Friday, November 20, 2009
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Daniel we read about a powerful figure who Daniel calls the Son of Man.
The Son of Man will arrive on a cloud to judge the world.
He will do so with power and majesty.
The scripture goes on to say that He has,
and power and that
all peoples, and all nations, will serve Him.
Throughout the scriptures Jesus often referred to Himself as the Son of Man.
The picture painted in today’s Gospel however is very different.
In the Gospel we hear a conversation between Jesus and Pilate.
At first it appears that Pilate is the powerful one and that Jesus is simply a broken and betrayed man.
If you listen carefully however, everything is not as it seems.
You see Pilate is afraid.
He lives in constant fear of insurrection, rebellion and the intrigue of the Jews.
He is hated by the people he rules, and they are always up to something.
On the hand the emperor in Rome cares only about the taxes he receives.
Caesar cares nothing about Pilate and expects him to efficiently govern the rebellious Jews and support the empire.
Failure is not an option.
Pilate is under pressure from both sides. He is always caught in the middle.
As he talks to Jesus it is clear that he he is trying to figure out just who this man is.
Pilate wonders, why the leaders of the Jews hate him so much?
Why would they turn him a Jew over to me for judgment?
Is this some kind of a trap?
What kind of threat does he pose to them and what kind of threat does this Jesus of Nazareth pose to me?
Behind the façade of his authority and power Pilate is afraid, he is filled with fear.
In the end he will hand “The King of the Jews” over to be executed not because Jesus did anything wrong, but because he is afraid of the crowd
and afraid of the priests
and afraid of Caesar.
Pilate is afraid of everyone.
He is even afraid of Jesus.
It is a terrible thing to live your life in fear.
Jesus on the other hand is calm.
He seems in control of the conversation.
He knows that he has to face the cross.
For a long time he had battled the temptation to flee the cross but now he has chosen it.
From that moment of truth he experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was able to face the cross without fear.
Jesus was able to face the cross because he loved and trusted the Father.
Jesus was able to face the cross because of his love for all of us.
Pilate who appears “powerful” is weak and afraid.
Jesus “who appears weak” is strong.
The Church gives us the feast of Christ the King because she wants us to reflect on the type of King that Jesus really was and the role he should play in our lives.
I found this on the internet and it helped me reflect on the Kingship of Christ I hope it helps you.
-Kings are usually born in a palace, places of privilege, but our King was born in a stable.
-While most kings spent all of their time building up wealth, Jesus our King owned nothing at all.
-Kings are usually surrounded by servants; Jesus chose to be a servant.
-Instead of riding into town on a big white horse surrounded by soldiers, Jesus our King rode into town on the back of a donkey.
-Jesus was the friend of regular people, working class people, fishermen and carpenters.
-He is the friend of the lowly, the poor and even the friend of sinners.
- Kings usually only associate with important people
-Our King’s crown was not gold or silver.
It was not a symbol of power studded with precious jewels.
-Instead they crowned Him with thorns.
His crown was a sign of his willingness to suffer for love.
-Instead of robes and jewels he wore a cloak and tunic
-He was powerful but also powerless
-Our King’s throne was not an ornate symbol of his power instead he ruled from the cross.
-Like many good Kings, Jesus gave his life for his people; unlike any other king death had no power over him.
On this feast of Christ the King it is important to ask ourselves;
What does Jesus our King ask from us?
How should a disciple of Christ the King live?
Here are just a few examples…
-Love you enemy, do good to those who persecute you,
-If someone wants your shirt give him your coat as well.
-Feed the hunger, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit prisoners.
-Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers you do to me.
-Forgive not 7 times but rather 70x70 times.
-Lend to those who cannot pay you back.
-You are the light of the world.
-Take this all of you and eat.
-Do this in memory of me.
Put so simply Christian discipleship sounds so radical.
If we really lived that way the world would be such a different place.
To truly follow Christ the King is radical and it takes courage.
Today we all have to ask ourselves…
What guides and motivates our life?
The fear of Pilate..
The hate of the Jewish leaders…
Or the courage and love of Christ our king…
A very important question indeed.
Friday, November 13, 2009
In the passage from Gospel of Mark which we heard today,
Jesus is no longer preaching to crowds.
He is not walking along the dusty roads of Gallilee with his disciples.
He is not healing the sick.
He is already in Jerusalem and his time is pretty much being spent with his closest disciples.
He knows that his time on earth draws to an end.
It is almost as if they are huddled together talking and listening to each other.
In the near term He predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and eventually the destruction of the Temple itself.
These would have been terrifying events for Jews the early Christians.
Can you imagine how terrifying if would be for us to look over Washington and see the Capital building burning or the Shrine in ruins from the attack of an invading army?
In the long term,
Jesus is speaking to everyone of us about trials and tribulations that all of us will face.
He is speaking about the end of time
and the inevitable judgment that every human being will eventually endure.
In the very next chapter, Chapter 14,
He will celebrate the Passover together with his closest friends and give them and the Church the incredible gift of the Eucharist.
With the Eucharist Jesus shows us that no matter what happens no matter what difficulties we face we will never, we can never face them alone he is with us always.
In Chapter 14 he will also be abandoned by his closest friends and be betrayed by a kiss, terrible things indeed.
There is an intensity when he talks.
It is as if he is trying to make sure that he says everything he needs to say.
He knows that in the lives of his disciples, our lives, and the lives of every human being there will be difficult moments, very difficult moments.
He knows that some may lose hope and lose faith.
He speaks about these things to give us something to hold on to.
He warns us in advance so that we can and need to read the signs of the times and be ready.
You know there is a fig tree out in front of Salve Regina Hall, in August it has wonderful big red figs, that are really sweet and moist.
If you went over there in the dead of winter and bent one of the small branches it would break
but if you go towards the end of March and bend the very same branch it bends… and summer is on its way.
Jesus wants us so desperately to read the signs of the times.
Jesus does not want us taken by surprise;
he doesn’t want us shocked
he doesn’t want us overcome by fear, doubt or despair.
By warning us about the struggles that we will face.
He helps us to be prepared to face them with less fear and apprehension.
So what does this have to do with all of us.
For those of you who are young and seem to have the world by the tail…
you are strong,
you are healthy the future seems of very bright
and it is…
Today’s readings remind us that bad things can happen and bad things will happen and that all of us will face difficult moments.
The great sin of youth is presumption.
Those who are young always presume that they have lots time
They sadly presume that they can begin to work on holiness tomorrow or the next day.
These readings challenge us to favoid the sin of presumption.
They remind us that we will be judged by how we lived and how much we loved.
When you are young it is so hard to remember that this life is not all that there is
When you are young it is so hard to remember that even now we should be preparing to face eternity.
In a history of the Order I read that that some of the friars in times past used to place a human skull on their desk or in their rooms to remind them every day of their mortality.
For our times and culture that would be a pretty morbid practice, it may even be against the law.
Yet, every morning when the friars would get up and see that skull they would face the reality that they know neither the day or the hour..
It reminded them that judgment and death awaited them.
The sight of that skull challenged maybe even scared them to live and love that day as best as they could.
Today’s readings are kind of like that skull they remind anyone who takes them seriously that Tempus Fugit… time is flying…
For those who are older these readings help us understand that the sign of the times may include sickness and weakness and the aches and pains of everyday life.
The signs of the times may even include the illness or death of a dear loved one…
The signs of the times may be reminder that our time on earth is coming to an end
The sin of old age is to get lost in self pity and allow ourselves to be overcome by pain
The readings challenge us not be lost in our discomfort and illnesses or our trials and tribulations because we know that they are coming.
Rather when the signs of the times are clear it is important to cram and cram hard for the final final of finals.
Today’s readings remind us that no matter what the world faces
or for that matter what we face personally God’s word will not pass away.
God’s word and God’s promises will last forever
No matter how desperate things get …. everything that Jesus said
and everything Jesus did is true.
He promises his followers eternal life
and the trials and tribulations and struggles of life
no matter how big cannot take away that promise.
The other night I stopped in a Renew group from Conaty I believe, and one of the students asked me Fr. Bob “what would you do if you read the signs of the times and knew the world was going to end in 15 minutes? What would you do?”
On this Sunday that is a very important and appropriate question indeed. And so I pass it on to you..
“What would you do if you knew the world was going to end in 15 minutes. What would you do?”
Remember we know neither the day or the hour….
All of us have to ask ourselves every single day
Are we ready?
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Today’s readings… present us with a variety of people and there is an important lesson to learn from each one of them.
The first people we meet are the Prophet Elijah, a widow and her son.
God has always sent prophets to his people.
Mother Theresa with all her doubts was a prophet.
John Paul II was a prophet.
Nelson Mandela was a prophet.
Mahatma Gandhi was a prophet.
Dorothy Day was a prophet.
The CUA Graduates who work at Simple House or do long term service are prophetic.
Our students who tutor in the DC public and charter schools are prophetic.
Our lives are filled with prophets.
Because God loves us he always sends us prophets and teachers to help us on our way home to Him.
And every age has its own way of getting lost so God sends prophets to every age.
In the first reading from the 1st Book of Kings,
Elijah asks a poor widow to make him a little bread.
He makes his request to a person who is in the most desperate of straits.
She and her son have nothing to eat because of a famine
but because of her goodness,
and because she refused to turn away a person in need,
and because she dared to trust the words of Elijah,
God gave her beautiful prophecy to hold onto.
'The jar of flour will not go empty,
nor the jug of oil run dry,
until the day when the LORD sends rain upon the earth”
and they didn’t.
She and her son were spared starvation because they listened and heard and trusted the Prophet.
What the Elijah asked her seemed to fly in the face of reason,
but she dared to believe and she and her son were saved.
Elijah was called to prophesy he was called to speak the words of God to His people and he said yes.
He was a prophet for his age and all ages… no easy task indeed.
Because of his prophetic voice he was hated and his life was frequently in danger.
The scribes were not bad people.
They studied the law and they loved the Lord so much that they dedicated themselves in service of the Law.
According to the law a scribe was not allowed to demand payment for his services.
But because they were often generous with their time,
and because they cared about people,
The scribes were often loved and respected.
Many people gave them gifts and showed them special signs of respect.
Sadly, some of the scribes became used to the respect that others had earned,
so much so that they came to expect places of honor in the synagogues and at table.
They came to expect to be noticed, and recognized.
And while they couldn’t get formally paid for their work they began to expect gifts for their services.
What was their sin?
Simply put the love and service that so many scribes had given was no longer free.
Their love was not free… it came with strings attached.
Their good works were not motivated by a care and concern for others but rather they were motivated by greed and self interest.
Jesus warned his disciples not to imitate the Scribes and the Pharisees
Jesus was sure to point out the failings of the Scribes to his disciples because he wanted to make sure that they and we did not become like them.
Jesus loved freely.
Jesus loved without expecting anything in return, and Jesus wanted all of us to do the same.
Finally we meet the widow in the temple.
I read in a commentary that the word widow in Hebrew is derived from the root word “Alem” which means unable to speak.
A widow in the time of Jesus was the poorest of the poor.
She had no rights,
no rights to property
no rights to inheritance or just compensation.
She was dependent on everyone.
Indeed, she was even unable to speak for herself
or defend herself.
As Jesus sat watching the pilgrims in the temple.
near the Woman’s court there she was…
Maybe her poverty could be discerned from her clothing, maybe it couldn’t,
but when she entered the temple, she made an act of complete trust.
She gave all that she had, she gave everything she had to live on.
Even though it was a tiny about… Jesus noted that she gave the most of anyone.
We really don’t know what else happened to her, we don’t know anything more about her.
Jesus did not follow her, he didn’t give her money, he didn’t give her food, or heal her.
She simply moved on in the crowd and disappeared,
and her absolute trust in God’s providence has inspired and challenged everyone who ever heard of her story to do the same.
Knowing Jesus and knowing God’s providence we can only assume that she was OK that somehow in God’s took care of this little poor woman who completely trusted in Him.
What does all of this have to do with us?
The prophet, the widow and her son, the scribes, and the widow in the temple each offer us important lessons about discipleship.
The widow and her son teach us the importance of hospitality and generosity.
The widow was recklessly generous.
She risked not only her life but the life of her son and because of her generosity
she and her son were saved while many others died in the famine.
She dared to listen to a prophet, a prophet who’s request made no sense whatsoever.
Her example calls all of us to be generous,
her example, calls us to be attentive to the prophets who God sends our way.
Are we willing to listen.
Do we listen to the prophets of our time?
Are we attentive to the prophetic call of the Church?
The example of the Prophet Elijah calls us to ask ourselves if we have accepted God’s call to live humble prophetic lives.
To be prophets, in our homes, on our campus, in our parishes and at our places of work.
Have our lives helped others be better people? Have we brought them closer to God or farther away ?
Through the sad example of the scribes Jesus reminds his disciples that our good works must be free and our love must be free just like God’s love is free.
When we do good we must never expect something in return,
places of honor, or moments of recognition, or payment, should never and can never be a condition or motivation for our service and our sacrifices.
This lesson is so counter cultural today.
So many of us are conditioned to ask… What’s in it for me ?
Finally the widow in the temple teaches us that in our good works, and in our discipleship we are called to absolute trust in God’s love and God’s providence.
Jesus pointed out the widow because she trusted.. and in doing so he calls us to do the same.
So often it seems that our good efforts are doomed to fail
So often it seems that love doesn’t make any sense
So often is seems that this person or that person isn’t worthy of our love and our sacrifices.
Today the scriptures challenge us,
each of us must look into our hearts and ask ourselves…
How generous am I?
How obedient am I to God reckless call to love for free
How much do I trust… the widow trusted completely in God’s love and Gods providence her example calls us to do the same.
Lots to think about… have a great week.