Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Peace that surpasses all understanding


Jesus in John 14:23-29  asks that we not let our hearts be troubled. Is he kidding? Our world is in a perpetual state of turmoil. How do we make sense of the bombings in Boston and the terrible tragedy in Texas? The U.S. economy continues to hobble along at an unacceptable pace. Ongoing debate over immigration and health care reform make us wonder where is God in all these deliberations, the end point of which is political advantage and not doing what’s right for people. And now, eyes abroad are focused on new developments in Syria…did its malevolent dictator use Saran gas to annihilate his people? And we're not supposed to be troubled? And what about the day-to-day personal hurdles that seem insurmountable?

Peace is often defined as the “freedom from upset, anxiety and disturbance.” But just maybe the peace that Jesus speaks of is not the absence of something but the addition of something." John tells us that God wants us to abide in the comfort of knowing that our faith does not remove difficult things but rather, it gives us the “tools” and the ability to deal with them as part of our human condition.  As such, faith is not some divine shut-off valve that stops the hurt but rather, it prevents life’s hurts from dominating us and defining who we are, thereby preventing us from living fully human in the presence of turmoil. The peace of Christ is given to us when we surrender our egos and trust—not our circumstances but in God.

 Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise or trouble o hard work; it means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart (anonymous)



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

By This Everyone Will Know That You are my Disciples

 “That you love one another as I have loved you….By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,” is so familiar to us in John 13:31-35, that we are inclined to wonder what else we can say about this passage that has not already been said. Yet, this simple commandment is at the very core of who we are as Christians. Jesus was referring to living that love in everything we do. Sure, loving those with whom we agree or have an affinity is easy. Loving the rest of the folks is a much harder proposition. It is a part of the human condition to love and want to be loved.

The love that Jesus speaks of is hard because it required that we put the good of others before our own, even when it is inconvenient and when it “hurts.” It is the hallmark of God and the Christian Church. We see it played out when we overlook the slight of a friend, or put aside our goals to help someone achieve his or hers. Whether it’s a large act of love or a small “gesture,” it requires sublimating our ego to benefit another, not out of any sense of obligation or desire to incur favor or reward, but because we are inspired to do so. Sometimes that love requires putting aside a hurt or moving beyond disappointment caused by a friend or family member, even when it is incredibly hard.

Today, we are faced with the stark reality of two Chechen immigrants who have committed horrible crimes against families and the spirit of a wonderful city and grieving nation. How do we make room in our hearts for those who caused much pain? How in the context of these atrocities do we live the love that Christ lived?

God has not promised to take away our trials, but to help us change our attitude toward them…this is what holiness really is. (Keating, The Human Condition)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Is it Back to Business as Usual?

Following the recent events in the upper room event with Thomas, the disciples return to their "former" lives; they’re fishing! I guess I’m puzzled as to how after all that they've been through, they decide to go fishing. Sure, it’s their livelihood and yes, it may be their way of processing what they have experienced, and… yet, it almost suggests, it’s back to “business as usual.”
Needless to say, John 21:1-19 has is reasons for telling us this story and he continues... a “stranger” appears on the shore and inquires as to how they’re doing. They respond with some frustration, not so well. The stranger calls out to “try another side” and see what happens. Maybe their “old habits” and practices were just not working?
Whatever it was, they ventured back out and found huge success. Their nets were overflowing. They catch 153 fish. Why that number? Many have guessed but it may simply imply all of the community of believers. The number may simply imply that many were caught.
Perhaps John is relating this story to remind us not to fall into our old ways of doing things?  It is Jesus telling us to reach out to the world and “put our nets back in the sea” even when we are tired and have had no luck. In relating his encounter with Peter, Jesus reinforces his teaching the need for us to love one another by caring for each other. We are asked to abandon our old habits of fear and leave our “comfort zones” to create new habits. We are called to be mindful of the needs of our world and in so doing actively live our faith.

Monday, April 1, 2013

My Lord and My God

In many ways we are just like Thomas. We really don’t want to come by our faith second hand John 20:19-31. Our parents taught us that something worth having was something worth working for?  So we ask; is there really such a thing as “blind faith?” Blind faith does not encourage us to probe; it denies us the opportunity to question, to know what we believe intuitively, in our “core.” Blind faith requires minimal spiritual investment, and denies those inclined to cruise through their spiritual journey the opportunity to really live life’s joy and danger. True faith requires knowing what we believe…beyond any doubt.  So Thomas in refusing to say that he understood what he did not understand, or believe what he did not believe, exhibited an honesty that prompted his need to know.

Thomas wasn’t a faithless doubter. The so-called faithful disciples remained locked up in the upper room hiding in fear. Fear not doubt gets in the way of our letting the Holy Spirit take charge. Where did Thomas go while others were in hiding? What prompted him to return to his community? Was Thomas “working” at trying to know what he was asked to believe? Thomas wanted the experience of a deeper vision or sight. He was unwilling to blindly accept; it had to be real for him.

True faith is based on trust in God. True faith knows that are faith is deepened when we ask critical questions of our traditions and our “inherited” belief propositions. We do this by leaving our comfort zones and live in new ways made possible by the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thomas’ encounter with the risen Lord challenges us to know what we believe so for us as, with Thomas, we too can personally acclaim “My Lord and my God.”