30 September 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 30 September 2011


Matthew 8:1-17 (CEB): Now when Jesus had come down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. A man with a skin disease came, kneeled before him, and said, “Lord, if you want, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do want to. Become clean.” Instantly his skin disease was cleansed. Jesus said to him,“Don’t say anything to anyone. Instead, go and show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded. This will be a testimony to them.”

When Jesus went to Capernaum, a centurion approached, pleading with him, “Lord, my servant is flat on his back at home, paralyzed, and his suffering is awful.”

Jesus responded, “I’ll come and heal him.”

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. I’m a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was impressed and said to the people following him, “I say to you with all seriousness that even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this. I say to you that there are many who will come from east and west and sit down to eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth.” Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it will be done for you just as you have believed.” And his servant was healed that very moment.

Jesus went home with Peter and saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her. Then she got up and served them. That evening people brought to Jesus many who were demon-possessed. He threw the spirits out with just a word. He healed everyone who was sick. This happened so that what Isaiah the prophet said would be fulfilled: He is the one who took our illnesses and carried away our diseases.

The first thing that comes to my mind here is that part about Jesus touching the man with a skin disease. In Jewish culture at the time, if one touched something / someone unclean, she would be unclean too (see Leviticus 5). But, as is so typical of Jesus, he broke from traditions and touched the man. But it wasn’t just the deed of touching him that stands out. Jesus had the desire - ‘I do want to’ - and his intention was to restore the man to a rightful place in society. This is seen by his statements to the man about showing himself to the priest. After the priest has inspected the man, then he would be allowed to participate in the community. He would no longer be an outcast.

How often are we willing to go against tradition or society? There are some real issues in our time that really need people to be Jesus in them. The homeless community comes to mind. How many of us are willing to leave our comfort zones and help them? And by that, I don’t just mean helping at a food pantry (although, that is an important thing). No, I’m talking more about going to where they are - to meet them where they’re at. And not to shove Christ down their throats but to be Christ to them. What would it mean to offer to wash their feet? Or set up a ‘tail-gate party’ just for them?

Or what about helping at an AIDS or abortion clinic? Again, not to beat them over the head with a Bible, but to actually practice a life of Love and Grace. Of listening and befriending them. Of actually caring about them as people that have the same needs and wants and desires as ourselves. What kind of impact would that make when people are no longer afraid judgmental Christians? What kind of impact would that have on those communities and us?

This passage is all about restoration and reconciliation. It’s about seeing people as people and healing them. It’s about taking those healed and whole people and restoring them into active service within the community. Of giving them back their dignity. It’s also about humbling ourselves and placing their needs above our own. It’s a very hard thing to do sometimes but that’s what’s expected from us who claim to follow Jesus.


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

Br Jack+, LC

29 September 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 29 September 2011


Matthew 7:22-29 (CEB): On the Judgment Day, many people will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name and expel demons in your name and do lots of miracles in your name?’ Then I’ll tell them, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you people who do wrong.’

“Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who built a house on bedrock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It didn’t fall because it was firmly set on bedrock. But everybody who hears these words of mine and doesn’t put them into practice will be like a fool who built a house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It fell and was completely destroyed.”

When Jesus finished these words, the crowds were amazed at his teaching because he was teaching them like someone with authority and not like their legal experts.

In this passage, Jesus is talking about a firm foundation for life. Not life in the world to come. No. Life now. This whole sermon (that started way back in chapter 5) is about practical daily life here in this world. And it’s not just about belief (as we saw with yesterday’s reflection). It’s about doing. Apologies go out to my neo-Calvinist friends. There is work to be done regarding following Jesus. In the first two paragraphs, Jesus made mention of our actions: ‘Get away from me, you people who do wrong’...Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice...But everybody who...doesn’t put them into practice...’ The teachings of Jesus are a way of being human that reconciles God’s creation. It’s not only about spiritual things. Notice the first paragraph is all about doing spiritual things. But that alone is not enough. To be truly human, to be fully human, we have to live reconciled lives in all of life - at home, at work, at school, etc.

We see in the second paragraph that walking in The Way - being people committed to living the way of Jesus, of being Jesus in the world - is the only sure way of living and being. It is a firm foundation; the only foundation.

Also notice that living The Way does not guarantee one a life free from issues. Jesus was clear that there are storms in life. The key is how we are prepared to handle them. If we have built a way of living that is based on our own way of doing things, of thinking that our way is best, then, when the storms of life come our way, our world will come crashing down around us. But here is an important point - we aren’t destroyed, but our way of living is. Even when we blow it and want to do things our way, the Gospel is all about God coming to our aid even then. As someone recently said, the Gospel story ends with resurrection, not Golgotha. In the Gospel, there is always hope. Even when the ‘house’ is ‘completely destroyed’ we can start over. God is there to help us begin again. God’s unfailing love and compassion are renewed every morning (Lamentation 3.22-23 CEB).



