love your enemies?

I am horrified at the news of the capture of hundreds of Assyrian Christians by ISIS and the reports of the cold blooded murder of many men, women and children.  Christians around the world are experiencing diabolical persecution.  Think of the recent murder of Coptic Christians in Libya; the infamous blasphemy laws of Pakistan and other Islamic countries where Sharia is law; the forced conversion laws in parts of India where Christians are forced to re-convert to Hinduism; the crucifixion of Iraqi Christian men; the religious police of Saudi Arabia where Christianity is forbidden even in the privacy of one’s home; Boko Haram and escalating rampage against Christians in Nigeria and even the subtle and not so subtle attacks against Christians by atheists here in the Unite States.  Satan is on a rampage throughout the world targeting Christians. 

My blood boils when I read about what is going on, and I want to strike out but …. (today’s Gospel, Matthew 5:43-48) …

“Jesus said to His disciples:  ‘You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father …'”

This is hard teaching.  It goes against the natural instinct to strike back.  Jesus is not suggesting that we become door mats.  We have to take action to protect ourselves, but we cannot take revenge on those who persecute us.  We may not destroy them.  We have to condemn their actions – yes – and that may require us to assertively defend ourselves, but we may not wish them evil.  In fact, Jesus tells us that we need to pray for them and their conversion.

Posted in Christian Faith, General Interests, Jesus, Spirituality, The mystery of suffering, Today's Scripture Readings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

a chronic abuse

There is a chronic abuse in our society.  We experience it so often that we can become immune to it – and that is swearing – more specifically taking the Holy Name of Jesus in vain.  It’s everywhere:  in the media and on the lips of friends, co-workers, family members, strangers – and perhaps even on our own lips at times. 

Today’s reading from Leviticus, 19:1-2, 11-18, tells us,

“The Lord said to Moses ….. You shall not swear falsely by my name, thus profaning the name of your God.  I am the Lord.”

God’s name is holy, and we may not use it lightly.  God’s name ought to be used prayerfully and with reverence not with disrespect, anger or worse cursing others.

Posted in Christian Faith, General Interests, Human behavior, Spirituality, Today's Scripture Readings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Follow Me!

The Gospels challenge us!

In today’s Gospel, Luke 5:27-32, Jesus sees a tax collector named Levi and says to him,  “Follow me!”  The Gospel says that “leaving everything behind, he got up and followed  him.”  When we stop and think about what happened, it’s mind boggling.  Tax collectors were agents of the hatred Roman oppressors.  The Romans were wise.  They did not collect taxes themselves but got locals to do so.  These locals were despised by their own people for collaborating with the Romans.  Besides that they were often corrupt and filled their pockets.  The Romans didn’t care as long as they got the taxes they specified.  Levi was one of these men.  Good Jews had as little to do with these men as possible.  And here is Jesus not only recognizing Levi but inviting him to be one of His followers. This was a scandal.  What is amazing is that Levi promptly left everything behind and followed Jesus.

More to come!  Levi gives a great banquet for Jesus in his house and “a large crowd of tax collectors and others were at table with them.”  This was more than the self-righteous Pharisees could bear and they complained to Jesus’ disciples.  Jesus responded:  “Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.  I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.”  Jesus is Our Lord and Savior. He is here for us because we need Him.  We are sinners.  We are broken and in need of healing.

  1. Jesus says to each of us – you and me – Follow me!  How am I doing that this Lent?  How am I responding to His invitation to be a disciple of His?
  2. Who do I identify with?  The righteous Pharisees? Or do I identify with the sick and the sinners, those that Jesus says He has come for?
Posted in Addictive behavior, Christian Faith, General Interests, Jesus, Lent, Spirituality, stories, Today's Scripture Readings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Monk’s story

Some time ago, I came across the story of the monk and the young student.  It seems that there was an inquisitive young student who while wandering through the countryside came across a monastery.  He was curious about the lives of the monks and decided to inquire.  He knocked at the door.  An elderly monk opened it.  The student asked the monk, “What do you do all day?”  The monk replied,“We fall and then we get up.” Bewildered, the student asked again, “But what do you do all day?”  The monk gave him the same reply, “We fall and then we get up.”  And in that brief encounter, the young student received from the wise monk an insight into what the spiritual life is all about.

As followers of Jesus, we seek to live out His teachings in our lives and to develop an intimate relationship with Him.  We fall, that is we do not live up to His teachings. We sin, but we do not get discouraged.  God is Mercy. We get up and move on only to fall again.  But we don’t stay there.  We get up again. God is Compassion.

Lent is an opportunity to examine our lives in the light of the teachings of Jesus.  If we have fallen, that is sinned, our Lenten journey invites us to get up and move on.  The grace of Lent is the grace of insight leading to action.

Posted in Christian Faith, General Interests, Lent, Spirituality, stories, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two Lenten themes…

Today’s Scripture readings present us with two critical Lenten themes.

In our first reading, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, we read

“Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom.  If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjoin on you today, loving Him, and walking in His way, and keeping His commandments, statutes and decrees,  you will live and grow numerous, and the Lord, your God, will bless you ….Choose life, then that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding His voice, and holding fast to Him.”

During this Lenten season, you and I are asked to reflect on whether or not, by our way of life, we are choosing life.  Are we living according to the commandments of the Lord, our God.

Our Gospel reading, Luke 9:22-25,  invites us to take a giant step forward in our spiritual journey.

Jesus says to His disciples – and to you and me –

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

The message is clear.  If we are to be true disciples of Jesus, we must follow Him on his journey to Calvary.  The cross is unique to each of us.  During this Lent, we are invited to name the cross in our life and to choose life by taking up our cross daily and following Him.  This is something beyond us and requires much grace.  Only Jesus can give us that grace.  Only He can sustain us.  When we choose (with His grace) to take up our cross and follow Him, we do not walk alone.  Jesus walks with us.  In fact, Jesus carries the cross with us.

Posted in Addictive behavior, Aging, Bereavement, Christian Faith, General Interests, Jesus, Lent, Spirituality, The mystery of suffering, Today's Scripture Readings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment