22 September 2014

Meditation — 22 September 2014

“Or what woman, if she owns ten silver coins and loses one of them, won’t light a lamp and sweep the house, searching her home carefully until she finds it? When she finds it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.”

“Celebrate with me because I’ve found my lost coin.”

I see a woman in a dark green dress — thick fabric, like denim or hemp — searching desperately through a one room house — rustic, prairie style.

She’s moaning deeply. Hurting. Her pain, very tangible.

She’s searching for the coin.

The room’s getting darker and darker.

She’s becoming more frantic.

She’s spinning, turning over everything, spinning down…

down…

d
o
w
n
.
.
.

the room gets darker

darker

spinning

darker

darker

spinning

collapsing

almost complete darkness.

She’s weeping in a crumpled mess in the middle of the floor.

.
.
.

To the right, a small glint of light

then a glimmer

a sparkle

a beam of light.

The room growing brighter.

The woman starts to rise...

the room getting brighter

she begins to laugh,

her sorrow turning into joy.

She walks over to the coin

the room is completely lit

laughing fully now…

Now she’s spinning again

dancing

clutching the coin to her breast

spinning

dancing

laughing

singing

dancing

She flings open the door and sways outside to the sounds of nature in the morning...

~~~
I see me in this story. I am the woman…searching. I’m searching for the light of Christ within me.

Knowing it’s there.

Knowing that I’ve buried it beneath layers of falseness.

I’m searching, frantically.

Knowing that the true light is there

knowing that my true self is buried somewhere deep there.

Then the U2 song plays inside me…

but I still
haven't found
what I'm looking for…



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

21 September 2014

Weekly Gospel Reflection — 21 September 2014

“The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After he agreed with the workers to pay them a denarion [a day’s wage — j+], he sent them into his vineyard.

“Then he went out around nine in the morning and saw others standing around the marketplace doing nothing. He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I’ll pay you whatever is right.’ And they went.

“Again around noon and then at three in the afternoon, he did the same thing. Around five in the afternoon he went and found others standing around, and he said to them, ‘Why are you just standing around here doing nothing all day long?’

“‘Because nobody has hired us,’ they replied.

“He responded, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the workers and give them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and moving on finally to the first.’ When those who were hired at five in the afternoon came, each one received a denarion. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more. But each of them also received a denarion. When they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, ‘These who were hired last worked one hour, and they received the same pay as we did even though we had to work the whole day in the hot sun.’

“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I did you no wrong. Didn’t I agree to pay you a denarion? Take what belongs to you and go. I want to give to this one who was hired last the same as I give to you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you resentful because I’m generous?’ So those who are last will be first. And those who are first will be last.”

Ah! Here’s a parable about G-d’s Realm we can agree with! As I noted last week, a lot of us don’t really like thinking of the parables about G-d’s Realm as a picture of how Yahweh deals with people. Especially when the images can be too scary or borderline on “evil.” But this one might be okay.

Might be...

This story is about Yahweh’s mercy. Or grace. Or love. Honestly, it could be about any of G-d’s gifts or all of them. The point of the parable is made by the landowner — Yahweh has the right “to do what I want with what belongs to me.”

But then there’s the follow up question. And that question stings like ice cold water on the face first thing in the morning, “[Are] you resentful because I’m generous?”

Ouch.

There are some people who we really don’t think deserve G-d’s love. In fact, some of us would go so far to say that, not only do they not deserve G-d’s love, we “know” they won’t possibly receive it!

Adolf Hitler.

Saddam Hussein.

Timothy McVeigh.

The abusive spouse.

The kid who tortures animals.

The person who sexually assaulted a child.

The politician who stole the money away from widows.

Those are just the obvious ones. Why do we think Yahweh shouldn’t love them? Because they’re “evil” or “mean”? Because they’ve done horrific and unspeakable things?

But which one of us hasn’t been mean to someone else? Which one of us is “without sin” (John 8.1-11)?

When we start grumbling, like the first workers chosen by the landowner, we’re thinking more highly of ourselves that we ought (Romans 12.3). The truth is, G-d really does love everyone. There will be some people, though, who come into the family at the very last. But that’s not our concern. Our main vocation is to help implement G-d’s Realm here; now.

And, really, this whole “who got here first and worked the longest” is relative. I mean, there have been faithful followers of The Way of Jesus for a long, long time (Hebrews 11). And there will be many more. More than anyone can count:

After this I looked, and there was a great crowd that no one could number. They were from every nation, tribe, people, and language. They were standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They wore white robes and held palm branches in their hands. They cried out with a loud voice:

“Victory belongs to our God
       who sits on the throne,
           and to the Lamb.”



~~~
In the Love of the Three in One,

Br. Jack+, LC

15 September 2014

Weekly Gospel Reflection — 14 September 2014

At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?”

Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.

“The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred thousand dollars. He couldn’t pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

“The poor wretch threw himself at the king’s feet and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

“The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him ten dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, ‘Pay up. Now!’

“The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, ‘Give me a chance and I’ll pay it all back.’ But he wouldn’t do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

“The king summoned the man and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

This is another one of those passages that people don’t like to think of on Jesus’ lips. Or, at least, they don’t like to think that Yahweh’s Realm actually works the way it’s described here.

And while I understand this need, we’re basing it on our own sensibilities and not the historical context. We may not like to think G-d’s Realm works this way, but Jesus said, “The Realm of G-d is like…”

However, with all parables I remember a scene from the movie Enter the Dragon starring Bruce Lee. After working with a student, Bruce points away and says “It’s like a finger pointing a way to the moon.” The student just stares at Bruce’s hand. Bruce smacks him on head and says,“Don’t concentrate on the finger or you’ll miss all that heavenly glory.”


In other words, parables are a way of pointing to something else. We shouldn’t get so caught up in the parable that we miss “all that heavenly glory.” And, in this parable, that “heavenly glory” is forgiveness. But, it’s forgiveness with an edge.

The part that’s hard for us is the idea that the “king” in the story represents Yahweh. And if that’s true, then G-d’s not very nice. It seems that Yahweh can remove forgiveness away and mete out justice instead. And we all know where we’d be if that were the case with us.

And maybe that’s the part that bothers us the most. If Yahweh actually treats us the way we treat others, then most of us will end up in a situation that we won’t like.

But, whether we like it or not, we’ve seen forgiveness depicted this way over and over again in Matthew’s telling of the Jesus’ story. That is, Yahweh’s forgiveness extended to us is paralleled to (and exponentially more than) our forgiveness given to others.

In chapter 6, Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us” (v. 12; emphasis added). Here we see that Yahweh’s forgiveness of us is tied directly to our forgiveness of others.

Jesus went on to explain, “If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father-Mother will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father-Mother forgive your sins” (vv. 14-15; amended; emphasis added). In the passage above, Jesus returns to this same theme.

In other words, if we want to be forgiven — and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t — we must forgive others. Not the kind of “forgiveness” that holds grudges, that’s really only lip-service while we’re waiting for the chance to get even. No, our actions must be an extension of our forgiveness. As St. Paul wrote,

Don’t pay back anyone for their evil actions with evil actions, but show respect for what everyone else believes is good.

If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people. Don’t try to get revenge for yourselves, my dear friends, but leave room for [Yahweh’s] wrath. It is written, Revenge belongs to me; I will pay it back, says [Yahweh]. Instead, If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. By doing this, you will pile burning coals of fire upon his head. Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good (Romans 12.17-21; cf. 1Peter 3.9; amended).

So, while we may not like to think G-d forgives the way we do, Jesus seems to be trying to warn us.

Or, perhaps, this is another one of those karmic things; i.e., what goes around comes around. Jesus clearly believed and taught that principle, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Why? Because how we treat others will be how we’re treated. Here, Jesus once more tells us that how we forgive others is how we’ll be forgiven.

It’s a hard lesson. And we may not like it. But that’s the truth of it.

However, and I think this is something that we really miss, is the last part of the parable. Even though the servant is imprisoned, he isn’t left there. He’s there until he’s “paid back the entire debt.” So, while there may be some pain as we learn how to properly forgive, Mercy doesn’t leave us in our pain and misery. G-d’s Mercy releases us. Restores us. Not only to Yahweh, but to the ones who hurt us and we held grudges against. We will truly learn to forgive as Yahweh forgives, whether in this life or the next. I think Jesus is compelling us to learn that lesson now.



~~~
Br. Jack+, LC


~~~
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson