burden

Gifted to Make Burdens Light

Our religious community meets together every Wednesday morning following lauds to read the coming Sunday’s readings together, and to share and comment how those readings can be applied in our life, both in our community as well as in our various ministries. Here’s a bit of the fruit of our discussion.

Synopses

This coming Sunday we celebrate the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. Our readings are:

Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10: Ezra the scribe reads aloud to the people old enough to understand from the Book of the Law of Moses. The people show much reverence for the Law as the word of God, and their hearts wept when they heard the Law, but are encouraged to be people of joy in the celebration of the day of the Lord.

Psalm 19: 8, 9, 10, 15: Describes the beauty of God’s Law as perfect, trustworthy, wisdom, clear, true and just. We respond to the Psalm with “Your words, Lord, are spirit and life.” (John 6:63c)

1 Corinthians 12:12-30: Saint Paul reflects how the Body of Christ is diverse in its call to unity. It begins, “As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.” All parts of the Body of Christ are necessary, he explains, and we cannot have disdain for one because we don’t recognize its value.

Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21: Our reading includes the beginning of chapter 1, the prologue, as was commonly used in Greek and Roman writing of Luke’s day (and, that was Luke’s intended audience). The writing is addressed to Theophilus (meaning ‘Friend of God’), with the purpose of affirming the teachings he has already received as true. After the prologue, our reading skips to chapter 4, at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. This passage follows on the heals of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan, and temptation in the desert. So, in Luke’s account, it is the first contact Jesus had with people following those two events and sets the stage for his public ministry.

When Jesus is handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah in his hometown synagogue, he finds the passage he wants and reads:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

He proclaims to the people that the passage from Isaiah was fulfilled in their hearing it.

Reflection

The passage Jesus reads, taken from the prophet Isaiah was understood by the Jews to point to the coming restoration of Zion. Jesus takes this passage and uses it as his personal “Mission Statement”, outlining the purpose for His coming into the world. He has come to restore all things, and specifies three particular signs:

– by preaching;
– free people from their slavery (whatever kind that is involved); and
– give sight to the blind.

In retrospect, we can see clearly how these signs were hallmarks of Jesus’ earthly ministry. In very literal – and miraculous ways – Jesus did these things, and in doing them, restored people to their right dignity as children of God.

The challenge for us becomes one in the sequela Christi – in our own call to follow Christ. By baptism we are called to witness to Christ and our faith in Him, through our actions and words. The question then is:

“How am I called to preach, free and enlighten others in a way that gives a compelling witness of Christ?” 

Enthusiasm. The enthusiasm found by the people in hearing the Word of God proclaimed to them in the reading from Nehemiah gives example of right attitude. They ‘listened attentively’. They responded to the word – with hands raised high (enthusiasm!) – Amen! (I believe!). There is a sense of excitement in their readiness to hear and live by the statutes of God. How much more should we have such enthusiasm having heard the Good News of our Lord Jesus who has come as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promise of a Savior? Do we listen attentively to the Word of God? To we respond with our hands (and hearts) raised high? Do we respond “Amen!”?

Use our Gifts. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians reminds us that as the body of Christ is made up of many members, our ways and gifts are different, and our expressions and means of serving will also be so. It is true, sometimes there are people in our communities (religious and parishes) that are gifted, and it seems that they have all that is needed to do the work. Yet, Paul warns that it is the weakest that are most necessary (this sentence alone is enough for another post!).

Therefore, if we are strong, let us be mindful of the weaker members, and find ways in which to appreciate their contribution to building up the body of Christ. They too are called to preach, liberate and enlighten as a witness of Christ in their lives (perhaps to us directly?). If we are weak, let us take hope in the Lord, we are called to be patient witnesses and to do the best with what we’ve been given.

Paul also challenges us to ask ourselves:

“What gift have I been given to help alleviate the burden and/or suffering of others?”

Burdens

Our society is so burdened by many different things. Finances. Illness. War. Feuding. Fear of death and dying. Hatred and Violence. Concerns for the future for her children. Retirement. Unemployment. Injustice. Debt. The list seems endless.

Do I recognize their burden? how can I help lift it from their shoulders?

A more difficult question for us to answer is, “Am I, in some way, a burden for my sister, brother or friend?” Do I cause them to fall in some way?

Let us imagine ourselves standing before those we’ve encountered during our week, and hear us reading the same passage from the prophet Isaiah that Jesus read above. Are the words fulfilled in their hearing you speaking the Word of God to them? Can they recognize your sequela Christi by the way you live your life?

Lesson from Saint Francis

Saint Francis is my Patron Saint this year, and so I would like to share his prayer as a model of how we can help lighten the load for those we encounter. I chose to use the version adapted by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, used when addressing the United Nations in 1985:

Make us worthy Lord to serve our fellow men throughout the world,
who live and die in poverty and hunger.
Give them through our hands, this day, their daily bread
and by our understanding love give peace and joy.
Lord, make me a channel of thy peace.
That where there is hatred I may bring love,
That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness,
That where there is discord, I may bring harmony,
That where there is error I may bring truth,
That where there is doubt I may bring faith,
That where there is despair I may bring hope,
That where there are shadows I may bring light,
That where there is sadness I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted,
To understand than to be understood,
To love than to be loved.
For it is by forgetting self that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven,
it is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.

Amen.

God’s Miracles Begin with an Act of Faith

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 9:18-26, we find two examples where Jesus performed miracles following two small acts of faith.

The first, an official’s daughter had died. Yet, he kneels before Jesus seeking a miracle. “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.”

The second, a woman who suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind Jesus and touched the tassel on his cloak, saying to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

In both cases, Jesus assisted them, raising to life the official’s daughter and healing the woman of her long-term illness.

What can we learn about prayer in these two examples, and how can we put it into practice? Both of these in need, sought out Jesus (first step of prayer). Both of them had a petition, one spoken audibly, the other in her heart. Both of them acted, expecting results. Their words show their confidence:

The father: “…she will live.”

The woman: “…I shall be cured.”

Does our prayer follow the same pattern? There are no conditionals in their prayer. They demonstrate a boldness; a confidence that God will act in their favor. This is faith.

Today, let us practice in our prayer such bold confidence. Trusting that God knows what we need before we ask, yet how much He longs for us to come to Him with our whole heart, trusting in Him to act on our behalf.

An Act of Faith

O my God,
I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine Persons,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit;
I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins,
and that he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe these and all the truths
that the holy Catholic Church teaches,
because you have revealed them,
who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
Amen.

Abandonment to God’s Providence

My Lord and my God: into your hands I abandon the past and the present and the future, what is small and what is great, what amounts to little and what amounts to a lot, things temporal and things eternal. Amen.

–  Saint Josemaria Escriva

The Two Foundations

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7:24-27, Jesus gives a teaching about the importance of laying a good foundation with his parable of the two men building houses.

One man chooses to build his house on rock, and he sets to work laboring many weeks to cut the foundation into the stone to support his house.

The other man, seeing how much the other man struggled thought to himself, “I could make this easier on myself if I find a level ground and build there. Work would be less arduous, and I would finish much faster!”

And so it was. Both men built their houses, and for a time, all went well, until the rains came…

And where is the ‘good foundation’ for your spiritual life? Jesus says, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock…”

Take God’s word into your heart and live by them. You will find, like the wise man, when the storms come, you will have nothing to fear.

Be Careful of Jealousy

Today’s Reading from the First Book of Samuel (18:6-9), follows upon David’s victory over the Philistine. It describes King Saul’s entry into the city and how women came to meet him singing of the victory.

“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”

This victory song did not set well with the King:

“They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me.
All that remains for him is the kingship.”

The narrative goes on to tell us, And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.”

Jealousy is a cousin of envy (wishes the good in the other diminishes). It is a fear of losing what one possesses – in Saul’s case, the kingdom – to another.

Is there a corner in our inner-lives where we fear losing a best friend to another, or a job, or status?

A good rule for us is found in the Book of James:

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.

James 3:16-17

When we find disorder (that can manifest itself as deceit, ill will for another, etc), it is an indicator that our hearts need an adjustment. If not, we might find ourselves causing harm to the innocent, just as Saul had threatened to do to David.

What might have been the right attitude for Saul towards David? How could he tame his jealousy? How can we tame ours?

Saint Thomas Aquinas would recommend applying the opposing virtue to overcome vice. In this instance, since jealousy is a cousin of envy, we might want to work on the opposing virtue of kindness towards the one who brings out the fear in us.

What might have happened in the story of King Saul, if, instead of harboring his fear of David as a threat to his power, he exercised benevolence upon David? He would have had an open heart to discover David’s sincerity and faithfulness. Perhaps he would have found a true friend, rather than forcing David to become the enemy he most feared.

For a look at the “green-eyed monster”, Fr Jon Hansen, C.Ss.R. wrote about it at Redemptorist Preacher.

Related Posts:

Abram’s Faith

Catholic Modesty

Choices: It’s Not About Us

Get Clean: Is Confession that Simple?

Never Forgotten by God

A religious once told me, “We only forget things that don’t matter much to us.” Her words come back to me readily as a point of examine of conscience when I forget something that I shouldn’t have. It begs the question, ‘do I really care about that (him, her, them)?’ 

This means of examine came to me today as I read the first reading from the Office of Readings, Isaiah 49:14-50:1. The reading begins:

Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my lord has forgotten me.”

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

In this passage, Zion wages a complaint, that during their Babylonian exile, God has forgotten His covenant to them, leaving them in desolation as slaves in a foreign land.

God responds to the complaint with words full of consolation for us too; a reminder that we really do matter to God. We are important to Him, so much so, that he tells us through the prophet Isaiah, “I will never forget you.”

I’ve been asking people to join me in praying in these days as Christmas approaches, for those who are alone, and/or those suffering from depression. My prayer for them is that these words of Isaiah may speak to them and comfort them in their affliction. That, like Zion, pouring out her grief, those who find themselves suffering can take these words of God to heart.

“I will never forget you.”

A related verse for those moments in our lives when it seems to Lord is long delayed in His coming:

“Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 27:14

The Cross from the Creche

 

We received a very curious Christmas card.

Mary is tenderly holding the sleeping Christ child, her veil a crimson red. Behind her is the cross, and an owl peering out from over her shoulder.

It is not unusual to have Mary caressing her newborn infant Son in greeting cards at Christmas time. However, the imagery around the Mother and Child seem all wrong.

Mary is dressed in red. Red often stands for the Holy Spirit, but it also represents blood and suffering,  of Christ’s passion and of martyrdom. Placed in the context of the nativity, it reminds us that this is no ordinary child being held by a mother. Her garment is a foretaste of the sword that will pierce her heart.

The Cross.  Philippians 2:7-8 remind us:

“He emptied himself…coming in human likeness;

and found human in appearance, he humbled himself,

becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

Our Christmas celebrations sometimes conveniently leave us to stay at the manger scene, while to understand the full meaning of the Incarnation, we must reach beyond the tenderness of the creche to the Cross. Some of Christmas’ finest songs still remind us of the ‘why’ of the Word made flesh:

Nails, spear shall pierce him through

The cross be borne for me, for you.

Hail, hail the Word made Flesh,

The Babe, the Son of Mary!

– What Child is This, verse 2

=> Read More at Ignitum Today

Related:

Advent – A Call to Wait

Passion of Cross and Mary’s Role

Three Reasons for Mary

Who Are You?

Reading ahead for this third Sunday of Advent, in the Gospel (John 1:6-8, 19-28), we hear the narrative of some priests and Levites sent into the wilderness to question John the Baptist. The dialogue that unfolds, if we can imagine, is rather odd. The inquirers approach the rough man dressed in camel’s hair:

“Who are you?” they ask.

John:  “I am not the Christ.” 

The inquirers continue, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?”

“I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

“No.”

So they said to him, “Who are you…what do you have to say for yourself?”

I was struck in reading this dialogue, with the question, “Who are you?”

How do I respond to such a question? Who am I? 

The Gospel passage begins by describing John as one “…sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:6).

Is this also the role of every follower of Christ? To give testimony to the Light, which is Christ? To be like John, allowing ourselves to become less and less, as those to whom we testify grow in their knowledge of Jesus (ref. John 3:30).

John the Baptist is a reminder for us, a contrast to the way the world would like us to see reality. His austerity tells us, all his attention is upon the “one among you whom you do not recognize…whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:26-27). Our world is uncomfortable with such a message of self-depreciation, and even more so with a messenger that points to Christ by the very way he lives his life. It is not possible for a person to live with such conviction if they are not certain of who they are.

The question begs an answer. “Who are you?”

 

Jesus, Enter Under My Roof

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.”
Matthew 8:6

These words spoken by the centurion in today’s Gospel are a wonderful reminder for us, how God is willing to come to our house bringing His healing presence. And, like the centurion, we too are ‘not worthy’ to have Him in our home. Yet, God desires it.

Last weekend, we invited high-school girls to come to our convent for a ‘pizza and movie social’. As it is when we are expecting guests, there was a bit of preparation involved so our guests would feel welcomed.

Now – TODAY – Jesus is telling us, “I will come.”

How do we respond? Do we stall, knowing our house is not fit for the King of Kings? Or do we, like the centurion, admit, “Lord, I am not worthy”?

Fortunately for us, the Lord knows our messiness. He knows already our small capacity for loving as He loves. Still, He makes ready to come. Every day at Mass – with the use of the new translation of the Missal – we hear these words echoed before communion: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…” Yet, God welcomes us at the banquet table of His body and blood, coming to dwell in us.

Are we prepared to let Him come in, bringing His healing and peace? He may already be at our door.

Let us welcome Jesus, saying, “Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus! Come Now!”

Let us make haste to welcome Him under our roof.

Psalm 88 – A Lament of Hope

In the evening, when possible, I enjoy tweeting compline, to share this beautiful prayer tradition with my followers. Tonight, I was struck by the strong lament of Psalm 88, and thought to myself, “What will my followers think in reading this?”:

Great! That’s just what I need to hear before going to bed?!?

The Church in her wisdom has designated this Psalm of lament as a night prayer; a despairing lament. It is a difficult psalm to pray. It takes courage to do so, with the strong imagery of abandonment laced throughout. It seems to echo the sentiments of Job in his suffering, “You plunged me into the bottom of the pit, into the darkness of the abyss. Your wrath lies heavy upon me; all your waves crash over me” (v.7-8).

Yet, there is a lesson for us here. How is it, in the midst of our suffering, loneliness and doubt, can we turn to God in prayer? These are the moments when, many times, we find ourselves unable to pray; words don’t come to us at these moments.

Psalm 88 challenges us to pray in faith, to God who never abandons us. It also prays our pain for us, helping to carry our heart past the pain to the light of hope. Let us not be afraid, but walk forward in the Lord, knowing with certainty that whatever we are facing right now, God is near to us, cradling us in our difficulty, and listening to our Lament with all His compassion:


Psalm 88

Lord my God, I call for help by day;
I cry at night before you.
Let my prayer come into your presence.
O turn your ear to my cry.

For my soul is filled with evils;
my life is on the brink of the grave.
I am reckoned as one in the tomb:
I have reached the end of my strength,

like one alone among the dead;
like the slain lying in their graves;
like those you remember no more,
cut off, as they are, from your hand.

You have laid me in the depths of the tomb,
in places that are dark, in the depths.
Your anger weighs down upon me:
I am drowned beneath your waves.

You have taken away my friends
and made me hateful in their sight.
Imprisoned, I cannot escape;
my eyes are sunken with grief.

I call to you, Lord, all the day long;
to you I stretch out my hands.
Will you work your wonders for the dead?
Will the shades stand and praise you?

Will your love be told in the grave
or your faithfulness among the dead?
Will your wonders be known in the dark
or your justice in the land of oblivion?

As for me, Lord, I call to you for help:
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face?

Wretched, close to death from my youth,
I have borne your trials; I am numb.
Your fury has swept down upon me;
your terrors have utterly destroyed me.

They surround me all the day like a flood,
they assail me all together.
Friend and neighbor you have taken away:
my one companion is darkness.

As we pray these words, let us remember those especially who are living a time a lament, that the Light of Hope – the Lord – may console them, grant them courage to walk resolutely through their difficulty, assured that we – and more importantly -that the Lord, is at their side.

Lord, hear us!

Trying to See — What?

Today’s Gospel (Luke 9:7-9):

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”, others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has risen.” But Herod said, “John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” And he kept trying to see him.

Herod kept ‘trying to see’ who this man was. This Jesus, whom he heard so many wonderful things…why did Herod want to see him? Why did he keep trying to see him?

Who is it – or what is it – I seek after? And you?

At times, it is easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of our days, and get sucked into conversations or activities that divide our energies. We find ourselves unfulfilled in all that we are doing, despite the fact most of it is good. Yet, lying within our mind and heart is a longing — a deep, unfulfilled desire, for something; for a Someone.

A passage from Isaiah has been in my mind all morning that points to where our minds and hearts should constantly be:

“A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you” (Is 26:3).

Other translations of this verse make it more personal; not speaking of nations, but to the individual: “You keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

The object, then, of our deeper longing is found here, in keeping our mind stayed on God. Perhaps Herod understood intuitively what was missing in his life. He used to like to sit and listen to John the Baptist, even though it railed against his lifestyle; John had a way of speaking of the truth that made others hunger for it, even as it upset them (Mark 6:20). Maybe when Herod heard of the workings of Jesus, his remembrance of listening to John came back to him, and the feelings that truth brought to the troubled heart also returned. If Herod can recognize this need and seek to ‘try and see’ Jesus, we too can make an effort to clear the way for our mind and heart to visit with the Lord, and let Him speak to our heart, and in our listening, find perfect peace.

 

Stumbling Blocks …

Has it ever happened to you? You are trying to share a really important plan for your life with someone, that you know will require some sacrifice, only to have one of your closest friends try to dissuade you from carrying through your vision?

“Oh, you don’t want to do that!” We might hear from a well-meaning friend, who, with good intentions want to help us avoid a conceived pain that will come from our efforts.

So it was, the Lord himself experienced this with his closest friends. In the Gospel of Matthew we hear:

 Jesus began to show this disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. No such thing shall ever happen to you.”

Matthew 17:21-22

Peter meant well, I’m certain. It frightened him to think that this man, Jesus, would have something bad happen to him. He was a good and holy man! Didn’t we hear last week Peter’s confession  about Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter didn’t want to lose the one that had come to signify so much in his life; Jesus was a key that unlocked many riddles and questions, and now, he had just heard that it is all going to be taken away. Jesus responded to Peter:

Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.

Matthew 17:23

Peter’s love for Jesus became an obstacle – a potential stumbling block.

Let us be mindful that, like Saint Peter, we too can mean well, and yet be a stumbling block for those we love.

___

 

Oil in My Lamp

by Gavin Finley of endtimepilgrim.org

The day had been long, and the women began to drift off to sleep. At some point they were startled out of their dreams by cries of joy, “He’s coming! The Master is almost here!” Excitedly, those attending the lamps for the feast busily prepared them, only that, some of them realized that their oil would not last through the procession to the banquet. They looked to the others, “can you spare me some of your oil?”

“How can we?” They responded, “And risk not having enough when the Master comes? I worked too hard and have prepared well. Am I to fail now?”

So Jesus challenges us today in the parable of the Ten Virgins as they wait for the arrival of their Lord. In His lesson on preparedness, he challenges me to look at the oil in my lamp.

Oil feeds the lighted flame. But what happens when I don’t take care and, in my tiredness, do not ensure I have enough oil for the journey. Is the oil in my lamp of high quality, suitable for my Lord? Have I in some way corrupted the oil in my carelessness, not conserving it for those intimate moments with God alone? Am I ready for my Bridegroom when He comes?

I pray, that in the hour my Bridegroom comes, I will indeed be ready to welcome Him with joy, confident that the oil in my lamp will not burn out, but rather allow the light to shine very brightly.

___

Read Matthew 25:1-13

Marriage by God’s Standard

The Gospel today (Matthew 19:3-12) helps us to consider anew marriage as intended by God. The reading today begins with the Pharisees asking Jesus a question regarding marriage and divorce, to which Jesus responds:

Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.

“What God has joined together, man must not separate.”

When a man and a woman are joined in Holy Matrimony, by their union they are changed forever, ‘the two shall become one flesh,’ to the point that separation causes harm to those joined together:

In this clip, Caleb is telling his friend Michael how his marriage is finished, to which Michael uses salt and pepper shakers to demonstrate a part of marriage often overlooked today – the EFFECT of matrimony.

To many (like Caleb), marriage is an act that takes place between the man and the woman, but what many don’t realize, the marriage act has an lasting effect, a marriage bond, by which “the spouses mutually give and receive one another (and that union) is sealed by God himself” (CCC #1639).  What God has joined together, let no one separate.

The Pharisees were not satisfied, however, and questioned further as to why Moses commanded that a man may divorce his wife? Jesus simply responds, “Because of the hardness of your hearts.”

Hardness of heart is a heart closed to love. Our society often equates ‘love’ with an emotion or feeling, and has forgotten the deeper, more accurate compass – that of commitment – by which to gauge ones relationship. This is important in any relationship, but especially in spousal relationships.

Our feelings can betray us, and when the ‘feeling’ is gone, we seek to fill that void of emotion with something outside of our commitment (or covenant). May we learn from the One who is always faithful how to become persons of love. The Scriptures use the wedding banquet as a symbol of God’s love for us. Let us then, study His commitment, and pray, that in our own choosing to love, may the doors open to life-lasting relationships, and yes, love by God’s standard.

___

 

The Compassion of God and Forgiveness

“How often must I forgive?”, Peter asked Jesus, “as many as seven times?” So begins today’s (Thursday) Gospel reading from Matthew (chapter 18:21 and following).

Jesus responds, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” 

In other words, Jesus tells Peter, ‘there is no limit to forgiveness’. Jesus follows up his response with a parable about a king, when ‘moved with compassion’, forgives an enormous debt of one of his subjects. There is no way the subject would ever be able to pay him back, and he knows it. He forgives the servant anyway.

Jesus’ response is a reason for hope. As he teaches us how we should treat each other, it is because God has chosen this means when dealing with us. Do we deserve to be forgiven? Yet, the Lord accepts us, knowing how far we are from perfection and how often we will fall, many times due to the same fault. Yet, God insists on picking us back up, dusting us off and sending us on our way.

As followers of such a benevolent, forgiving God, we are called to respond in like fashion. Jesus continues in the parable to teach how we should respond. The servant who had just been forgiven a enormous debt, holds a fellow-servant in bondage for a much smaller debt. He is not like the good king who was moved with compassion.

The compassion of God, our good King, should make us want to entrust our hearts to Him, and strive to avoid those things that lead us away from His love. We also can learn from his example, and become benevolent and compassionate towards others who ‘sin against us.’

___

Our Father, Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. Amen.

God Cannot Be Out-Done

God’s generosity cannot be out-done. It is overflowing. Abundant. Without measure. This is the image of God that comes to me at the consecration of the Eucharist at Mass. There, on the Altar as the wine and bread become the Body and Blood of Jesus, in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas:

O hidden God, truly hidden beneath these appearances…sight, touch, taste are all deceived in their judgment of you…

There, in the Chalice and on the Paten, God’s generosity is manifested in a way our senses fail to recognize; indescribable grace flows from Jesus’ true presence, like the waters flowing abundantly from the temple (Ezekiel 47).

Today’s first reading (Aug 10 – Feast of St Lawrence) speaks along these lines. We are called to sow bountifully, and God in His abundance provides the means for the work:

The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures for ever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. – 2 Cor 9:6-10

No matter how generous we are, God is ever the more generous, not to be out-done. God’s boundless outpouring is the means of our success, our “harvest of righteousness”. 

Yet, the invitation is intensified in the Gospel of John 12:24-26. Jesus challenges us to be generous without measure, like a “grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies…it produces much fruit.”

Falling, dying to self, is fruitful. Just as it was for Christ to die on a tree, only to have that tree be the root of abundant harvest; of abundant life.

If we attempt to comprehend God’s goodness we will find ourselves desiring to follow his example, even to die to ourselves, and in our dying, bear much, much fruit.