm sure the recent expression of prejudice towards them has something to do with their coming to mind. Maybe it's a good thing that I rarely thought about the Muslims among us, but now it seems that I want to pay more attention.
I started looking stuff up and was surprised at how far back we have had Muslims in America. The earliest documented was in 1630, a Dutchman who came to New Amsterdam (now New York.) I was astonished that the founders of our nation talked and wrote about Muslims and included them in freedom of religion. In fact in 1788 North Carolina opposed ratifying the Constitution for fear one day Catholics and Muslims might become president.
Many slaves brought to Colonial America were Muslims from Africa. The numbers of Muslims did not begin to increase significantly until the 20th Century. The first mosque built in the United States was in 1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In 2005 96,000 Muslims came to the United States, more than in the previous two decades. Estimates differ widely about how many are in the United States now, from one to seven million. Since Islam began in Arabia, I had always thought that most Arabs were Muslims, but the majority of Arabs in the United States are Christian.
There were Muslims working in the World Trade Center the day of the attacks. There were Muslims among the heroic police and firefighters who were killed that day trying to save the people working in the buildings. They grieve for their dead as well as the Christians and Jews who lost loved ones that day. We do our fellow Americans who are Muslims a terrible injustice by lumping them together with the terrorists who were behind those horrifying attacks.
Monday, September 20, 2010
It's the time for letting go. We have had such a perfect summer and today is so beautiful it's hard to let go. I recently gave away some of my prized Christmas decorations. That wasn't easy for me. I even have hard time letting go of things that I have not used for many years. So things accumulate. I'm trying to get myself to start getting rid of them, but it goes against the grain. I read somewhere that it was typical for a Pisces to save even little knick-knacks because of the memories connected to them. An old man I knew who just died had such a hard time letting go of things that he had not made a will. In the autumn trees God shows me how beautiful letting go can be and how crucial it is to further growth.
Cardinal Newman said, "To live is to change and to be perfect is to have changed often."
Friday, September 17, 2010
Early morning on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, a different beauty from the lake at home. I find most of the land area too flat for my taste; but, wherever there is water, there is a broadness to the beauty that draws me in and helps me to lose myself in it. Add to that the romance of sailing ships that I've enjoyed in books and movies, and the whole experience carries me into Mystery.
Friday, September 10, 2010
The parables in Luke 15 of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and especially the lost son are so vivid that I don't always pay attention to the two verses that introduce them. The religious leaders are grumbling and saying, "This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them." They object to Jesus' indiscriminate table fellowship. These parables of Jesus insist that God's mercy breaks through all human restrictions about how God should act toward sinners. Everyone is precious. No one is outside of God's gracious love. That reality fills everyone in the stories with joy, a joy that comes from knowing that we are loved no matter what. How can I be a faithful follower of Jesus and refuse certain people table fellowship? The joy that I experience in God's mercy toward me enables me to welcome sinners and eat with them.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Do I have what it takes to hike the rocky mountain trails in Dolly Sods, one of my favorite places in the world?
"Do you have what it takes to be a follower of mine," is pretty much what Jesus is asking in Luke 14:25-33. It is also the challenge that St. Paul writes to Philemon in that very short, masterful example of persuasion. Jesus wants to make sure that we don't let attachment to family or possessions get between us and doing what he expects of his followers. Paul wants to make it clear to Philemon that following Jesus means going beyond human expectations and loving as Jesus would.
Paul's letter to Philemon has meant a lot to me since I read long ago James Burtchell's Philemon's Problem. He reads the letter as it has traditionally been read: Paul trying to persuade Philemon to take back a runaway slave as a brother in Christ. This morning I read the introduction to the letter in The New Interpreter's Study Bible. It's the first time I've seen it said that Paul is really trying to effect a reconciliation between brothers, not between a slave and his master. I don't find the reasoning convincing, but in any case Paul is still asking a leader of a Christian community if he has what it takes to be a follower of Christ, to love another with the gracious love of Jesus. Both passages help me to ask myself the same question.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Ramakrishna said that our minds are like a tree full of monkeys jumping from branch to branch. This is one of the images that John Garvey used in the July 16 issue of Commonweal to talk about our need for silence. We are almost constantly distracted by sounds and noise. Yesterday morning when I opened my washer full of clothes out fell the cell phone that I had been running around the house hunting. Instead of giving myself a day free of interruptions I hurried in to the store and bought another phone.
Late this afternoon I turned on the TV, something I almost never do in the daytime, to see what I could find out about Hurricane Earl. I couldn't believe all the nonsense that passes for news, even on what I would call responsible networks. I did not find what I was looking for. All the junk kept the monkeys in my mind jumping from branch to branch.
I am fortunate to live here where there is very little noise, especially this time of year when most summer people have left the Lake. I want to take more care to protect the silence that God gives me and that God uses to communicate with me.