10 August 2014

Weekly Gospel Reflection—10 August 2014

As soon as the meal was finished, he insisted that the disciples get in the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he dismissed the people. With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night.

Meanwhile, the boat was far out to sea when the wind came up against them and they were battered by the waves. At about four o’clock in the morning, Jesus came toward them walking on the water. They were scared out of their wits. “A ghost!” they said, crying out in terror.

But Jesus was quick to comfort them. “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter, suddenly bold, said, “Master, if it’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water to Jesus. But when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink. He cried, “Master, save me!”

Jesus didn’t hesitate. He reached down and grabbed his hand. Then he said, “Faint-heart, what got into you?”

The two of them climbed into the boat, and the wind died down. The disciples in the boat, having watched the whole thing, worshiped Jesus, saying, “This is it! You are G‑d’s Son for sure!”

The Celtic Christian way of seeing the world is one of integration. That is, there’s no division between the sacred and the secular. The so-called “secular” world — that is, the day-in-day-out routine of “normal” life — is infused with the “sacred.” If we remove the sacred, the secular world would dissolve.

I agree with this worldview. It’s changed the way I see others around me and the way I see the entire cosmos.

This worldview is known biblically as G‑d’s Realm or the “Kingdom of G‑d.” Jesus told us that he was planting this long yearned for realm during his ministry (see Mark 1.15). It was inaugurated at Jesus’ resurrection (John 20) and fully implemented and established at the fall of the Temple in 70 CE (known as the “coming age;” Matthew 12.32; Hebrews 6.5). From then until now an on into the future, G‑d’s Realm is spreading across the cosmos bringing G‑d’s future into the present.

We see in the story above that G‑d’s Realm isn’t for the so-called “super spiritual” people. It’s for everyone. But, as we also see from the story, we need help. We need others who are further down The Way to help us along.

In Celtic Christianity, this person is known as an anamchara or soul friend. It’s someone with whom we can share our lives with. Someone who walks with us, helps us see G‑d in our lives, and even guides us to correction and enlightenment.

In the story above, Jesus was walking on the water. He spoke comfort to his frightened followers that it was truly he and not a ghost. Peter, wanting to be a part of this extraordinary event, asks if he can walk on the water, too. Jesus tells him to come on.

And Peter does it.

Do we ever stop here in this story? Do we marvel at the fact that Pete actually got out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus on the water?!

That, my friends, is what we’re called to do. We’re called to be Jesus in the world. That means, we’re called to do the impossible.

But we’re not called to do it alone. Too often, we do. We go about trying to expand G‑d’s Realm by ourselves. The passage today tells us we can’t do it alone. We need help. We need others, walking on the water with us, to help us when we begin sink.

I encourage you, therefore, find someone with whom you can walk on water, someone with whom you can do the impossible.

Because, my friends, we can.

We just can’t do it alone.



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In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

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* MSG — Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

03 August 2014

Weekly Gospel Reflection—03 August 2014

When Jesus heard about John, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. When the crowds learned this, they followed him on foot from the cities. When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion for them and healed those who were sick. That evening his disciples came and said to him, “This is an isolated place and it’s getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

But Jesus said to them, “There’s no need to send them away. You give them something to eat.”

They replied, “We have nothing here except five loaves of bread and two fish.”

He said, “Bring them here to me.” He ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves of bread and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them and broke the loaves apart and gave them to his disciples. Then the disciples gave them to the crowds. Everyone ate until they were full, and they filled twelve baskets with the leftovers. About five thousand men plus women and children had eaten.

My heart is heavy.

Currently, there are over 50,000 children at the U.S. border. Some people claim that they’re illegal aliens. Other people claim that their refugees. The thing that sticks out in my head, the thing that seems to get over-looked is that they’re our brothers and sisters in need. Too often, the clamour from the crowds of citizens is that of the disciples, “Send them away…”

How can this be? While I’m sure that the issues are more complicated than I realize, I also think they’re as simple as I imagine.

These are people seeking help. How can we turn them away? How can we hold our head high and claim to be following Jesus when we turn away those who are the least among us?

I just don’t understand.

Of course, the quick reply is, “Why don’t you take them in and help them?” Believe me, I would if I could. My family has always been the type to help those in need.

But that’s not the issue. The issue is the hatred — in the name of Jesus, mind you — being spewed out to our brothers and sisters. We only seem to be concerned with our own (but we really don’t care about the least among us, either).

Honestly, it comes down to the fact that we just don’t want to be bothered. We want our own stuff and we don’t want to give it to anyone else.

There’s a word for that. And it’s an ugly word. Greed. Plain and simple. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that we are acting like Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ harshest words were leveled at the self-righteous of his own time.

Let’s not lie to ourselves and claim that Jesus would do the same thing. He wouldn’t. He didn’t. As the story above tells us, Jesus fed the multitude. And, “Everyone ate until they were full.”

Everyone.

Every child.

Every woman.

Every man.

Everyone.

If our concern isn’t for the welfare of everyone, then we aren’t acting like Jesus.

As James tells us:

Someone might claim, “You have faith and I have action.” But how can I see your faith apart from your actions? Instead, I’ll show you my faith by putting it into practice in faithful action…[A] person is shown to be righteous through faithful actions and not through faith alone...As the lifeless body is dead, so faith without actions is dead (James 2.18, 24, 26; CEB).

In other words, if we’re going to claim to be faithful followers of Jesus, then our actions must reflect that declaration. If they don’t, then we need to re-examine the Jesus we’re following. I think we’ll find that it’s a Jesus of our own making and not the one we read of in the Bible.

God have mercy upon us.



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In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

27 July 2014

Weekly Gospel Reflection—27 July 2014

He told another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and planted in his field. It’s the smallest of all seeds. But when it’s grown, it’s the largest of all vegetable plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds in the sky come and nest in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in a bushel of wheat flour until the yeast had worked its way through all the dough.”

...

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that somebody hid in a field, which someone else found and covered up. Full of joy, the finder sold everything and bought that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went and sold all that he owned and bought it.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away. That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

They said to him, “Yes.”

Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”

The “Kingdom Parables” or, “The Stories of G‑d’s Realm.” I love these stories. They offer to us little glimpses into G‑d’s Realm.

One of the things that some people trip up on is Matthew’s use of the phrase “kingdom of heaven.” The other Gospels use the phrase “kingdom of G‑d” (see Mark 4 and Luke 13). Some people interpret this to mean that Matthew’s meaning something else; that Matthew means something different.

That’s not the case at all.

Following a tradition that’s still relevant today, a lot of Jews wouldn’t write the name of  G‑d in a way that might be defaced or destroyed (see this article for more information). So, instead of using G‑d’s name, Matthew used G‑d’s realm (or Kingdom).

Another mistake (in my opinion) some people make, and it’s directly linked to the misunderstanding of the word “heaven,” is the understanding that the Realm of G‑d, is only referring to something that happens when we die. That is, “heaven” is about someplace one goes after this life is over.

Because of this, many people thought that G‑d’s Realm would come at the end of history. Even today, a lot of people think something like that. Because of different prophecy “experts,” many think that G‑d will destroy creation and start over. This “new creation” will be, it’s thought, the “kingdom of G‑d.”

Again, that’s not quite right.

Jesus clearly taught that G‑d’s Realm was being planted through his ministry — that G‑d’s Realm was breaking into our realm through him, “Now is the time! Here comes G‑d’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news! (Mark 1.14-15 CEB, emphasis added; cf. these translations). And that understanding is the key to these stories about G‑d’s Realm.

Notice in the stories above that G‑d’s Realm is in the middle of our realm. In the story of the yeast, the yeast (meaning G‑d’s Realm) isn’t added after the bread is finished baking. It’s added while dough is being kneaded.

In the story of the fish, the “good” fish are mixed up along with the “bad” fish. In the story about the “mustard seed,” the seed is planted among the other existing trees. The story of the buried treasure is a story about hidden treasure that’s available in the present time.

All of this points to the idea that G‑d’s Realm was “planted” during the time of Jesus, “grew” through the age of the apostles, and was fully established at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

From then til now and on into the future, the Realm of G‑d continues to spread throughout creation. It continues to permeate all of life — not to destroy it but to preserve that which is good and bring new life.

Notice the “job description” in the last paragraph above:

“[Every] legal expert who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”

Too often, the community of faith has thought that the job description of a follower of Jesus was to destroy everything that didn’t line up with our interpretation. But Jesus said there are some “old...things” that are good.

The “head of the household” doesn’t just bring out “new things.” She will recognize the good in some of the “old” things, preserve them, and bring new life to them.

G‑d’s Realm, therefore, is a current reality within our world. Like yeast, it’s permeating all of creation bringing new life to the good “old” things and creating new things along the way.

Our job as “trained disciples” is to be treasure hunters. To dig past all of the layers of falseness within our world to find the “good” that’s buried there. Once found, we’re to excavate it, clean it up, and make it ready for use in G‑d’s Realm today.



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In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC