Staying Awake in a Spiritually Sedate World

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”
(Mark 13:33-37)

Scripture Study

13:34 places his servants in charge Compare 12:1–12.
13:35 Watch When Jesus leaves, He tells His followers to proclaim the gospel in all the world (v. 10; compare Matt 28:16–20; Acts 1:6–9). Remaining alert requires expectant faithfulness to Jesus until He returns in glory. whether in the evening The time references here parallel four markers in the Passion Narrative that follows: the evening Passover meal (Mark 14:17), Jesus’ nighttime arrest in Gethsemane (14:41), His arraignment before the temple leaders when the rooster crows (14:68, 72), and His appearance before Pilate when morning comes (15:1).
13:37 I say to all Jesus clarifies that His charge to remain alert is for all who follow Him, not simply the four disciples who are present for this teaching (v. 3).

Scripture Reflection

Archbishop José H. Gomez, speaking on the First Sunday of Advent, tells us that this is the season for renewing our awareness of God’s presence in our lives. The Scripture readings we hear at the beginning of Advent are about “waking up” and “being alert.” There is a reason for that. I think we all have the experience sometimes of feeling like we are “sleepwalking” through life — doing the same things over and over, every day, fulfilling our duties, carrying out the same tasks without overthinking it.

The miracle of Christmas that we are waiting for is the miracle of God’s love for us, the amazing truth that he has come to walk with us and to share his life with us. God’s presence in our lives is not abstract or vague. Our God is a personal God. This is what the Incarnation means. Jesus took on human flesh to become one of us and to become one with us. He has united himself to each one of us. That means that he is present personally in your life, in my life, and in the life of every person.

Being “awake” means paying attention. Our world is filled with signs of God’s loving presence. God is everywhere. He is involved in our lives, and he is working in the events in the world. Our challenge is to open our eyes to see him, to open our ears to hear his voice, and to open our hearts to live in his presence and to do his will. So let us allow these weeks of Advent to draw us into a new awareness of God’s presence, his friendship, and love.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV. 

Daily Virtue Weekly Summary – Week 48

Revolution


November 22 to November 27, 2020

Sunday Gospel – Doing It In Love

When Jesus tells us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” where do your thoughts go?  We could see the narrative speaking to the need for social justice: feeding and clothing the poor, caring for the ill, and visiting the imprisoned. Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) is a modern-day example of answering Jesus’ question. In a very heroic way, Saint Teresa took care of the sick, fed the hungry, and clothed the naked. Mother Teresa would tell those inquiring about why she gave all of her life to these efforts by holding up her hand and saying, “I am simply living out the gospel that I carry on my fingertips, ‘You did it for Me.’” And what if we expanded what feeding, clothing, and caring for others meant? Think of those in spiritual prisons; so many people may seem fine on the outside, but they feel trapped inside. How about the elderly neighbor who lives by herself? She isn’t exactly a prisoner but would undoubtedly appreciate visitors. Or what about spiritual hunger? All around us, there are people who need to hear about Jesus, maybe even in our own homes. They are hungry for the good news of God’s love and mercy. Lastly, what if this teaching is another lesson to show us what it means to live out the great commandments? St Teresa of Avila writes in the Interior Castle, “Here Jesus asks only two things of us: love for God and love for our neighbor. For these two virtues, we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly, we are doing his will. The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments in loving our neighbor; we cannot be sure if we are loving God. We may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor, this we cannot doubt.” In living out the great commandments, we “show” by our actions an understanding of how much each person needs to be loved and treated with dignity and honor. In doing this, we can stand before the Lord, knowing we embraced every opportunity to feed the people around us, both physically and spiritually, in his love.

