Holy Work

And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him… Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord…

Colossians 3:17, 23

St. Paul writes that whatever our task, it can glorify God when we do it with thanksgiving. What is your task right now? Are you harvesting a field, holding your child, baking bread, or repairing a vehicle? When rightly ordered, the tasks of our hands are offerings of worship and thanksgiving to the Lord.

God ordered his creation as good, and he considers us as very good co-creators with him. His instruction to “be fruitful and multiply” applies to more than procreation. He has instilled within us a very good desire to innovate: in other words, to multiply his beauty and goodness in every corner of his creation. 

There’s not an animal alive that finds a cave to live in and immediately thinks, “Now, what can I do to improve the place?” But we do! God put the first man and woman in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and care for it as an act of thanksgiving and worship of God (Genesis 2:15). We, too, worship him with thanksgiving as we cultivate and care for our corners of this world by beautifying it. What a privilege! What a responsibility!

So how do we do that? We join hands, so to speak, in co-creating with God according to the unique giftedness he has blessed us each with. Whether right brain or left brain, artistic or analytical, we multiply God’s beauty, goodness, and truth with the work of our hands. My friend is an investor; he delights in helping people invest wisely. Another friend is an artist; she is delighted to give her paintings to neighbors and friends. Creating and giving, isn’t this another way of participating with God?

In the Sacred Tradition of our faith, we worship in the Mass, celebrating Christ, our Lord. There, our response to our salvation is a liturgy of praise and thanksgiving that we pray in word and song. The last words of the prayer of the Mass are “The Mass is ended. Go, in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” And we respond, “Thanks be to God.” We don’t walk out of the worship of God as if our thanksgiving has ended. No, we continue our worship of him as the Lord of our life in the liturgy (its etymology means “work”) of our daily lives. 

This is the beautiful reciprocity of the worship of God: God is delighted by our worship, and he pours that delight back into our lives as we co-create with him in the work of our hands. Our work is a favor from our Creator, a favor that keeps on giving. 

The psalmist writes, “May the favor of the Lord our God be ours. Prosper the work of our hands!” (Ps 90:17). Favor is an act of kindness beyond what is usual, but another definition of favor is to bear a resemblance to someone. Aren’t we doing that with the work of our hands as we co-create with our heavenly Father? 

Consider that our God, in the work of creation, made all things purposeful, perfect and valuable for us. And I believe it was quite enjoyable and satisfying for him to do that! It was all a favor for us. As we participate with him in co-creating, we too, enjoy the work of our hands, finding it satisfying and enjoyable and then gifting it to others.

My God-given abilities and talents bring order to my life, enriching my corner of the world. As I co-create, I am calmed and balanced in the rhythm of the abundant life in God. As I give my gifts and abilities to others, they may join in the rhythm of this abundant life as well. And yes, God favors me with the sanity that comes with it!

The Table

Jesus and feasting go together! Jesus frequently gathered with people around the table to enjoy good food and wine. The conversations around the table led to lessons by Jesus that would reveal truths about himself or human nature. Jesus’ first recorded miracle was at a wedding feast. He revealed his compassion and his power for the guests at that table. Jesus multiplied bread and fish for feasts that fed thousands of people. At one of those feasts, he declared that his body is the bread of heaven, and all who eat it are welcome at the table in God’s Kingdom. The last night with his disciples before his arrest, was spent around a table where they celebrated the Passover Feast–Lamb, bread, and wine. He instituted the Feast of the Eucharist when he broke bread with them and shared the wine:

While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you;  for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

The Gospel according to St. Matthew 26:26-29

On the evening of the day of his resurrection, he revealed himself to two of his followers at their table while breaking the bread; he blessed the bread and gave it to them. They immediately recognized Jesus as he broke the bread and blessed it!

They urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him…

The Gospel according to St. Luke 24: 29-31a

After his Ascension into heaven, his holy Spirit descended on his followers while they celebrated the Feast of Pentecost!

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit

The Acts of the Apostles 2:1-4a

The book of The Revelation to St. John includes a vision that reveals Jesus feasting around a table with his followers. St. John is instructed by the angel that accompanied him to write these words, Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his bride has made herself ready;
to her, it has been granted to be clothed
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” 

The Revelation to St.John 19:6b-9a

What is Jesus up to with all that feasting? Is it the food, or is it the event? Well, it’s both. It was just like him to use the stuff familiar to us to reveal how God’s Kingdom may “come on earth as it is in heaven.” St. Luke draws our attention to a few feast conversations in his gospel (14:7-24), and considered together they foreshadow the eternal feast of heaven: The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. It seems that Jesus wants us to rehearse feasting with the proper attitude and understanding so that we may be allowed through the doors of heaven to take our place at the table of that feast.

Rehearsal includes three things necessary for receiving an invitation to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. We are to practice humility and hospitality, and finally, we are to practice readiness.

The way Jesus wants us to rehearse humility and hospitality is evident in the first lesson (St. Luke 14:7-14): obey his command to love our neighbor as ourselves. The last lesson is known as the Parable of the Great Banquet; a festal feast (St. Luke 14:15-24). Festal feasts have extraordinary religious symmetry; they symbolize covenant communion with God and others. In the parable, Jesus describes himself at once as the host of the feast, and as the servant sent to gather everyone in for the covenant communion around his table.

The Great Banquet foreshadows the worship of the Mass as a celebration of covenantal communion. The worship of God in the Mass is quite literally a rehearsal for The Marriage Supper of The Lamb in eternity. We join the great multitude of the faithful who have departed this earthly kingdom. We enter into the conversation around The Table of Christ’s Sacrifice, listening to his Word and humbly responding through prayer, confession of our sins against God and others, and receiving Christ’s body and blood, soul and divinity in The Eucharistic Feast! The worship of The Mass on earth is where we receive Christ as Host and Suffering Servant

[Christ Jesus] emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2:7-11

All of life is sacramental in that everything that happens to us and around us becomes an offering of thanksgiving when we offer it to our Lord. The mundane and ordinary is a rehearsal of humility and hospitality where we reveal Christ to others in our attitudes and actions. We are practicing readiness before God through obedience to his command to love others as we love ourselves. How is rehearsal going for you, friend? Do you faithfully worship God in The Mass, or are you skipping out for the fast and easy worship of this earthly kingdom? The Good and Gentle Host and Servant invites us to come to him, to eat and drink of him as he is made present in the worship of the Mass. He paid the price for our seat at this table with his body and blood. Will you accept the invitation?

You Look Just Like Your Father!

The Daily Liturgy of The Church has immersed us in the letter of St. Paul to The Early Church in Ephesus over the past week. His signature theme, Be imitators of God, is most obvious in this letter.

Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1

Salvation History encapsulates God’s one desire, to restore his identity in us whom he created in his image. I’ve been told that I look just like my father. I’m always glad to hear that because my father has aged well, and at 92 years, his vibrance still shines, so I like to think that’s what people notice about my 62 years. One can hope.

Looks are only skin deep, but our heavenly Father’s beauty is from the inside out! So how can we look just like our heavenly Father? It begins by remembering who we are and what we are to be about as the beloved children of our Creator God. St. Paul writes in the letter to The Early Church in Corinth:

There is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one LORD, Jesus Christ, through him all things are and through whom we exist.

I Corinthians 8:6

The God of The Cosmos is the God of the Gospels with skin on, Jesus Christ! He is the very Word of God, made flesh so that we may be restored to God through him. How does that happen? As we contemplate the gospels, we observe God through Jesus, unsullied by sin; it follows that we learn the way back to our Heavenly Father as we accept the truth of who Jesus Christ is. The disciple John begins his account of the life of Christ with these words:

In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him, not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it… And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. 

The Gospel according to St. John 1:1-5;14

Jesus, the very Word of God, made flesh mirrors before us God’s nature. Jesus answers the purpose of “God made flesh” with his disciples. (The entire chapter of St. John 14 is a profound discourse and is worth your time)

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him… If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

The Gospel according to St. John 14: 6-7; 15-17

We know from the record of the Acts of the Apostles that the Advocate that Jesus promised descended from God as his Holy Spirit. Sometimes we don’t fully comprehend how his Spirit can transform our natures into God’s nature. We can’t understand the ways and means of this God’s amazing grace; faith and trust are required.

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting… All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles 2: 1,2,4a

The Breath of God’s holy Spirit fills us, permeating our very being. As we allow God’s Holy Spirit to inspire us, he transforms our very nature to look just like our Father! The letters to the Early Church are so important in our spiritual formation–they are the owner’s manuals, so to speak, on how to be inspired. St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians to live according to Christ’s example so that they may be inspired (given breath) to live in a manner worthy of their identity as God’s beloved children. The more we breathe in God’s Word to us, the more we breathe out the essence of his nature, revealed in Christ. Christ’s humility, gentleness, and patience (Ephesians 4:2) in exchange for our pride. Christ’s kindness, compassion, and forbearance (Ephesians 4:32) in exchange for anger. Christ’s strength and power (Ephesians 6:10) in exchange for our fear.

Triune God, we desire to look just like you! Breathe into us your very nature so that we may be transformed–mind, body, and soul–into your likeness!

In the name of the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, it is now, and evershall be, world without end.

Amen.

Wealth that Matters to God

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus,
“Teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.”
He replied to him,
“Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”
Then he said to the crowd,
“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he told them a parable.
“There was a rich man whose land produced a bountiful harvest.
He asked himself, ‘What shall I do,
for I do not have space to store my harvest?’
And he said, ‘This is what I shall do:
I shall tear down my barns and build larger ones.
There I shall store all my grain and other goods
and I shall say to myself, “Now as for you,
you have so many good things stored up for many years,
rest, eat, drink, be merry!”’
But God said to him,
‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself
but is not rich in what matters to God.”

The Gospel According to St. Luke 12: 13-21

The “someone in the crowd” on this day came to Jesus with a complaint about an inheritance that he thought should be divided up between him and his brother. We don’t know the whole story, but Jesus did and he graciously responded with a parable to illustrate to him the spiritual lesson he needed to learn. Jesus’ method, so to speak, still works today. We are all someone in a crowd seeking answers for the dilemmas in our life, and Jesus knows our whole story. What Jesus had to say then, he still speaks today–this is what I treasure about the gospels–it is the good news I need for every moment of my life.

Let’s consider together this interaction from St. Luke’s narrative. Jesus warns the brother, as he does us, to take care to guard against all greed because our quality of life here on earth doesn’t rely on the accumulation of earthly goods. We know that in theory, but how do we follow Jesus’ advice to become rich in what matters to God? The parable Jesus then tells has been referred to as The Parable of the Rich Fool, for the man, so caught up in his greediness, doesn’t seem to consider treasuring what matters to God. It seems that he believed that the accumulation of money would give his life purpose. He certainly isn’t alone in his greediness, what began in Eden plays out in the habits of the human condition!

St. Augustine wrote that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. Like the rich fool, the restlessness of the human condition drives us toward immediate satisfaction from whatever fascinates or consoles us–all under the umbrella of over-weaning fear or pride. The rich fool’s pride was obvious, our’s might not be so obvious. The man’s question of what shall I do to satisfy my restlessness is the question that sends each of us down paths that may appear benign enough. But do they make us rich in what matters to God?

Consider Jesus’ words again, “‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong? ‘Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.” St. Augustine taught people to seek the invisible rewards of God in loving what is good, loving what God has created, but only if they are lovers of God. That’s the tipping point, isn’t it? He exhorted his congregation to pursue what they love in the right order: heavenly things before earthly ones, the LORD before everything else.

Here’s the thing, it’s much easier to pursue the things we see rather than the things we don’t see! We can’t quantify charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. And how do we quantify temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude or faith, hope, or charity? I’ve referred to this before by considering them as investments that roll back dividends into our lives, all for the sole purpose of glorifying God and attracting those around us to do the same. It’s the most simple and difficult method to guide us away from being fools!

Father, reveal to us how our restlessness for you is misguided by our drive to eat, drink, and be merry with the temporal wealth of this world. 

Draw our wandering hearts back to you, and open our eyes and ears to the abundance of your blessings. May we treasure what you think about us more than what those around us think of us.

Holy Spirit of God, train us in storing up the eternal riches of God’s glory as you guide us into the abundant freedom of detachment from this world’s empty treasures.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen

Mottos

Mottos intrigue me, those catchphrases that we often live by or aspire to. A motto is different than a slogan collected by the culture to describe a thought or idea. Take, for instance, the phrase “Flower Power” (I’m dating myself here). That slogan represented the passive resistance of the hippie movement during the 1960s and early 70s in protest against the Vietnam War. The slogan morphed into the use of props like flowers, toys, flags, and candy in anti-war rallies with the hope that it would reduce the fear and anger that usually accompanied protests. Slogans can be effective for a time; however, it can change as quickly as culture does.

Mottos, however, are more like a maxim of a belief system that one wholeheartedly embodies no matter what is going on in the culture around them. We see this in clan mottos that develop over generations of behavior. For instance, my maiden name is Keith, and our clan has the motto “Veritas Vincit” which means “Truth Prevails.” I embrace that motto; it informs how I choose to respond to the culture around me.

The brokenness of the human condition is evident in the way you and I may find ourselves repeating lies to ourselves rather than the truth. Do these sound familiar? I am not good enough. I am too much. I can’t. I won’t. It’s impossible. I will never change. Do any of these lies echo in your thoughts? There is hope! The mottos in Sacred Scripture can work like a telegraph for our mind, constantly repeating the truth until it fixes in our mind. Like a mantra that means “man-think,” repeating the truth of Scripture will change how we think. Easier said than done, I know. Here is where our daily Mass readings come to our aid.

The Sacred Scripture imbues mottos for us to live by no matter the time in history. The Church intentionally worships God that is anchored in the consistent reading through the Scriptures in a three-year cycle. In effect, our very identity as a beloved child of God forms through the worship of God in the Mass. Practicing this identity begins and ends in the worship of God, not just in the Mass but in every moment of our lives. How’s that going for you?

The established pattern of the responsorial psalm in the Mass is necessary to practice our faith and live into our identity as God’s beloved child in daily life. You are familiar with many psalms because we read, chant, or sing them as we respond to the cantor with the antiphonal sentence after each verse. In effect, we are repeating a motto as a reminder of who we are. They encapsulate the Word of God into a rule of life to be embraced and to inform our thinking, transforming our very nature to reveal our identity as a child of God. This type of repetition is a form of meditation, and we can repeat the antiphonal response as prayers throughout our day. In this way, we allow the Holy Spirit to change our minds, returning us to our identity as the beloved children of our Creator God.

Let’s pray together some of the antiphons we have prayed in the last week as we worshipped in the Mass. You may find one to repeat as your prayer throughout today..

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Psalm 95)

LORD, your Word is always speaking to us; forgive us for the times that our heart is hard as a stone against your Spirit’s movement in our life. Teach us to listen to you rather than the “voices” in our heads!

The Lord will remember his covenant forever. (Psalm 111)

LORD, how easily we forget that your love endures forever. You never change your mind about us. We can do nothing to make you love us less, and we can’t do anything to make you love us more. Help us to respond to your covenant love for us with thanksgiving and humility.

Guide me, Lord, along the everlasting way. (Psalm 139)

LORD, when we are tempted to allow the culture to guide our thoughts and actions, remind us that you are the way, the truth, and the life. Grant us the courage to choose life with you!

The Lord made us, we belong to him. (Psalm 100)

Our Lord and Creator, we belong to you. You did not create us to belong to anything else! Forgive us for bowing to the over-weaning pride, fear, or anger that can hold us captive, enslaving us in futility and despair. Help us to remember that you want us to remain in your steadfast love that conquers all the enemies of our souls. May we carry your banner into our corners of the world, corners that are full of people who don’t know who they are, why they are here, or what they stand for. May the way we live our lives repeat your love, mercy, and forgiveness to all who observe us.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen

Who is Observing your Normal?

My family has been confronted with the fallout of sudden death in the last several weeks, and I’m left pondering my own mortality and the legacy I leave my family. Will what my family observed in me encourage them onward in their faith in our LORD? St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy words that get right to the heart of what I’ve been thinking.

Beloved:
I remind you, to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the gospel
with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me,
in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit
that dwells within us.

II Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14

St. Timothy was a protégé of St. Paul’s, believed to be a teenager when he first came under the spiritual leadership of St. Paul. The two letters to him are full of encouragement and guidance. What St. Paul had learned himself about living The Faith, he passed on to a future spiritual leader. His hope for the young Timothy was that as he observed his norm, as he put it, Timothy would follow in his footsteps of spreading the good news of life in Jesus Christ.

The letters St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy may be read in just a few minutes, but, boy, oh boy, the spiritual nourishment contained in them can be feasted upon for a lifetime. The big takeaway for me, especially at my age and the role I’ve been honored with within my family, parish, and community, is that my “norm” better be worth observing!

The Holy Spirit has given each of us the privilege of stirring into flame the gift of God in others’ lives. I regularly need to sit with Timothy at the feet of St. Paul to receive the Holy Spirit’s power to do this well.

Firstly, I’m not to be a coward about how I demonstrate my faith and trust in the LORD before others. I have one husband, six children (I consider my daughter and sons-in-law my own after this many years), and 16 grandchildren, and quite frankly, I am most concerned about what they observe in me. I pray that they see in me the courage and humility to allow the Lord’s power to be in control of all my thoughts, words, and deeds. I do not want them to observe me elbowing my way into their lives, bossily taking over and trying to fix or change what God’s holy Spirit is already accomplishing in his good time and in his good way.

Secondly, I am to pray. St. Paul’s instruction about this privilege doesn’t show up until the second chapter, but in reality, it is the first thing he tells Timothy to do.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone…. so that [you] may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 

I Timothy 2:1,2

Notice that St. Paul emphasizes how much prayer determines how we live our life. I desire to be a woman, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and neighbor that leads a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. I want that to be my legacy! No matter what relationship we have in others’ lives, the LORD has tasked us with bearing witness of our love for and trust in him before others, and we do that best through prayer. I wonder if the quality of our life in God is determined by our quantity of prayer in all things?

There’s a difference between praying with confidence and praying with doubt. Could it be that when we worry about all matters that concern us (and the many that don’t), the less peace we enjoy? Could it be that worrying about the outcome of every little thing that concerns us in the life of our loved ones robs us of the witness of peace, godliness, and dignity?

What the LORD is faithfully showing me as I pray more and insert myself less is that it’s my responsibility to live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. Do I still worry from time to time? You bet! But I don’t stay in the mindset very long before the Holy Spirit reminds me that I’m not him! You know what I’m talking about, wringing our hands thinking we are junior Holy Spirit and if we worry enough we can actually control things.

LORD, Teach us the norm of listening to you. Forgive us for striving with our own words and opinions before the observers of our lives. Teach us to pray so that we may see your will and purpose accomplished in the lives of our beloved.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen

Disordered Loves

Have you noticed the stark reality that our culture looks for love in all the wrong places? We are surrounded by people who are never satisfied and always grasping for love in the “next thing” that is paraded before them in the culture. Jesus tells a parable that reveals the tragic effect of disordered love, it’s referred to as The parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus.

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’  But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.  

The Gospel of St. Luke 16:19-25

The parable has nothing to do with wealth and everything to do with the tyranny of disordered love. The man was so consumed by what he could conjure up from this world’s goods to satisfy the hunger in his soul; this is never a good idea; is it? Created goods cannot satisfy the eternal longing of the soul for what is good, true, and beautiful. It’s also evident in this passage that the pursuit of disordered love in this life leads to eternal agony. There’s so much more we could consider in this parable but let’s leave it there, for now, and focus on what I believe the LORD desires to reveal to us in the parable. St. John wrote in his first letter to the Early Church,

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world;  for all that is in the world—the lust (desire) of the flesh, the lust (desire) of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

I John 2: 15-17

The parable Jesus told illustrates this warning from St. John’s letter. The reality is that once you are dead, there are no do-overs; the choices we make in this life determine our destiny. Our best course of action is to allow his Holy Spirit to reorder our lives here and now, not just to avoid eternal torment but to live the abundant life of God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. Living this way is like investing; the immediate dividends of joy, peace, and contentment pour into our lives here and now as we store up (invest) treasures in heaven.

Sister Miriam James Heidland, S.O.L.T., writes that salvation is the ongoing process of allowing the LORD to re-order our loves. St. Ignatius referred to this process as detachment. You and I can’t simply will our salvation in one fell swoop; we must live it day by day in detaching ourselves from this world’s order. And what we discover is the generosity of our LORD as we cooperate with his Spirit in re-ordering our loves providing a bounty of goodness for us to attach to that lasts through eternity.

St. Paul really honed in on the problem of disordered loves and the solution for it in his letter to St. Timothy. St. Paul reminds his young protégé that,

We brought nothing into the world so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

But as for you, [beloved], shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you were made.

LORD God, we are already wealthy because we are your beloved children. Will your Holy Spirit continue to pry our fingers away from our disordered attachments to this world so that our hands are open and ready to receive the abundant life in the “here and now” and the “then” that our Savior, Jesus Christ, died to provide for us?

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen

Carry your Lamp

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.”

–Jesus

Jesus said to the crowd:
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear.
To anyone who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not,
even what he seems to have will be taken away.”

The Gospel according to St. Luke 8:16-18

Jesus uses the tangible incandescence of a candle to illustrate the spirit of salvation. The spirit of salvation as light is even referenced in secular culture because we, as humans, innately know that goodness and beauty of character can bring the light of hope into a world that has lost its hope. It is the Light of Jesus that humanity searches for, and he has given us the privilege to carry the true Light of Life.

I am drawn to light, aren’t you? Whether it’s a candle in the early morning or the dawn of a new day, light kindles our spirit with anticipation. When Jesus taught us about the power of light, he wasn’t referring to the lamp or the wick. Sometimes I can confuse what Jesus desires from me by thinking it’s up to me to kindle hope in others. I’m not the fire! Good thing! The privilege and responsibility of being the lamp and the wick is enough. I am in his hands to place wherever he desires to put me, for he knows where the flame from the fire of his salvation reflected in me needs to shine.

So, just how do we shine? Well, we don’t do anything. Light simply shines in response to the action of the one who lights the candle. St. John recorded Jesus’ words to us on how he enflames us with his light.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.

–St. John 8:12

I still sing to myself a line from the old Sunday School song, “…brighten the corner where you are” to remind me to be the wick and lamp for the light of Jesus in my corner of the world. It’s not always easy for us to shine in dim corners full of fear, anger, and pride, but remember, it’s not our job. Jesus ignites, and we carry his light to wherever he sends us.

Maybe the light in your lamp is just a smoldering ember, as the prophet Isaiah puts it. You are at a loss on how to be in your corner. The prophet Isaiah perfectly describes how we are to BE when he wrote God’s instruction for us:

By waiting and by calm you shall be saved, in quiet and in trust your strength lies.

Isaiah 30:15

Isn’t that the light our world needs; when we shine this way, others will draw toward the Light of Jesus within us! Just like a candle flame in a darkened room, a calm spirit in the dark shadows of life shines brightly. Our strength is from the LORD, and it is he who shines through us into those dim corners. His mercy kindles the fire in our souls, and in his beautiful way, he can calm all the useless struggles of humanity and gather them into his peace if we will but carry our lamp into our corner of the world.

Light of the World, we welcome you to ignite the flame of your love and mercy in every relationship and circumstance of our lives. May we be the calming presence that reveals the light of your salvation.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

“Lord, only say the word…”

…A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die,
and he was valuable to him.
When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him,
asking him to come and save the life of his slave.
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them,
but when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.

The Gospel according to St. Luke 7:1-10

This gospel passage is a powerful model of faith; it is so poignant that a rendition of the centurion’s request of Jesus is our prayer in the Communion Rite before the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the worship of the Mass. We pray together the Lord’s Prayer asking for God’s kingdom to come into us. We ask for the bread of life to satisfy what we lack in this life, and we ask for forgiveness and deliverance from evil. We declare that the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever. We kneel before the feast of our salvation, Christ’s body and blood, perceived as bread and wine.

Just after our priest has consecrated the bread and wine, he holds the host up before us and proclaims, Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb. We respond in praying, Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the world and my soul shall be saved just before receiving the real presence of Christ in his body and blood, soul and divinity in the form of bread and wine. Friends, does that moment in the Mass gets to you as it does to me every time? I am a prideful sinner who needs this saving nourishment in the form of bread and wine to transform me. In truth, we all entrapped by the sin in our fallen world.

What can we observe in this narrative that will increase our faith as we pray the Mass? We see that the centurion had power and authority over the people because of his position in the Roman occupation of Israel. We observe his concern for his servant and, more importantly, the esteem he had for Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus had power and authority beyond human understanding! We aren’t sure exactly what the centurion expected other than immediate relief from his problem. But, his faith in Jesus made all the difference in the world for the centurion and his servant. What was in the centurion’s mind and heart that opened the door for the centurion’s servant’s healing from his suffering? It was the humble acknowledgment that he was helpless.

The acknowledgment that he was not worthy opened before him the way of salvation for his servant, but also, I believe, for himself! No one can encounter Jesus and walk away the same as they were before. The disposition of our soul toward Jesus determines our faith and trust in the eternal truth that his passion and sacrifice are our salvation, healing, and hope. This is why we kneel in prayer in the worship of the Mass and as well, in the moment-by-moment surges of the heart toward the reality of the Cross! St. James wrote, Humble yourselves, in the sight of the LORD, and that he will lift you up. The crucifix is the symbol of the central truth of our Faith–Christ suffered death, hell, and the grave for the sake of humanity, and now he intercedes before the Father for us. That should humble us!

I need reminding that the power and might in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection are the answer to my deepest longings. For this week, in particular, I have knelt before him, asking for relief for my children and grandchildren’s suffering as we walk together through the long valley in the shadow of death. My ability as a mother and grandmother to comfort is only through Christ’s saving grace at work in our suffering. And so, I humbly bow and say,

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Only say the word and my loved ones shall be comforted.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

Co-Creators

Happy Labor Day to readers in the United States! The holiday was initiated with noble intentions in the late 1900s to “recognize the many contributions workers have made to the United States’ strength, prosperity, and well-being.” However, over time it’s turned into a 3-day weekend for the last chance to enjoy the relaxed days of summer before the school year begins.

I’d like to consider with you on this Labor Day the entrance and the communion antiphons for today’s celebration of the Mass. I believe they guide us in how the LORD desires for us to respond to the labor we have been given to do.

May the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and prosper for us the work of our hands—
    O prosper the work of our hands!

Psalm 90:17

God looks upon all his creation as good, and he looks at us as very good co-creators with him. To be fruitful and multiply applies to more than procreation. He has instilled within us a desire to re-create and innovate. There’s not an animal alive that finds a cave to live in and immediately thinks, Now, what can I do to improve the place?

Where are you right now? Is your environment in need of improvement? Are you looking at the 4 walls of your office, harvesting a field, or holding your child? Whether at work, play, or rest God has given us the work of re-creation. This truth helps to widen my perspective on every task of my hand as an extension of God’s re-creation of the world! The psalmist declares,

One generation shall laud your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts…

All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your faithful shall bless you.
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom,
    and tell of your power,
 to make known to all people your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

Psalm 145

When we live as co-creators with our Creator, we move toward pursuing all of life with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to declare the LORD’s abundance, freedom, love, and grace. Sounds noble enough, doesn’t it? But, the re-creation of a broken world is challenging. The environment of the workplace–office, factory line, field, or home–doesn’t necessarily make co-creating with Christ easy. It can be the hardest place to re-create!

St. Benedict, in his Rule, refers to the “Work of God” as liturgy. In the Sacred Tradition of our Faith, the work of God includes all of life–all of life is sacramental! We worship in the liturgy of the Mass, celebrating Christ, our Redeemer, and High Priest. There, our response to our salvation is the liturgy of praise and thanksgiving. The last words of the prayer of the Mass are “Go forth, the Mass is ended” which, interpreted means, “Go, in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

Are we able to step through the doors of our parishes into the liturgy of our lives responding with praise and thanksgiving? Are we able to see every moment of our work as the work of God? Can we begin to give great attentiveness to the movement of God in our attitudes and actions as we work alongside others? St. Paul wrote to the Colossians,

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17

Creator God, the heavens declare the work of your hands! May the words of our mouth, the meditation of our heart, and the work of our hands declare you to our corner of the world. May we moment-by-moment bring joy and pleasure to you as we co-create with you. May we love you in the best way we know how in all our relationships.


Forgive us when we stumble along with missteps caused by our forgetfulness that your love for us is to be displayed before everyone, even obnoxious and slothful fellow workers. Guard us and defend us from back-biting and slander, murmuring, and gossiping that destroy relationships.

May we give thanks to you in all things, rejoice always, and pray without ceasing!

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be world without end.

Amen.