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

Br Jack+, LC

27 September 2011

Daily Gospel Reflection - 27 September 2011


Matthew 7:1-12 (CEB): “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. You’ll receive the same judgment you give. Whatever you deal out will be dealt out to you. Why do you see the splinter that’s in your brother’s or sister’s eye, but don’t notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother or sister, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when there’s a log in your eye? You deceive yourself! First take the log out of your eye, and then you’ll see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s or sister’s eye. Don’t give holy things to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls in front of pigs. They will stomp on the pearls, then turn around and attack you.

“Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Whoever seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door is opened. Who among you will give your children a stone when they ask for bread? Or give them a snake when they ask for fish? If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets.”

There’s a lot of good stuff in the Gospel reading today. First up is the idea of judging others. It seems that a lot of us seem to forget this passage. ‘You’ll receive the same judgment you give’. Some people call this karma, but whatever one calls it, ‘what goes around, comes around’. We seem to forget that, maybe, the reason others are judging us is that we have judged others. And, if we feel that we are being judged unfairly, perhaps we have judged others unfairly, too.

‘But they started it!’ some may claim. I know that I do this sometimes, too. I think it part of our sin addicted selves. I react to how others act toward me. If someone is short and snaps at me, if I feel it’s unjust, I’ll react in kind. But what I think Jesus is telling us here is that we can stop the cycle. We don’t have to react the same way. We can be full of God’s Grace and love and just let those judgments fall to the floor.

Furthermore, we are so quick to point out that, yes, Jesus did say that we could judge other people. But only after we remove the log from our own eyes. The people who quickly point this out, it seems to me, haven’t really removed the log from their own eye. I know, that when I pause for a moment, and reflect about a situation, I quickly see that I may be looking at the thing wrong. I may not have all of the information. For example, someone dented the side of our car (not too badly, but still). Now, one reaction was to lash out in anger to this phantom person. But, as was also pointed out, we don’t really know the circumstances of the dent. Maybe someone received an emergency phone call about a loved one and in the rush to get to the emergency room, backed into the car and dented it. We can certainly see how leaving a note with all of the proper information on it was not the top priority at the moment. And, perhaps further, maybe we had wronged someone and we didn’t respond properly? In some instances, we are not innocent victims.

And, even if we are in the right, we should be cautious about placing judgment. Jesus contends that it would be like giving ‘holy things to dogs’ or ‘throw[ing] pearls in front of pigs’. The one being judged will just stomp all over it. The question we should ask ourselves is are we really so pure that we can pass judgment on someone else? Do we have all the information? Do we really see it for what it is (whatever ‘it’ may be)? Most likely not. So, again, caution should be considered before passing judgment.

There is a lot of talk about the ten commandments on court house walls or on the grounds of court buildings. I think we should really remove these and replace them with the ‘Golden Rule’: ‘You should treat people the way you want people to treat you.’ If the ‘Golden Rule’ actually shaped our lives, there wouldn’t be (or at least a lot less) violence in the world - whether it’s directed toward nature, animals, or other humans. We would stop playing politics with helping our brothers and sisters who are poor and seen as outcasts. We would be putting an end to poverty and curable diseases. There would not be an ‘us’ verses ‘them’. The whole world be at peace and would be as one. Jesus is telling us that this is how we are to live. That this is what it looks like to be a person of ‘The Way’.

To flesh this out a little bit more, St Paul wrote what some have called the ‘Platinum Rule’: ‘Don’t do anything for selfish purposes but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others’ (Philippians 2.3-4 CEB). The point of both of these passages is people who claim to follow Christ should be humble as Christ was humble and empty ourselves in the service of others (Philippians 2.1-11 CEB). Anyone who does that will fulfill the ‘Law and the Prophets’.



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

Br Jack+, LC

26 September 2011

Weekly Gospel Reflection - 25 September 2011


Matthew 21:23-32 (CEB): When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came to him as he was teaching. They asked, “What kind of authority do you have for doing these things? Who gave you this authority?”

Jesus replied, “I have a question for you. If you tell me the answer, I’ll tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things. Where did John get his authority to baptize? Did he get it from heaven or from humans?”

They argued among themselves, “If we say ‘from heaven,’ he’ll say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But we can’t say ‘from humans’ because we’re afraid of the crowd, since everyone thinks John was a prophet.” Then they replied, “We don’t know.”

Jesus also said to them, “Neither will I tell you what kind of authority I have to do these things.

“What do you think? A man had two sons. Now he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’

“ ‘No, I don’t want to,’ he replied. But later he changed his mind and went.

“The father said the same thing to the other son, who replied, ‘Yes, sir.’ But he didn’t go.

“Which one of these two did his father’s will?”

They said, “The first one.”

Jesus said to them, “I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s kingdom ahead of you. For John came to you on the righteous road, and you didn’t believe him. But tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. Yet even after you saw this, you didn’t change your hearts and lives and you didn’t believe him.

‘I assure you that tax collectors and prostitutes are entering God’s [realm] ahead of you.’ I have never noticed this before. Well, I mean, I have in one way. That is, I have seen that Jesus accepted the ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ but I didn’t notice that he accepted the religious leaders, too. Jesus said that they, too, would be ‘entering God’s [realm]’. Not as they were, mind you. Just as the ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ would have to change their hearts and lives, so, too, would the ‘Jewish opposition’. For some reason, in my mind, I had always thought that they wouldn’t be ‘entering God’s [realm]’.

I had some people not tie the to parts of this passage together. They thought that the story Jesus told didn’t have anything to do with his confrontation with the ‘Jewish opposition’. In case we miss it, in the story Jesus told, the ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ would equal the
first son. The religious leaders would equal the second son. The religious leaders answered ‘Yes!’ to following God and doing what God asked. But, later, when God started doing something new through John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, they refused. Likewise, the ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ at first said ‘No!’ to following God and doing what God asked. But, later, when God started doing something new through John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth, they followed. In both cases, both groups were God’s children, much to the discomfort of the religious leadership, no doubt.

So, before we start pointing fingers and stating that ‘those people’ aren’t God’s children because they are doing things the way we do them, maybe we should remember this story that Jesus told.


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

Br Jack+, LC

25 September 2011

Prayer for the Week: The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

O God, you declare your all loving power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

19 September 2011

Weekly Gospel Reflection - 18 September 2011


Matthew 20.1-16 CEB: “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,* 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.”

* - A denarion was a typical day’s wages.

As has been pointed out before, the ‘kingdom of heaven’ (or God’s Realm) was initially thought of as coming after this world was destroyed. However, one of the points of Jesus’ stories about the Realm of God was that it was emerging at that very moment. In this story, we could picture the ‘landowner’ as being Christ and the first people hired would be the disciples with the subsequent people hired as other people who follow Christ later one (starting with the Gentiles as mentioned in Acts).

The point of this story is that all of God’s people are equals and should be treated as such. I have often stated that the one place that people should be able to go and be accepted and treated as equals are churches. Sadly, however, that is not always the case. It started out that way. In the early life of the Church, women were seen and treated as equals (forget all that you’ve heard about St Paul). One of the reasons for the early growth of the church was the ideal of God’s Realm being manifested on earth.

Later, in Ireland, this same ideal was made manifest by the several monasteries that housed both men and women. Some were even guided by women (St Hilda of Whitby being one of the most famous).

But at some point in history, probably around the early fourth century, this changed. Women were gradually removed from places of prominence. Equality was replaced with segregation and the idea that men were the top of the hierarchical structure took hold and hasn’t really been released.

And it wasn’t until the ‘world’ started looking at the inequalities and injustices going on that things started changing again. Certainly, these changes were helped along the way (and in some cases started) by people dedicated to God’s dream of equality, but, by and large, it was the churches that were (and have been) the strongest opponents of equality regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation.

But in the story above, we see that all people, regardless of when they became members of God’s family, were seen as equal with everyone else. The person who got started late received the same pay as the person who had been working all day. In God’s Realm, all people enjoy the same benefits of being in God’s family. All people can be leaders - regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. God’s Realm is not about leadership and laity. It’s about the old saying, ‘At the foot of the cross, the ground is level.’ It is we who have made these distinctions and divisions and false categories. Either we have made them ourselves or we have allowed them to be made. Let’s start removing them today. Right now. Wherever we can. At home. At school. At work. At our places of worship. Let’s look for places where we can take God’s Realm and integrate it into ours. That is, after all, the point of the story we find ourselves in.



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

Br Jack+, LC

11 September 2011

Weekly Gospel Reflection - 11 September 2011


Matthew 18:21-35 (CEB): Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?”

Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold. Because the servant didn’t have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment. But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.

“When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.’

“Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.

“When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened. His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me. Shouldn’t you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.

“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks against the US. In an instant, all of us were changed. I still remember watching the second plane hit the tower. We watched in shock and horror as the towers came tumbling down. Thousands of people died. And how did we respond? At first, while most of us were still numb from the events, hundreds of people went to the attack sites and helped to rescue our brothers and sisters who may still be alive amidst all the rubble and chaos. Then millions of people from around the world sent money and supplies to help those in need. Many came themselves to volunteer in the rescue and clean-up.

But then...

It started. ‘War...’ ‘Kill them, kill them all...’ ‘Nuke the whole place and let God sort ‘em out...’ ‘We’ll put a boot up your ass, it’s the American way...’

The murmuring started oh so slightly but quickly grew into a mighty crescendo that was/is almost deafening. The thoughts and questions came pouring in - how do we respond to those who perpetrated such a thing? The world stood by with baited breath to see how the last remaining super power (that no longer looked so super) would react. So, as a nation, we responded by launching a decade long ‘War on Terror’. We stated that those who did this to us where an ‘Axis of Evil’ that needed to be wiped off the planet. We painted them as non-humans, animals, monsters, that needed to obliterated from existence. In that one act, in the declaration alone, we became the monsters and we have proved it every single day since.

In today’s gospel reading, Peter’s question is so telling. He asks how to respond to his ‘brother or sister’ who sins against him. I tell you that our (so-called) ‘enemies’ are our brothers or sisters. All humanity is related. The Muslim extremist. The Christian extremist. The gay, straight, black, brown, red, yellow, white, female, male, the religious, the non-religious, republicans, democrats, conservatives, liberals, the just and the unjust, and everyone in between. All humanity is precious in God’s sight. All humanity is our brothers and sisters. Peter’s question pierces us to our very core. How are we to respond to those who have sinned against us? With forgiveness. Period. There are no other options for those who follow Christ.

‘But what if...?’ I hear the what if questions all the time. And the answer is the same - forgiveness. That is always and forever the answer. And not just once or twice or even seven times. We are to forgive the way God forgives. And the story Jesus tells in response to Peter’s is the part we don’t want to read. It’s the part that reveals our sin and shows us that we will receive as much mercy and forgiveness as we given others. St James wrote, ‘There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment’ (James 2.13 CEB). Do we want to know how to react to others? Mercy. Forgiveness. Love.

‘So, we’re just supposed to let people walk all over us? We’re supposed to be door mats?’ I say a resounding, ‘Yes’. If that is what we want to call living as Christ in the world, then so be it. When will we stop living for ourselves and start living for others? We are called to be the Word of God made flesh. We are to be Christ to those we meet and seek Christ within them. There are no other opinions on this matter, friends. Jesus said that we are to forgive as God forgives. Notice that the man in the story didn’t ask for forgiveness. He asked for patience so he could repay his debt. But the king forgave the debt instead. That is the picture of the type of forgiveness that Jesus is talking about. I’ve heard people say that we are only to forgive those who ask for forgiveness. That’s not the story Jesus tells. That’s not the way Jesus lived. He forgave without being asked. When he was dying on the cross he said, ‘Father-Mother, forgive them.’ No one was asking for it. When Stephen was being stoned to death, he said, ‘Father-Mother, forgive them.’ No one was asking for it. As the story shows us, violence and unforgiveness only continues to the cycle of more violence and unforgiveness. St Paul wrote, ‘Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good’ (Romans 12.21 CEB). I say, with all sorrow, that we have been defeated by evil and that every day we continue to hide our violent ways in the mask of ‘justice’, we are being defeated.

How should we have responded to those attacks ten years ago? With forgiveness. It is a hard road to walk. And Jesus never said it would be easy. But, for the follower of Jesus, that is the only road available. Forgive, my friends.

Forgive.



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

Br Jack+, LC

Prayer for the Week: The Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

O God, because without you we aren't able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may direct and rule our hearts in all things, through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

10 September 2011

Didache - Chapter 5

5 The Way of Death

5:1 The way of death, on the other hand, is this: It is evil and accursed - murders, adulteries, lust, illicit sex, thefts, idolatries, magical arts, sorceries, robberies, false testimonies, hypocrisy, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness - those who do not fear God.

5:2 The way of death is the way of those who persecute the good, hate the truth, love lies, and do not understand the reward for righteousness. They do not cleave to good or righteous judgment; they do not watch for what is good, but for what is evil. They are strangers to meekness and patience, loving vanities, pursuing revenge, without pity for the needy and oppressed. They do not know their Creator; they are murderers of children, destroyers of God's image. They turn away from those who are in need, making matters worse for those who are distressed. They are advocates for the rich, unjust judges of the poor. In a word, the way of death is full of those who are steeped in sin. Be delivered, children, from all of this!

For me, this is almost a commentary on American politics! Too much focus lately has been “advocat[ing] for the rich” with an equal “unjust judge[ment] of the poor.” I have read too many articles, blogs, and opinion pieces, that basically paint the poor as people who don’t deserve our help; that have chosen their lot in life; that are “milking the system;” who are “cancers of society” that need to be removed. All the while, those same writers don’t even bat an eye at how they treat animals or their spouses or their children. As long as things are fine in their world, well, quite literally, to hell with the rest of us. They are so busy “collecting treasures for [their] own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them” (Matthew 6.19 CEB) that they forget that other people are suffering. Either that, or they just really don’t care about them.

Also, there is the section of “pursuing revenge.” I don’t want to start trouble here but that is exactly what I feel about our so-called “justice” system - be it the “just-war theory” or our legal system. Most of the time, we aren’t looking for justice. We are looking for revenge. The way we declared “War on Terror” and became a terror ourselves is so telling. We are not seeking justice. We are told by Christ our Savior to love our enemies. Period. That does not mean to find ways of torturing them or killing them from a distance. We are told to forgive others as God forgives us. That does not mean murdering the families of our so-called enemies. We are told to love others as God loves us. To be merciful to them as God is merciful to us. James told us, “There will be no mercy in judgment for anyone who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy overrules judgment” (James 2.13 CEB). These are not suggestions, friends. They are the ways in which we show that we are living as Christ in the world.

I know. Plenty of people are thinking that I’m being so naive. That sometimes you have to ‘stop the monster’ or the monster continues to win. Who says? Does God say that? Did Jesus say that? Did Jesus live that? If we are to be God’s children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, the Word made flesh, then we need to start acting like it. We need to “have the mind of Christ.” We need to heed the words of St Paul, “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature” (Romans 12.2 CEB). Don’t we get it? Haven’t we learned yet? Our actions must reflect “what is good and pleasing and mature.” If we “stop the monster” by the same way of the “monster” we have not figured out “what is good and pleasing and mature.” We have become the monster!

In this chapter, the community is stating that one must be different from the “patterns of this world.” We can’t live the same way. To live that way is to continue to live in death. And we can see the truth of that every day we pick up a newspaper (or read it digitally) or watch a news broadcast. With the tenth anniversary of September 11th tomorrow, and all of the television shows about that horrible event, we have to ask ourselves - Are we better or worse than before? Are we the same people? Do we still want revenge or are we working toward peace? Are we being ‘conformed to the patterns of this world’ or are we being transformed into people who make peace? Jesus said, “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children” (Matthew 5.9 CEB). We have to ask ourselves, “Are we being called God’s children?” If we are not, if our way of living is a mirror images of the “patterns of this world,” then, to quote the Didache: “Be delivered, children, from all this!”



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

Br Jack+, LC

Daily Gospel Reflection - 10 September 2011


Matthew 3:13-17 CEB: At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”

Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”

So John agreed to baptize Jesus. When Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him.  A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”

I have always wondered about this passage. Why did Jesus need to be baptized? What ‘righteousness’ was he fulfilling? As we noted previously, Jesus was the embodiment of Israel. That is, Jesus was to do and be all that Israel was to do and be. And, as Wright has pointed out, humanity was to be priests. They were to reflect God to creation and reflect creation’s worship back to God. When humanity sinned, God chose Israel (through Abraham and Sarah) to be the priests for the world through whom God would rescue creation. When they failed, God became a human being in Jesus of Nazareth (John 1.1-5, 14; Colossians 1.19-20; Philippians 2.6-11) . One of the things a priest must do before ministering is wash himself (See, for example, Exodus 30) and since Jesus was a priest (see Hebrews 5-7, specifically 5.10; 6.20; 7.17), he must be baptized before he could start his ministry.

Furthermore, not only was Jesus doing and being the True Israel, he was also doing and being the True Human One. This is one of the reasons I like the Common English Bible. It translates the usual ‘Son of Man’ with ‘the Human One’. It has been said if one wants to know what God is like, one must look to Jesus of Nazareth. He is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1.15). But I would add that if someone wants to know what humanity is supposed to do and be, one must also look to Jesus of Nazareth. He is also the image of what humanity is supposed to be (see Romans 5.14; 1Corinthians 15.45-47). That is one of the things specific to Celtic Chistrianity. They called Christ the ‘Great Remembrance’ meaning we have forgotten what it means to be truly human but we are reminded of this in the life of Jesus.



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In the Love of Three in One,

Br Jack+, LC