Monday

Grace and Gratitudehas offered her whole livelihood Jesus, surrounded by his disciples, watches people putting offerings into the treasury. Something happens whose significance Jesus wants his disciples to notice: a poor widow puts in two coins of very little value. He describes this as the most generous offering of all, praising the giving of alms for this purpose, particularly by people who give part of what they need. The widow’s tiny offering moves the Lord because it implies a big sacrifice on her part. The widow demonstrated her gratitude for what she had been given, even though many of us would have wondered how she could have been that thankful for having so little. She shows us how generosity and thankfulness can move God’s heart if we give him all we can. May we all be so lucky to have that much in life to offer and the gratitude to thank the one who provides it.

Tuesday

Living with the Zest and Fullness of Your Eternal HopeSee that you not be deceived When studying the early church, you are not surprised to read how the first century Christians often speculated when the Lord was coming back. It wasn’t until the Gospel of John, written nearly seventy years after Jesus’ death that Christians understanding of his return began to evolve. They now understood Jesus’ promise that some of his contemporaries would not taste death until they had seen the kingdom of God as being fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was, in fact, already back, and the world had not ended. And so they began to believe that the end of the world was not necessarily imminent. The present pandemic has rekindled discussions once again of “signs” that the world is coming to an end. I’m confident that part of this can be attributed to the unrelenting pressure, anxiety, depression, tension, and weariness of COVID. What a waste it would be to enter the time of dying with the same old petty and weary thoughts and reactions running through our mind. We should live with the zest and fullness of your eternal hope.

Wednesday

Persevere Against PersecutionYou will be hated by all because of my name In today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus foretells all kinds of persecution. From the earliest days until the present, the community of Jesus Christ has been the focus of the world’s violence. “The old principle of ‘killing the messenger’ applies here. If we believe that Christianity is the deepest of all truths and that Christ will be with us to the very end of time, we cannot succumb to fear or resentment of those who carry out these actions. We must continue to be the light of Christ’s love to all; continue to pray for the protection of those being persecuted; pray that the hearts of those persecuting Christians are changed and give thanks to God every day for the freedom of faith we enjoy in this country.

Thursday

A Familial Thankfulness bless the God of all On this day of Thanksgiving, our hearts and minds hopefully turn to those things we are grateful for in life. What does it mean to live within a family? Too often, we think of family mainly in terms of emotional intimacy. We imagine a real family – not like our family – as romance, warmth, like-mindedness, continual affirmation, deep mutual revelation, and constant support. In essence, we conceive of it in terms of our emotional and romantic needs. But those things, good as they are, are not ultimately what makes for family. What does make for family? Family and home generally have an everyday face to them more than a romantic one. Home and family are more than romance. They are the everyday, sometimes just the business of staying together, eating together, praying together, sharing money and material things, celebrating occasions together, being mutually accountable to each other, challenging and correcting each other, and carrying each others’ pathologies and weaknesses. Such are the functions of home and family.

Friday

Anticipationyou see for yourselves The day after Thanksgiving, looking out our window, we see the tree branches bare and anticipate the smell of snow in the air. Yet Jesus is talking about trees budding and summer being just around the corner in today’s reading from Luke’s gospel. As Christians, we are called to be beacons of hope. We will very shortly enter into the season of Advent, the season of hope in the birth of the Messiah. Our lives get busier as we prepare for Christmas. In our scurrying around, let us pray that we do not get too busy to look around and meet our brothers and sisters’ needs who could require our help. By the reality that they were not planned, the interruptions of life usually come at the most inopportune time. But Henri Nouwen famously said: “As Christians, the interruptions are our work.”


Take a moment for solitude to reflect on this past week. Then enjoy some time listening to Jacques Berthier & Taizé prayerful Veni Sancte Spiritus: https://vimeo.com/222299074/130fd1926e.

