Thursday, July 28, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 13:47-53

Thursday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:47-53

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus tells his disciples that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a net that is thrown into the sea. Naturally the net collects a variety of species of fish and other objects.  When the net is full, the men haul it ashore.  However, the net typically will collect more than fish, including random objects or species of sea life that were not useful for their purposes.  Thus, when the fishermen brought the net ashore, they had to separate what was good and edible from what was not useful.  Naturally, they discarded what they could not use.

Jesus then proposes another analogy.   He tells his disciples: “The angels will separate the wicked from the righteous and the wicked will be thrown into a fiery furnace where there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth.”

It is easy for us to categorize ourselves as either righteous or wicked, but I assume that we exhibit a bit of each quality, depending on what is happening in our lives.  However, when we become aware that we are in a “wicked” or unproductive space, we have opportunity to move toward a “righteous” or peaceful space!

Today I invite you to be aware and alert!  Forgive yourself if you realize that you are griping, upset, or tense today.  Then consciously move into a peaceful and loving stance.  What do you experience in this process?  Hopefully, you will like the difference.  We can choose our moods and our attitudes!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 13:44-46

Wednesday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:44-46

The Gospel readings for this week use a variety of metaphors and examples for “the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Today, Jesus says to His disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that the owner had been buried in a field.   Now if someone finds this treasure, he or she likely will hide it and then will go and sell all he or she has and buy the field.”  Jesus then uses a second example of a man who finds a rare and beautiful pearl.  This man immediately sells all of his belongings so he can buy this rare pearl, this treasure.

Jesus then proposes a third metaphor for the Kingdom of Heaven.  He tells his listeners: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea which collects a wide variety of species of fish.  When the net is overloaded, they haul it to the shore and sit down and sort out the fish. They put the “good fish” into buckets; however, the fish that are not good and tasty are thrown away.

Jesus uses these metaphors to instruct His disciples.  He tells them:  “Thus will it be at the end of the age.  The angels will go and separate the “wicked” from the “righteous” and the “wicked” will be thrown into a fiery furnace where they will wail and grind their teeth.”

Today Jesus is speaking directly to us; He is inviting us to look for “the treasure” in our lives.  I invite you to take some time today to ask yourself:  Whom do I treasure?  How do I demonstrate my love and care for those people? Do I frequently tell them how important they are to me or do I often take them for granted?

Then ask yourself: Do I long for the Kingdom of Heaven in my daily life?  Do I look for the Kingdom of Heaven as I go through my day?  Do I notice how God, Jesus, or the Spirit is present to me, strengthening me, blessing me, and loving me?  The Kingdom of Heaven is among us!  I wonder how many times a day that we are oblivious to this great gift?

Today, be attentive to many gifts you receive…and thank the Giver!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 13:36-43

Tuesday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 13:36-43

In today’s Gospel reading, the disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable of the weeds in the field. Jesus tells his disciples that the Son of Man (Jesus) sows only good seed in the fields.  The good seeds are “the children of the kingdom and they bear abundant fruit.”  Then Jesus tells his disciples that the weeds in the field are the children of the Evil One.  The enemy who sows the weeds is the Devil. When it is time to harvest the crop, the weeds should be cut down, collected, and then burned.

What is the message that we are to glean from this reading?  This Gospel is not an inviting passage.  However, this reading may prompt us to pause and reflect on our lives.   Today I invite you to take the five or ten minutes and think about your life.   Ask yourself:  Am I sowing weeds or wheat in my daily life?  What are the areas of my life in which there appears to be more wheat than weeds?  Where in my life are there more weeds than wheat?   Then pause for a moment and ask yourself:  What do I want to do change in my life?  

I seriously doubt that any of us are striving to produce poor harvest.  However, weeds have a way of encroaching into areas of our lives without our noticing them right away.  If we are not mindful and alert to their presence, they may begin to cause us pain, disappointment, or damage to us or to important individuals in our lives in some way.

Today I invite you to sit and reflect on this image of the “weeds and the wheat.”  Identify the weeds in your life.  How deeply rooted are your weeds?  Do you wish to uproot your weeds and allow good seeds to grow?

