Bearing the Cross

February 7th, 2018 Posted in Uncategorized, writing | No Comments »

Jesus says that if we wish to be his disciples we should be willing to take up our cross each day (Luke 9: 23). Many people understand this as meaning that there are some sufferings which we can’t eliminate and, if that is the case, then we need to accept them as the crosses life has given us to bear.

But the the context in which Jesus spoke was about discipleship, so I think Jesus was referring to the cross that comes as a necessary part of being a disciple. That cross comes in the form of the opposition of this world when we try to love and forgive others, comfort those who need comfort, stand up against injustice and declare God’s love towards everyone, especially those who are pushed aside and pushed down.

Jesus himself preached and practiced these things and, in so doing, brought on himself the scorn and hatred of the religious leaders of his day, which resulted in his literally carrying his cross to crucifixion and death. So we who try to be his followers should expect to endure some suffering, for the simple fact is that being a disciple does entail bearing our cross. But Jesus promises to be with us and help us carry our cross. And when the time for bearing crosses has come to an end, we will share in the reward that God the Father prepared for Jesus and which awaits those who follow him.

Preparing Advent

November 17th, 2017 Posted in writing | No Comments »

As the stores and malls blare out Christmas songs, Santa sits enthroned just off the food court amid giant stars and candy canes. With all that and more, is it any wonder that many of us forget there are four weeks of Advent before Christmas itself arrives?

In those four weeks before Christmas, Christians can ask, “What am I (what are we) waiting for?”  Where could we use a little more Jesus?  Where could we use a lot more Jesus? Where could we use more faith, more hope, more love, more patience? If we can identify what we are waiting for, we have a better chance of receiving it and appreciating it.

But the question “What am I (what are we) waiting for?” can also prod us to get active. It’s like saying, “Get a move on. Clear away the obstacles to the things you want. Make room for them in your decisions and attitudes. Stop sitting back, waiting for them to drop into your lap on December 25. Go ahead! What are you waiting for anyway?”

Before Advent begins, let’s think about which understanding fits us better this year, so that when Advent does begin in a couple of weeks we will have consciously prepared for it and, at the same time, for the Christmas season following.

Who’s the Host?

October 10th, 2017 Posted in writing | 1 Comment »

At the start of that day when Jesus called Matthew from his job as a tax collector, Matthew probably would have never guessed that when the day ended, instead of being surrounded by coins and receipts, he would be at dinner with people he might never have met before but who had also accepted Jesus’ invitation to be his followers.

Surprisingly, though, the gospel story never says where the dinner took place. It simply says that later that day Jesus and Matthew and their friends ate together, with no indication of whether the “house” was Jesus’ or Matthew’s. Certainly one of them was the host, but we don’t know which one.

Maybe our ignorance as to who hosted the dinner can remind us that in our ongoing relationship with Jesus, sometimes Jesus hosts us and sometimes we host him. Sometimes Jesus invites us into his world, welcomes us there and introduces us to his friends. At other times don’t we find ourselves inviting Jesus into our world to share our experiences and meet our friends?

We might want to take a moment as we wake up and ask who is going to be hosting the day. Will Christ invite us to enter his day or will we invite Christ to enter ours? Whichever it is, the important thing is that we and Jesus spend it together.

Transfiguration

August 24th, 2017 Posted in writing | No Comments »

I own an icon (a print, not an original icon) of the scene called the Transfiguration. It depicts the story of Jesus taking Peter, James and John up a mountain, where he changed from being the Jesus they were familiar with to a Jesus who shone with the over-powering beauty and power of God. And Moses the great lawgiver and Elijah the great prophet of Israel appeared conversing with him, revealing that Jesus was surpassing them both. At last came the Voice of God the Father: “This is my Son—listen to him!”

The message is meant for us, too. “This is my Son,” we can interpret to mean, “This Jesus is not simply someone who can talk about me. He actually shows you all that you need to know about me, how I feel about you and what I want for you. You see him and you see me, you pay attention to him and you are paying attention to me, you welcome him and you are welcoming me.”

And God says loud and clear, “Listen to him!” We might take this for ourselves to mean, “Don’t listen to voices that are full of hate and violence—listen to Jesus! Don’t give credence to those who offer only words of discouragement or self-doubt—listen to Jesus! Don’t be persuaded by those who tell you that love and forgiveness are merely signs of weakness—instead, listen to Jesus!

The Transfiguration is a truly rich event that encourages us to seek what lies deep down in Jesus. And at the same time, it reveals to us who we are and how we should live.

Why Ignatius Matters

July 28th, 2017 Posted in writing | No Comments »

A reflection for the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola (July 31)

Ignatius Loyola matters because his message and spirituality remind us of three important truths.

The first is that God’s response to our flawed and sinful world is not to withdraw from it in anger but to enter it more deeply and transform it from within through the life, death, and rising of Jesus. And since God has made his home with us in this world, we can seek him even in difficult situations and circumstances. Ignatius assures us God is right beside us no matter what.

Secondly, Ignatius reminds us that God wants to establish his Kingdom of justice, peace, love, and forgiveness in this world and that Christ invites us to work with him in this enterprise. He could do it without our cooperation, but he wants us to be his partners. Thus, the good deeds we do, the loving relationships we foster, and the help we give to those in need all contribute to furthering the Kingdom of God. If we are ever tempted to think that God doesn’t want our help, Ignatius reminds us we are wrong.

Finally, for his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius sought people with big souls and large hearts who would go above and beyond the ordinary service of God and neighbor, who would seek not just God’s glory, but God’s greater glory. He reminds us that the truly exemplary disciples of Jesus are those who have experienced God’s deep love in their souls and then spread it to as many people and situations as possible, even dangerous and difficult ones.

In our day, when people think God is absent or doesn’t need us or that we can be content with an uninspired and uninspiring commitment to God, Ignatius of Loyola tell us just the opposite.

That’s why, five hundred years after his death, he still matters.