Anticipation

Jesus told his disciples a parable.
“Consider the fig tree and all the other trees.
When their buds burst open,
you see for yourselves and know that summer is now near;
in the same way, when you see these things happening,
know that the Kingdom of God is near.
Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away
until all these things have taken place.
Heaven and earth will pass away,
but my words will not pass away.”
(Luke 21:29-33)

Scripture Study

21:31 when you see these things happening Refers to the events Jesus describes in vv. 8–28—especially the final signs before His second coming (vv. 25–28). the kingdom of God The culmination of apocalyptic events is the arrival of the Son of Man—Jesus—in power and glory (v. 27) and the full establishment of God’s reign.
21:32 this generation Jesus seems to be referring to the present age of humanity (before God’s rule is fully established). The context of Jesus’ remarks is the final judgment (Mark 13:26–27), which will occur at a time known only to the Father. This seems to rule out the possibility that Jesus is referring only to the generation of people in His day.
21:33 Heaven and earth will pass away Compare Rev 21:1–8.

Scripture Reflection

The day after Thanksgiving, looking out our window, we see the tree branches bare and anticipate the smell of snow in the air. Yet Jesus is talking about trees budding and summer being just around the corner in today’s reading from Luke’s gospel.

As Christians, we are called to be beacons of hope. We will very shortly enter into the season of Advent, the season of hope in the birth of the Messiah. Our lives get busier as we prepare for Christmas. In our scurrying around, let us pray that we do not get too busy to look around and meet our brothers and sisters’ needs who could require our help. By the reality that they were not planned, the interruptions of life usually come at the most inopportune time. But Henri Nouwen famously said: “As Christians, the interruptions are our work.”

As we prepare for the coming of the King, what will others see when they look at us? Let us pray that we are open to recognize and react to the interruptions Christ sends our way. May we leave those in need of help with the hope of trees budding and summer being just around the corner.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV

A Familial Thankfulness

And now, bless the God of all,
who has done wondrous things on earth;
Who fosters people’s growth from their mother’s womb,
and fashions them according to his will!
May he grant you joy of heart
and may peace abide among you;
May his goodness toward us endure in Israel
to deliver us in our days.
(Sirach 50:22-24)

Scripture Study

50:22. Now bless the God of all… Martin Rinckart composed his hymn ‘Nun danket alle Gott’ (‘Now thank we all our God’) on the basis of this text. Ben Sira urges the reader to praise and bless God for his wondrous works and then invokes a blessing on all that they may enjoy peace and gladness of heart and the abiding goodness of the Most High.
50:23. May he grant … The clause also occurs as 45:26 a.
50:24. May his goodness toward us endure … i.e. May his line always have a successor. In our days. i.e. endless.

Scripture Reflection

On this day of Thanksgiving, our hearts and minds hopefully turn to those things we are grateful for in life. I am eternally grateful for my family, the one I was raised in and the one I have been blessed to shepherd with my wife. But what does it mean to live within a family? Too often, we think of family mainly in terms of emotional intimacy. We imagine a real family – not like our family – as romance, warmth, like-mindedness, continual affirmation, deep mutual revelation, and constant support. In essence, we conceive of it in terms of our emotional and romantic needs. But those things, good as they are, are not ultimately what makes for family. What does make for family?

Someone once said that love is not two persons facing each other, but two persons facing in the same direction and living in the same spirit. What makes for church is a gathering around the person of Christ and a common sharing of one Spirit – the spirit of charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, long-suffering, fidelity, gentleness, faith, and chastity. However, as we well know, family and home generally have an everyday face to them more than a romantic one. Home and family are more than romance. They are the everyday, sometimes just the business of staying together, eating together, praying together, sharing money and material things, celebrating occasions together, being mutually accountable to each other, challenging and correcting each other, and carrying each others’ pathologies and weaknesses. Such are the functions of home and family. Such too is the process of the church.

In the end, family life and church life are part of the same thing; we participate in God’s life in both. This means that family life is not like church life; it is part of it. Every family is meant to be a religious community and is intended to do exactly what a religious community or church does for its members. And what is that? By abiding in the family – by sitting down with each other around a kitchen table, by sharing the frustration of balancing a joint checkbook, by celebrating each other’s joys and sorrows and everyday life, by offering each other consolation and correction, and by putting up with each other’s’ coughs, phobias, and sins – we experience church. In both family life and church, our lives break open beyond ourselves so that God can enter. [1]

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV


[1] Adapted excerpts from Fr. Ron Rolheiser’s The Family as Church and Religious Community, February 21, 1999

Persevere Against Persecution

Jesus said to the crowd:
“They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.
It will lead to your giving testimony.
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
You will even be handed over by parents,
brothers, relatives, and friends,
and they will put some of you to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
(Luke 21:12-19)

Scripture Study

21:12 will seize and persecute you Jesus describes the suffering that His disciples will undergo. In Acts, Luke details some of this persecution (e.g., Acts 5:17–18; 7:54–8:3; 12:1–5).
21:13 your giving testimony Persecution will give Jesus’ followers opportunities to proclaim the gospel.
21:15 I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking Earlier in Luke, this ability to testify about God’s work is attributed to the Holy Spirit [The Spirit will give the disciples an appropriate response. This might not necessarily lead to their acquittal (all but one of the apostles reportedly died as martyrs), but it will bear faithful witness to the gospel (Luke 12:12). Here, Jesus says that He Himself will empower His followers to speak wisely and persuasively, showing a strong connection between Jesus and the Holy Spirit [The Greek term used here, paraklētos, refers to a legal assistant in a court who pleads someone’s case before the judge (compare 1 John 2:1). The judge is God, and people are judged based on whether they follow Jesus’ command to believe that eternal life comes through His death and resurrection (John 12:48–50). When on earth, Jesus was the means for believers to interact with God the Father since their sin prevented them from doing so directly. The Spirit is sent to do the same work. This is one of His many tasks (John 14:26).
21:16 by parents and brothers, relatives Compare Luke 12:49–53.
21:18 you will secure your lives Likely refers to eternal life in the age to come [Refers to the age that will follow final judgment—when God’s enemies are defeated and His kingdom is fully established (compare Rev 20–21)]. Verse 16 states that some of the disciples will be put to death, and church tradition holds that all but one (John) were martyred. Jesus is thus referencing the eternal fate of His followers.
21:19 By your perseverance you will secure your lives From Jesus’ words we can also deduce the obligation of every Christian to be ready to lose his life rather than offend God. Only those will attain salvation who persevere until the end in faithfulness to the Lord. The three Synoptic Gospels locate his exhortation to perseverance in this discourse (cf. Mt 24:13; Mk 13:13) and St Matthew gives it elsewhere (Mt 10:22) as does St Peter (1 Pet 5:9)—all of which underlines the importance for every Christian of this warning from our Lord.

Scripture Reflection

In today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus foretells all kinds of persecution. Bishop Robert Barron notes that from the earliest days until the present, the community of Jesus Christ has been the focus of the world’s violence. “The old principle of ‘killing the messenger’ applies here. Until the end of time, the Church will announce that the old world is passing away, that a new world of love, non-violence, and life is emerging. This announcement always infuriates the world of sin, which explains why the twentieth century was the bloodiest on record—and the one with the most martyrs.”

Here are figures on Christian persecution in the past decade:
– 4,136 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons.
– 2,625 Christians detained without trial, arrested, sentenced, and imprisoned.
– 1,266 churches or Christian buildings attacked.

