Thursday, June 30, 2011

Law and Freedom


The 4th of July and Matthew 11:28-29 are both concerned with how freedom relates to law. In the Declaration of Indepedence we declared that governments derive their powers "from the consent of the governed." When a government abused its power we declared that the people had not only a right, but a duty, to change it. Those who create the law are free to change it. We are, as Lincoln so eloquently put it, a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
In the Gospel Jesus is referring to the Jewish religious Law when he says, "Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy and my burden light."
The Jews compared the 613 commandments of their religious Law to a yoke that the people had to live under. Jesus offered a life free from that kind of minute concern for what the Law says. He simply invites people to learn from him how to live and be good. The more we are aware of Jesus living within us and the more we internalize his values, especially his law of love, the freer we are to follow our hearts.
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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gold Silver Sunset


I never get tired of the striking sunsets that we have here. This was last evening's. I took so many pictures it was hard to decide among them. I often sit on the deck until the sun goes down.
I've been sticking to the deck lately as I nurse a case of shingles that started to develop last Monday. The initial pain was some of the worst I ever experienced. I'm in drug heaven now so the pain and itching are muted. I'm supposed to take it easy. I miss swimming and walking.
It feels so arbitrary. Why me? What did I do to stir this up? No one has bothered to find out what activates the dormant chicken pox virus.
It has made me more sympathetic to those with chronic pain. I ask God to accept mine as a prayer for theirs. At the same time I ask the Spirit of Love to heal me completely.
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Body and Blood of Christ


I took this picture as we celebrated Mass near the Sea of Galilee on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
In John 6:56 Jesus says, "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them." In 1st Corinthians 10;17 Paul says,"Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body,for we all partake of the one loaf."
These verses help me to think of the Mass as a meal in which Jesus invites me to take part and by taking part to become one with Jesus and with everyone else who is eating his Body and drinking his Blood. I am struck by how vivid John makes this by choosing the Greek word for "flesh" rather than "body" and the Greek word that means "munch" or "gnaw" rather than "eat." The early Christians would have used something like pita bread which is why Paul can speak of everyone becoming one Body by eating of the one loaf.
The main purpose of the Eucharist is to build up the unity of the Church. The prayer over the gifts for the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ says, "Lord, may the bread and cup we offer bring your Church the unity and peace they signify."
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Retreat with Mark


I made my retreat last week with four friends. We shared our personal reflections on the Gospel of Mark.
The Kingdom of God is so central to Jesus' preaching. I wonder whether it could be like the notion of a divine dimension that has been enriching my relationship with God. When Jesus announces at the beginning of the Gospel that the Kingdom or Reign of God "has drawn near," could it be more physical nearness than temporal? The common translation "The Kingdom of God is at hand" makes it sound like you can touch it.
Reading Jesus' attacks on the religious leaders of his day made me wonder if today's religious leaders see those attacks aimed at them. Then I read of Jesus' anger and frustration with the disciples' being so dense and I wonder what there is in me that fails, like the disciples, to grasp the way of Jesus through suffering to triumph. I think it's Ray Brown who says somewhere that the theme of the whole of Mark's Gospel is that Jesus accomplishes what he came to do despite the stupidity of the apostles.
As I compare the passion of Jesus to the things that upset and anger me, mine seem so puny. I see Jesus in the garden surrender to God's will and ask that he might help me to let go and accept what I cannot change.
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Thursday, June 23, 2011



I am trying to find new ways to think about the Holy Trinity. Despite all my convictions I still catch myself taking the names "Father," "Son," and "Spirit" too litterally.
One comparison that I find helpful is from the theologian Tertullian in the third century. He compares the Trinity to water gushing up in a spring in the hills, the same water in the river flowing through the valley, and the same water spreading out in irrigation ditches where it reaches plants and actually enables them to grow.
This helps me to think of the One God who is the source of all, the One God coming in the flesh into our history to save us, and the One God spreading out through all the world to make love grow.
In her fine book "Quest for the Living God," Elizabeth Johnson suggests that whether we interpret the Holy Trinity as an analogy, symbol, or metaphor, it is a name that points to God's being an overflowing communion of love.
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011



Waiting for the fog to lift on a cool summer morning.
I was thinking as I walked this morning that this time between Ascension and Pentecost is an appropriate time to reflect on waiting. In Acts 1:4 Jesus orders the apostles "not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father." After Jesus disappears for the last time, they go to the room where they are staying and wait.
In a lot of situations I do not wait well. Driving these mountain roads does not prepare me to wait in city traffic. I will not wait in line for a restaurant. I go elsewhere. I don't like waiting in a doctor's office or for my car to be fixed or even for the ads in a TV program to be over.
But in other situations I seem especially suited to it. I can sit for an hour or two just gazing at the Lake. And waiting is what prayer largely is. Simone Weil tells us, "Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life." Other mystics tell us that prayer is more waiting than striving. I cannot make the Spirit of Love show up. Like the wind, the Spirit blows where it wills. I can only wait for the right conditions for the fog to lift.
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Saturday, June 4, 2011



Celebrating the Ascension of Jesus into heaven is a good time for me to clarify the way I've been thinking about heaven lately. Just as we think of time as the fourth dimension, I think of heaven as a kind of dimension.
This heavenly dimension is not elsewhere, not distant. It is here. The heavenly dimension and our earthly dimension are not just right next to each other. They are not parallel. They are fused.
These two worlds are woven into and through each other. I think of a loom set up with threads running up and down and a spindle weaving other threads back and forth through the up and down threads. I imagine heaven and earth woven through each other, intermingled.
When Jesus rose from the dead he entered into the heavenly dimension, from which he appeared off and on to his disciples. At other times they couldn't see him, even though he remained around them and within them. The Ascension is the last time Jesus appeared to his disciiples.
So Jesus in heaven is around me and within me, woven into the fabric of my life. Even though I can't see him, I can feel his presence and talk to him. This way of thinking about heaven is helping me to grow into a more intimate relationship with Jesus.
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