After you do this, sit and talk with Jesus! Ask him to help you root out the weeds in your life.  Trust Jesus!  He will not fail you! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Reflection: Matthew 20:20-28

Saint James the Apostle, Feast – Matthew 20:20-28

Today we hear the familiar story of a mother who had two sons.  The mother approached Jesus and gave him homage.  Jesus then asked her what she desired.  She immediately told him: “Command that my sons will sit, one at your right and the other on your left hand in your Kingdom.”  Jesus must have been shocked!  He had received many strange requests; however, this woman was bolder in her request (or demand) than anyone else who had ever approached him.

Most likely, the mother believed that her request would bring her two sons power, fame, and fortune.  However, Jesus knew that His Kingdom was radically different from what she thought it was.  Being part of Jesus’ kingdom would mean that her sons would have to suffer. 

Jesus told the woman: “Truly, you do not know what you are asking.”  He then asked if her sons were ready to drink from the cup that He would drink from and immediately her sons replied that they were ready to do so.  Jesus then told the mother and the sons that it was not His place to decide who would sit at his right and left hand.  His Father would make that decision.

The disciples were extremely angry and upset with the brothers.  After all, they all had been with Jesus for a long time.  Perhaps they also were hoping that they would be the ones who would sit at Jesus’ right or left hand.  Jesus then warned his disciples of the danger of desiring power.

Power often corrupts the individuals who wield it.  Jesus bluntly told his disciples that it should be radically different with them.  Rather than desiring to wield power over others, they should desire to serve one another.  Jesus told them that this would make them great.  And if they truly wished to be His disciples, they were to follow his example and serve others, not be served by others!

There is almost an innate desire within human beings for acclaim, recognition and appreciation. All of these gifts are proper and good in moderation.  However, individuals who receive abundant acclaim or praise often are tempted and they develop a big (and unhealthy) ego.  Jesus wanted His disciples to be humble.

Humility does not mean groveling or demeaning yourself.  Humility comes from the root word, humus.  Humus is an organic component of soil that is derived from decomposed plants, animal remains, and animal excrement.  To us, this may sound unappealing.   However, humus adds many nutrients to the soil.  It aids water retention and thus makes the soil more workable and productive.

Our “humility” may be challenged when we experience the reality that we are far from perfect.  As we acknowledge this reality, we can be angry about it or we can use this difficult and painful experience to add nutrients to our inner soil.  If we do this, our rich inner soil will enable us to be more fruitful in our lives.   If we truly are humble, we will serve others, share our resources, and be content.  We will not need to be the first nor will we need acclaim.

Humility requires that we simply be who we are and share this fragile and imperfect gift, with the people in our lives.  God has gifted us!  Every day Jesus invites us to generously share our gifts, our love and our attention with others. However, he hopes that we will do this in a simple and unobtrusive way.  When we share our gifts and love in this manner, truly we are following in the footsteps of Jesus.  For what more could we ask?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Reflection: Luke 11:1-13

Sunday of the 17th Week of Ordinary Time – Luke 11:1-13

In the Gospel for this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the disciples ask Jesus: “Teach us how to pray.”  The disciples knew that John had taught his disciples to pray and , like John’s disciples, Jesus’ disciples had a deep desire to learn how to pray.  Jesus then said to them:  “Pray in this way: ‘Our Father, hallowed be your Name.  Come to us and establish your kingdom.  Give us each day our daily bread.  Forgive our sins and we will strive to forgive anyone who has wronged us.  And keep us from temptation.”

Most likely this prayer is one of the first prayers that we learned as children.   It also is the prayer that is typically is prayed daily by many people in our church and in our world.  The Our Father is an integral part of our faith and our worship.  However, this prayer may become so familiar to us that we may rattle it off rather than mindfully praying this prayer. 

Each day this week, I invite you to pray, not simply say, the Our Father three times: morning, midday and evening.  Pray this prayer slowly and attentively.  Then sit quietly for two or three minutes.  At the end of the week, review the past seven days.  Was your week different because you took the time to truly pray this prayer?  How are you different?  Prayer truly will change our lives and prayer also will change us if we mindfully make and take the time to pray.