If we believe that Christianity is the deepest of all truths and that Christ will be with us to the very end of time, we cannot succumb to fear or resentment of those who carry out these actions. We must continue to be the light of Christ’s love to all; continue to pray for the protection of those being persecuted; pray that the hearts of those persecuting Christians are changed and give thanks to God every day for the freedom of faith we enjoy in this country.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV

Living with the Zest and Fullness of Your Eternal Hope

While some people were speaking about
how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings,
Jesus said, “All that you see here–
the days will come when there will not be left
a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Then they asked him,
“Teacher, when will this happen?
And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” 
He answered,
“See that you not be deceived,
for many will come in my name, saying,
‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ 
Do not follow them! 
When you hear of wars and insurrections,
do not be terrified; for such things must happen first,
but it will not immediately be the end.” 
Then he said to them,
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 
There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues
from place to place;
and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.”
(Luke 21:5-11)

Scripture Study

21:6 not be left one stone This likely describes the destruction of the temple—and most of Jerusalem—by the Romans in ad 70 (compare Luke 19:41–44).
21:7 when will this happen? Refers to Jesus’ comment about the destruction of the temple (v. 6).
21:8 many will come in my name Jesus might be referring to people claiming to be the Messiah or people falsely claiming to work under Jesus’ authority.
21:10 nation will rise against nation Language reminiscent of several OT passages (e.g., 2 Chr 15:6; Isa 19:2).
21:11 powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues Common motifs of divine judgment (e.g., Deut 32:24; Ezek 6:11; Rev 6:12; 16:18).

Scripture Reflection

When studying the early church, you are not surprised to read how the first century Christians often speculated when the Lord was coming back. It wasn’t until the Gospel of John, written nearly seventy years after Jesus’ death that Christians understanding of his return began to evolve. They now understood Jesus’ promise that some of his contemporaries would not taste death until they had seen the kingdom of God as being fulfilled in the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was, in fact, already back, and the world had not ended. And so they began to believe that the end of the world was not necessarily imminent.

Over the centuries that followed, we continued to see periods when someone would predict that the world was coming to an end. The most recent one I can recall occurred as part of the year 2000 fears. Fr. Ron Rolheiser reflecting on the world’s continued speculation on the end-times, says that we miss the point of scriptural teaching. “Our real worry should not be that the world might suddenly end or that we might unexpectedly die, but that we might live and then die, asleep, that is, without really loving, without properly expressing our love, and without tasting the real joy of living deeply because we are so consumed by the business and busy pressures of living that we never quite get around to fully living.”

The present pandemic has rekindled discussions once again of “signs” that the world is coming to an end. I’m confident that part of this can be attributed to the unrelenting pressure, anxiety, depression, tension, and weariness of COVID. It has led many to become less vigilant. Fr. Rolheiser notes that we must maintain spiritual alertness and not be concerned about when we will die. What we should worry about is in what state our dying will find us. Kathleen Dowling Singh, in her book, The Grace in Aging, leaves us with this sobering thought: “What a waste it would be to enter the time of dying with the same old petty and weary thoughts and reactions running through our mind.” Live with the zest and fullness of your eternal hope.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Grace and Gratitude

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”
(Luke 21:1-4)

Scripture Study

21:1 the treasury The Greek word used here, gazophylakion, may refer to a room in the temple or to a box used to collect contributions.
21:2 two small coins The coins described here had the least value of any currency in Jesus’ time.
21:3 more than all the rest Whatever we offer to the Almighty with a good intention is acceptable to him; for he regards not the gift, but the heart of the giver.
21:4 her whole livelihood The Greek phrase used here means “all the livelihood” or “all the life,” implying that her giving was so generous it could impede upon her survival.

Scripture Reflection

Jesus, surrounded by his disciples, watches people putting offerings into the treasury. This was a place in the women’s courtyard, where there were collection boxes for the faithful’s offerings. Just then, something happens whose significance Jesus wants his disciples to notice: a poor widow puts in two coins of very little value. He describes this as the most generous offering of all, praising the giving of alms for this purpose, particularly by people who give part of what they need.

Having experienced this kind of poverty, I learned what so many in that situation understood. You are grateful for everything you have – health, family, and faith. You are thankful for a God who hears the cry of the poor because it’s all you can really be sure of because there are so many days when the goodness of God was the only thing that supplied your daily needs.

In our reading today, we see that the widow’s tiny offering moves the Lord because it implies a big sacrifice on her part. The widow demonstrated her gratitude for what she had been given, even though many of us would have wondered how she could have been that thankful for having so little. She shows us how generosity and thankfulness can move God’s heart if we give him all we can. May we all be so lucky to have that much in life to offer and the gratitude to thank the one who provides it.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV

Sunday Gospel: Doing It In Love

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit upon his glorious throne,
and all the nations will be assembled before him. 
And he will separate them one from another,
as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the king will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father.
Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink?
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you? 
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’
And the king will say to them in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left,
‘Depart from me, you accursed,
into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
For I was hungry and you gave me no food,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome,
naked and you gave me no clothing,
ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’
Then they will answer and say,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty
or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison,
and not minister to your needs?’
He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you,
what you did not do for one of these least ones,
you did not do for me.’
And these will go off to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46)

Scripture Reflection

When Jesus tells us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” where do your thoughts go?  We could see the narrative speaking to the need for social justice: feeding and clothing the poor, caring for the ill, and visiting the imprisoned.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) is a modern-day example of answering Jesus’ question. In a very heroic way, Saint Teresa took care of the sick, fed the hungry, and clothed the naked. Mother Teresa would tell those inquiring about why she gave all of her life to these efforts by holding up her hand and saying, “I am simply living out the gospel that I carry on my fingertips, ‘You did it for Me.'”

And what if we expanded what feeding, clothing, and caring for others meant? Think of those in spiritual prisons; so many people may seem fine on the outside, but they feel trapped inside. How about the elderly neighbor who lives by herself? She isn’t exactly a prisoner but would undoubtedly appreciate visitors. Or what about spiritual hunger? All around us, there are people who need to hear about Jesus, maybe even in our own homes. They are hungry for the good news of God’s love and mercy.

Lastly, what if this teaching is another lesson to show us what it means to live out the great commandments? St Teresa of Avila writes in the Interior Castle, “Here Jesus asks only two things of us: love for God and love for our neighbor. For these two virtues, we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly, we are doing his will. The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments in loving our neighbor; we cannot be sure if we are loving God. We may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor, this we cannot doubt.”

In living out the great commandments, we “show” by our actions an understanding of how much each person needs to be loved and treated with dignity and honor. In doing this, we can stand before the Lord, knowing we embraced every opportunity to feed the people around us, both physically and spiritually, in his love.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.     

Daily Virtue Weekly Summary – Week 47

Christian Life: God Centered and Balanced in Love


November 15 to November 20, 2020

Sunday Gospel – Tensions Balance

Fr. Ron Rolheiser, President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, provides an interesting perspective on life’s tension exhibited in today’s Gospel reading of the Parable of the Talents. He notes that we are all drowning in a sea of voices. The different voices we hear pull us in many directions, and, after a while, we’re no longer sure who we are, what we believe in, or what will bring us life. More profoundly, however, we experience this sea of voices as great tension. Different voices tell us other things, and each voice seems to carry its own truth. On the one hand, there’s a powerful voice beckoning us towards self-sacrifice, self-renunciation, telling us that happiness lies in giving life away, that we will only be ourselves when we are big-hearted, generous, and put the needs of others before our own. Deep down, we all know the truth of this, that it is Jesus’ voice telling us that there is no greater love, nor meaning, than to lay down one’s life for others. But that’s not the only voice we hear. We hear a powerful, persistent voice as well, seemingly calling us in the opposite direction. Superficially, this is the voice calling us towards pleasure, comfort, and security, the voice that tells us to take care of ourselves, to drink in life’s pleasures to the full, to seize the day while it’s still ours to have. More deeply, this is the voice that challenges us not to be too timid or fearful to be fully human beings. This voice invites us to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy the incredible energy, color, wit, intelligence, and creativity that makes the world go round and makes life worth living. That is the voice telling us Jesus’ parable of the talents and holding before us a truth too often neglected in religious circles: that God is also the author of eros, color, physical health, wit, and intelligence. Life, it insists, needs to be tasted, in God’s name. How to find a balance in all of this? If both voices invite us to truth and yet they seem in opposition to each other, where do we go with this? Well, there is no simple truth, here or anywhere else. Truth is painfully complicated (as are we), and the truth is always bigger than our capacity to absorb and integrate it. To be open to truth is to be perpetually stretched and perpetually in tension, at least this side of eternity. And that’s true in terms of the seeming opposition between these voices. At times, they are in real opposition, so we can’t have it both ways but have to choose one to the other’s detriment. Truth has natural boundaries, and there’s a danger in letting it mean everything. But there’s an equal danger in allowing it to mean too little, of reducing a full truth to a half-truth—and nowhere, at least in the spiritual life, is this danger more significant than in our tendency to let either of these voices completely blot out the other.

Monday

Faith SightedHave sight; your faith has saved you In the story of the blind man, we see that he did more than just quietly seek out Jesus in silent prayer. No, he shouted to the heavens! He ignored all the voices that had said over and over to him, “Stop making a fuss! Just accept your lot in life.” No, he fought through all of that, and probably his own thoughts that he wasn’t worthy of being healed. Many scripture commentators believe that Jesus heard the cries from the blind man from the very beginning, yet he let him continue with his prayer. Why?  Jesus wanted him to be convinced that he needed him. It’s the same for us. If you find yourself in the same situation as the blind man, try crying out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” What a beautiful aspiration for all of us to repeat again and again.

Tuesday

Exuberance to Behold Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor Do we still greet each day with the exuberance seen in Zacchaeus? Are the core intentions of our lives centered on God? We all have our faults but let us not forget that God responds to us unreservedly when we show the least interest in him. When we seek him, he responds because loving us is his entire purpose. Advent is the perfect time to cast off our complacency and move toward a more active Christian presence. A time when we can focus our prayers and actions on reaching out to the least, the lost, and the forgotten. Think about it, pray about it, and then seize the moment when it comes.

Wednesday

The Delusion of Human Self-SufficiencyWe do not want this man to be our king While being the Gospel that’s hardest on the rich, Luke’s Gospel is also the Gospel that makes most clear that riches aren’t bad in themselves. God is massively generous with his riches. Jesus shows us through his parables how God’s generosity is so excessive that it’s scandalous. It upsets our measured sense of fairness. The danger in having riches is that by having them, we will more easily have the illusion that we’re self-sufficient. But we aren’t.  God is Esse Subsistens, a Self-sufficient Being. God is the only one who does not need anyone or anything else – the rest of us do. Why? Riches and the comfort they bring can make us blind to the plight of the least, the lost and the forgotten. Jesus told us that his mission was “to bring good news to the poor.” In our comfort, we tend not to see the poor or their needs. That’s the danger in being rich, money-wise or otherwise.

Thursday

Change the World: Love Others Lavishly-Pray Unceasingly-Trust God UnreservedlyIf this day you only knew what makes for peace Today St. Luke recalls the weeping of Jesus as they drew near to Jerusalem. Many believe Jesus wept because he knew that Jerusalem would be destroyed because they failed to recognize God’s presence in their midst. Throughout recorded human history, many have failed to see or recognize God. What can we do? I would offer two things we should be doing each day: living our faith as Christ commanded us to do by loving God and our neighbor; and, most importantly, praying unceasingly. The trends in this world will only change if we make God relevant and real by how we live out the Christian faith. When we live a life of love and then trust in God’s grace and mercy to change the hearts and minds of the lost, amazing things will happen. We must never forget that the lost are God’s children too, whether they acknowledge that truth or not. So, let’s love them and then trust God do his thing.

Friday

Zeal and Healthy AngerMy house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves Today’s reading shows us two things about Jesus. The first attribute of Jesus’ zeal for the Father, as conveyed to us through his word, reminds us to hear and respond in kind to that word. If we are wise, we will hold on for dear life and pray that his words will continue to fill our lives. The second attribute of healthy anger must be seen in its opposite, “unhealthy” anger, to be fully understood. Unhealthy anger is rooted in neurosis, personal frustration, jealousy, and ideology. Its object is more spite and destruction than construction. The anger of Jesus is healthy anger because its root is in genuine love for those it challenges. It challenges only because it profoundly loves those with whom it is angry and wants their happiness above its own. And it is in love that we should take these understandings to heart and action in our lives. 

Take a moment for solitude to reflect on this past week. Then enjoy some time listening to Jacques Berthier & Taizé prayerful Veni Sancte Spiritus: https://vimeo.com/222299074/130fd1926e.

Zeal and Healthy Anger

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
“It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.”

And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.
(Luke 19:45-48)

Scripture Study

19:45 those who were selling things The vendors likely were selling animals designated for sacrifice. To be fit for sacrifice, an animal had to be free from illness and physical defect (e.g., Lev 1:3; Mal 1:8). Many people preferred to purchase the animal inside the temple courts—especially during pilgrimage festivals, when thousands of people were around.
19:46 a house of prayer The idea that foreigners would pray to Yahweh is found in Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple in 1 Kgs 8:41–43. The motif of Gentile nations coming to acknowledge Yahweh and worship Him alongside the people of Israel is found throughout Isaiah (see Isa 2:2–5; 19:19–25; 42:6; 49:6; 60:5). a den of thieves Alludes to the stealing. This phrase is used in the Gospels to highlight the injustice taking place in the temple (see Matt 21:13). Jesus quotes Isa 56:7 and Jer 7:11.
19:47 scribes Refers to trained interpreters of the law of Moses. In Luke, they are sometimes linked with the Pharisees (e.g., 6:7; 11:53) and sometimes with the chief priests (e.g., 19:47; 20:19; 22:2). were seeking to put him to death Several factors likely contributed to the religious leaders’ desire to kill Jesus: They viewed Him as a messianic pretender and a blasphemer, they lost control of the masses due to His popularity, and they feared that civil unrest during the Passover festival would lead to violent reprisals from Rome.
19:48 all the people Fearing the response of the crowd, the religious leaders took no immediate action against Jesus.

Scripture Reflection

Today’s reading shows us two things about Jesus. The first was his ability to capture people when he spoke. Jesus spoke quietly and resolutely to those who gathered around him in temples, hillsides, and quiet upper rooms. But in his authority of love, they heard something new and different, as we do today when we read his words.

The second attribute was Jesus’ resentment at what he saw as disrespect occurring in God’s house. He denounces the traders for engaging in businesses that had nothing to do with divine worship. The traders did perform services necessary for religious worship, but this good was undone by their excessive desire for personal gain, turning the temple into a marketplace. Jesus tells them that “My house shall be a house of prayer.” He uses these words from Isaiah to underline the purpose of the temple. His behavior shows the respect the temple of Jerusalem deserved and the zeal he had for his Father’s glory to be recognized at this time in the temple itself.

How do these two attributes speak to us? The first attribute of Jesus’ zeal for the Father, as conveyed to us through his word, reminds us to hear and respond in kind to that word. If we are wise, we will hold on for dear life and pray that his words will continue to fill our lives. The second attribute of healthy anger must be seen in its opposite, “unhealthy” anger, to be fully understood.

Unhealthy anger is rooted in neurosis, personal frustration, jealousy, and ideology. Its object is more spite and destruction than construction. The anger of Jesus is healthy anger because its root is in genuine love for those it challenges. It challenges only because it profoundly loves those with whom it is angry and wants their happiness above its own. And it is in love that we should take these understandings to heart and action in our lives. 

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV