June 22, 2017

Love Casts Out Fear

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:28 am by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, June 25, 2017: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33

To all,

When I was looking over the Gospel reading for Sunday, several phrases from various places came readily to mind: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself;” “Relieve me of the bondage of self;” “We have met the enemy, and he is us;” and “Perfect love drives out fear.”

I think part of the reason those phrases came to mind is that in our fairly short Gospel reading, Jesus tells His disciples three times not to be afraid. He tells His disciples not to be afraid to proclaim the Good News: “What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light.” And if the disciples are fearful about the persecutions that will probably come, He says: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Do you remember that young girl who was attacked in the Middle East (Was it by ISIS?) because she dared to be educated? They attacked her body, but they did not damage her soul!

When Jesus speaks about “the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna,” I thought He was talking about the devil. But the Scripture commentaries tells us that Jesus is telling His disciples to be concerned about God’s judgment (See Matthew 18:8-9). What came to me is how efficiently we can be destructive when it comes to both soul and body. Most of us know people who suffer from some form of addiction. We may know others who are stuck in some kind of spiritual rut. And we know all too well how capable human beings can be in using violence and manipulation against others. Very often our own worst enemy is us.

Where does this destructive behavior come from? I’m not going to presume I have a definitive answer, but since we hear in the Scriptures so often the encouragement not to be afraid, perhaps fear is a major factor. Many people fall into addiction trying to numb themselves or run away from some great pain in their lives. Sometimes we can find ourselves suspicious of people who are different because we fear what changes they may bring, or we fear losing something (dominance, perhaps?). And sometimes this fear turns into bigotry and discrimination and violence, which destroys the body of the victim and the soul of the perpetrator. As long as people fear that others having more means having less for themselves, there will be destruction of body and soul.

We can be fearful in our relationship with God, too. We can be afraid of actually abandoning ourselves totally to Him. We can be afraid that completely turning our lives over to God will mean losing ourselves, or that our surrender may change our lives to an extent with which we are uncomfortable. So, perhaps unconsciously, we hold back in our willingness to surrender to God’s love and will, and try to put some fine print in our relationship with Him. And I wonder if that does not hurt our soul.

So maybe the greatest things to fear are “fear itself” and “the bondage of self.” When we live out of fear and selfishness some sort of destruction follows. What’s the answer? Living in God’s love. After Jesus says, “…rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna;” He also says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” As we hear in our second reading from Romans: “But the gift is not like the transgression [the sin of Adam]. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for many.” The more we let God’s love in, the more that love “drives out fear,” and the less we get caught up in ourselves. And instead of contributing to destruction, we are contributing to life!

May we let God in and let go of fear, and proclaim God’s love “on the housetops!”

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In Christ,

Phil, CP

June 7, 2017

The Mystery of Relationship

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:07 pm by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, June 18, 2017: Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 13;11-13; John 3:16-18

To all,

On Sunday we celebrate not only Father’s Day but Trinity Sunday, in which we are reminded of the doctrine of the Trinity, that we believe God to be Three Persons in One God. It is a doctrine which is not so easy to understand, and so when we try to grapple with it, our default response is to say, “It’s a mystery.”

As I was reflecting on this, I thought to myself, “Why does that surprise us?” For me, the doctrine of the Trinity does not so much speak of theological concepts and philosophical definitions of the word “person,” as it speaks of love and relationships. The idea of Three Persons in One God denotes a Supreme Being of perfect relationship. And God, out of love, created the universe and revealed the Divine Self in the Son of God becoming one of us in Jesus Christ.

Have I lost you, yet? I’m about to get lost myself. But if we see God as a God of relationships, then it shouldn’t surprise us that we cannot fully understand or know God. Look at our own human relationships. There are people whom we love dearly. We know them well, and there might even be times when we say we know them better than they do themselves. But we cannot know them absolutely 100%, because they are ultimately distinct from us. But we love them, and we are in relationship with them. God chooses to be in relationship with us, and indeed, God does know us better than we know ourselves. And still, God loves us! In our first reading from Exodus, Moses asks God to accompany the people, even though they (and we) are “stiff-necked.” And God does!

The challenge of this day for me is the connection between love and relationship. Can I really love someone in the abstract, or do I need to be in some kind of relationship with him or her or them in order to love them? The reality of the Trinity seems to call for the latter. But then what does that mean when Jesus calls us to love our enemies, or love the “least of these,” or love the ones who cannot repay our love? Can we be in relationship with them?

Can we let ourselves be that vulnerable? I think we do when it comes to family or good friends. And again, the challenge may be to increasingly broaden the circle of relationships we have, even to those who are so different from us, in order to follow the commandment to love. One thing that might be helpful to remember is that God has been willing to be that vulnerable with us. How can I say that? God is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present. How can God be vulnerable? Is it not a willingness to be vulnerable when the Son of God becomes one of us in order to save us? Our Gospel reading says it well: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” Is it not a willingness to be vulnerable when we are given free will and are thus free to turn our backs on God and ignore the Holy Spirit?

Are we willing to be vulnerable with God? Are we willing to surrender to God’s love and will? Are we willing to be in relationship with others? It can seem impossible, but we know there are people who do; the ones who can see the good in everyone, or who can make friends with just about anyone. I think (maybe hope is the better word) that this is true for even the quiet and shy ones among us.

This day invites us to enter into the mystery of love and relationships, trusting that God, who is love, will show us the way.

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

Phil, CP

May 17, 2017

Closer to Jesus

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:57 pm by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, May 21, 2017: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21

To all,

It seems to me that there are plenty of times in the Scriptures that I am cautioned against getting too caught up in myself. An example is a verse from last Sunday’s reading from Acts: “even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” Today’s reading from Acts has a warning, too, though not as obvious: “With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing.” How I would love for everyone with “one accord” to pay attention to what I say! But daydreaming about the attention of the crowds is not the vocation to which I am called.

What the Scriptures do speak about Sunday is the connection between our relationship with Jesus and how we are to live our lives. At the end of our Gospel reading from John, Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” Part of this passage seems to imply that God’s love for us is conditioned on whether we love God or not. I have come to believe that God’s love is conditioned at all by what we do. But what we do does indicate how far we are willing to go to love God.

When Jesus says, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me;” He is stating a basic truth. There really is no other way to express our love for Jesus than to observe His commandments. We show our love for Jesus in how we love each other. Jesus also says, “and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” The more we observe Jesus’ commandment to love, which comes through as forgiveness and mercy and compassion, and reaching out to the “least of these,” the more we open ourselves to Jesus dwelling deeper in our hearts and being more the center of our lives. And Jesus reveals more of Himself to us. We understand more about how much Jesus loves us, and how much He loves the world. And the closer we come to Jesus, the more we are attuned to obey His commandments, and then the more Jesus reveals Himself to us, and so on. It is a “virtuous,” not a “vicious,” cycle.

And so, as we grow in our relationship with Jesus, and observe His commandments more and more out of love rather than obligation, we find ourselves empowered to do things we never thought we could do. In our first reading from Acts, Philip goes down to Samaria to proclaim the Good News. I think this is remarkable. We know how startling it was for Jesus to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), or to note the background of the leper who thanked Him (Luke 17:11-19), or to speak to the woman at the well (John 4:4-42). Philip must have gone out of his “comfort zone” to preach to Samaritans. The closer we get to Jesus, the more Jesus reveals Himself in people in whom we do not expect to find Him. In our second reading, St. Peter exhorts us to “always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…” We are to witness to our hope, without arrogance, but with a respect for the other person, and even a willingness to listen to their story.

The closer I have come to Jesus, the more Jesus has revealed the truth about myself, both the good and the not-so-good. Those who knew me growing up would not have imagined me a preacher back in my youth. Neither would I. But God is full of surprises. And so Jesus has revealed a lot about how He doesn’t work the way the world does. But most importantly of all, Jesus has revealed how far He is willing to go out of love for us! There are no limits to His love or mercy!

May we enter into that virtuous cycle of observing Jesus’ commandments and growing closer to Him.

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In Christ,

Phil, CP

May 4, 2017

Abundant Life!

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:07 pm by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, May 7, 2017: Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 36-41; 1 Peter 2:20b-25; John 10:1-10

To all,

At the end of our Gospel reading for Sunday, Jesus says, “I am the gate for the sheep….Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

What does it mean to have life “more abundantly?” Right now, for me it might be if the Rangers won the Stanley Cup. But, more seriously, for us Christians, the short answer might be, “Life in Christ.” But that, too, might need some clarification. What does it mean to have life in Christ? Our Scripture readings give us an indication. To have life in Christ is to be in a relationship with the One who loves us beyond our understanding; to love the One, in the words of our Gospel reading, who, like a shepherd, calls each of us “by name.” We are to love the One, in the words of our second reading, by whose wounds we “have been healed.”

In Jesus we have an abundance of love! In Jesus we have an abundance of grace! But that abundance of love and grace is not meant to just fill us up, but to be shared, in abundance, with the rest of the world! This is where, I think, the notion of abundance in Christ is in contradiction with the notion of abundance that is commonly understood.

We often think of abundance in terms of material wealth and possessions. We look at the lifestyles of the rich and famous and see what seems to be the very definition of having life more abundantly. Very often we can find ourselves striving very hard for this kind of life. It’s very appealing. But our faith, and even perhaps our experience, tells us something different.

When I was reflecting on this, I asked myself the question I asked above: “What does it mean to have life more abundantly?” What I came up with, was living life true to myself, which in turn means letting go of all that gets in the way of being the person God made me to be. It means abandoning myself to the love God has for me, trusting that Jesus is indeed a Good Shepherd, and being willing to have what has been given to me: love and grace and mercy and my very self, given to others. It means following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It also entails living in community, in relationship. For me, living abundantly does not involve living in isolation. My abundance is tied to all of us (including all of creation) having enough to live and thrive and flourish.

Does this mean that I never get caught up in having stuff? Can’t say that. Does it mean that I am free from suffering and pain? Can’t say that, either. But if I can just give myself more and more over to God, I don’t imprison myself, but I let God free me! And even in pain and grief, I can experience His love for me, and know abundance.

Believe me, I am not speaking as one who has reached abundant life. I can still be hindered by fear or trying to control my own conversion. And so I see fear and apathy and greed and prejudice as the “thieves and robbers” that take us away from abundant life, more so than those we perceive as enemies. In the Third Step Prayer of Alcoholics Anonymous, it says, “Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.” It is the “bondage of self” that keeps us from living life abundantly!

The hope of Easter enables us to trust in Jesus, our Shepherd. The promise of the Resurrection gives us hope in the promise of abundant life now. May God heal us from whatever we put in the way of living life abundantly, and set us free!

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In the Crucified and Risen Lord,

Phil, CP

April 27, 2017

Along the Journey

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:40 pm by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, April 30, 2017: Acts 2:14, 22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35

To all,

In Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke, we hear the account of the encounter between the Risen Jesus and two disciples on their way out of Jerusalem. In many ways, this account is similar to the one we heard last week about Jesus and Thomas. Last week we imagined Thomas stricken with grief after the death of Jesus. This week, Luke tells us explicitly that Cleopas and his companion look “downcast.” As Thomas heard from the other apostles that Jesus is risen, the two disciples have heard of a report that some women were told by an angel that Jesus had risen.

As Thomas’ grief and hurt seemed to have kept him from believing this Good News, so too Cleopas and his friend seem unable to believe what they have heard, or least don’t know what to make of it. Thomas recognized Jesus by touching His wounds. The two disciples recognize Jesus in the “breaking of bread.”

There are many things that this Gospel story tells us, but the one thing that has come to me is that this account reminds us once again that Jesus is indeed with us on the journey. There may be times when we are like Cleopas and his friend, and we can’t see that He is with us. There may be times when events and people wear us down and we are downcast, and we can’t feel His presence and His love.

But if we listen to our faith; if we listen to our experience; if we listen to our hearts, we know that Jesus is with us. We know, as Thomas did, because of the wounds Jesus suffered for us. We know, as Cleopas and his friend did, because of His words in the Scriptures. We know because of what we celebrate at the Eucharist, when we break bread together and share His Body and Blood poured out for us.

If we know that Jesus is with us, we also know our call to help others know of His love and presence. We open ourselves to God’s will, willing to have God use us to bring hope and love to others. We see Peter and the apostles do this in our first reading from Acts, which takes place after they have received the Holy Spirit. Peter, the one who was so overtaken by fear that he denied that he knew Jesus, is now proclaiming the Good News to all who were “staying in Jerusalem.” Cleopas and his friend turn back to Jerusalem to share their experience of the Resurrection with the other disciples.

When we share our experiences, I don’t think we just share our Easter experiences. I think we need to share our total journey, from our experiences of Good Friday, and our experiences of being in-between like Holy Saturday, and then also our experience of Easter.

Jesus accompanies us on our journey, and calls us to be companions for others along the way.

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In the Crucified and Risen Christ,

Phil, CP

March 29, 2017

Emerging from the Tomb

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:39 am by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, April 2, 2017: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45

To all,

Sunday’s Gospel reading reveals to me a very human Jesus. In some ways this is surprising to me, because when I read John’s Gospel I see a Jesus who is very much in control. For instance, in John’s Gospel there is little reference to anguish on Jesus’ part, unlike the agony in the Garden that we find in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Similarly, we don’t see Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus carry His Cross.

In the beginning of our Gospel reading, we do see Jesus very much aware of what He’s doing. Jesus gets word that His beloved friend Lazarus is very ill. He does not rush to see Lazarus. Rather, after a dialogue with the apostles who don’t quite understand what is going on, Jesus says, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.”

Before Jesus even gets there, Lazarus’ sister Martha comes to Him and says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Later on, the other sister Mary says exactly the same thing. When Jesus comes to Lazarus’ tomb, He weeps. And I wonder whether not only His own grief, but the grief of Mary and Martha and their lament, had an effect on Him. Have we ever had the experience of seriously disappointing someone, when they felt we let them down? Could Jesus have felt that way? It seems odd to attribute these kind of feelings to Jesus, especially in light of what He talked about with His disciples beforehand, but this is what comes to my imagination as I read this passage.

After Jesus weeps, He seems to come back to what He was planning to do, and tells the people there to take away the stone which sealed the tomb. Reluctantly they do so, and after Jesus prays to the Father, He cries out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” and to everyone’s amazement, Lazarus emerges alive from the tomb, and Jesus has to tell the startled bystanders to untie Lazarus from the burial bands with which he was wrapped.

Can we hear Jesus call out to us, “Come out!”? Can we hear Him calling us to Himself, freeing us from being buried under the weight of shame or fear or despair or resentment or grief? Can we let Him untie the bonds of envy and greed and apathy that keep us from Him? Can we let ourselves believe that Jesus can do all this for us? Like Lazarus, like Mary, like Martha, we are beloved by Jesus, who died on the Cross for us! The same tenderness Jesus shows the three siblings, Jesus shows us. It is the same tenderness we hear through the prophet Ezekiel in our first reading: “O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live…”

And if we can hear Jesus calling us and lifting us out of the tombs in which we find ourselves, can we also hear Him calling us to help untie the bonds that keep others from being free – the bonds of violence and injustice and prejudice?

Jesus is calling us to life! May we take the risk and come out of our tombs.

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In Christ,

Phil, CP

 

March 24, 2017

Light and Darkness

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:40 am by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, March 26, 2017: 1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

To all,

In our second reading for Sunday from Ephesians, St. Paul uses some wording that to me is interesting: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” This, to me, is a bit different than being or living in darkness or light, and it led me to think about how what we say or do can contribute to darkness or light. This thought directed my reflection on our Gospel reading from John, in which Jesus heals a man born blind.

The man born blind, through no fault of his own, becomes the center of controversy. This is true even when Jesus and the apostles see the man for the first time, begging in the street. When the apostles see the man, they ask Jesus whose sin was responsible for the man being born blind. They asked this because it was widely held in Jesus’ day (and is still held by many today) that things like blindness or suffering were seen as signs of God’s punishment or disfavor. And Jesus has to tell His disciples that the man’s condition was not a result of sin, but “so that the works of God may be made visible through him.” When the man’s neighbors realize that the man can now see, they disagree about whether it is really he or not. And then, when he is brought before the Pharisees, they can’t believe that something was done to give this man sight that they have to confirm that he was indeed born blind, and they interrogate the man’s parents to make sure he was born blind!

Since what Jesus did was on a Sabbath, the Pharisees rejected the idea that this miracle was of God. All the while they are interrogating him, the man simply tells the truth: “If he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.” When the Pharisees interrogate him a second time, he is coming to believe in Jesus: “If this man were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” But the Pharisees refuse to believe, and say to the man, “You were born totally in sin (remember the assumption about his blindness), and you are trying to teach us?’ After the Pharisees throw the man out, Jesus catches up to him, and reveals Himself as the Son of Man, and the man responds. “I do believe, Lord.”

How the Pharisees react to what Jesus did, and how they treat the man who now can see brings me back to darkness and light. The Pharisees were blind to the light that was in Jesus and in the man. They assumed that the man was born into sin. After all, he was born blind. And so I wonder if refusing to see the light in someone else somehow contributes to the darkness. We see people rail against undocumented aliens or Muslims or some other group. I look at the history of the early Church, or the experience of Catholics in the early years of the United States, and I see that at times the early Christians were blamed for all the problems of the Roman Empire (Who did Nero blame for the burning of Rome?), and so there were periods of persecutions of Christians. I see that Catholics were long thought incapable of being good Americans because they were connected to the Church in Rome. I bring these things up because we need to be careful about declaring that others are without light. We have been seen in the same way, and are seen that way by some today. I don’t deny that there are evil people in the world, but even they are loved by God, and that is a light even their evil behavior cannot extinguish.

Our call, then, may not be so much to point out the darkness in others, but to bring as much of the light of Christ into the world as we can. If we can see the light in others, we may not find it so easy to persist in our judgments and condemnations, or be comfortable with discrimination and prejudice.

May the light of Christ grow in us, and may we be more able to see as God does, and recognize the light in others.

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In Christ,

Phil, CP

 

February 15, 2017

Offer No Resistance?

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:36 pm by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, February 19, 2017: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48

To all,

            Last Sunday I was celebrating Mass at a parish in the area, and at a point near the end of my homily, I said, “If you think today’s readings are challenging, wait until next week.” I got a good laugh, but here we are, and our Gospel reading for Sunday contains some of the most challenging words that Jesus says to us. Our Gospel passage is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, and it continues the pattern we heard last week, in which Jesus says, “You have heard it said…,” which is followed by “But I say to you…”

            And so Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on the one cheek, turn the other one as well.” For some reason, I don’t think I’ve ever took the time to grapple with “offer no resistance to one who is evil.” I have reflected on “turn the other cheek,” and “go the extra mile.” I have shared with people Martin Luther King, Jr.’s take on loving one’s enemies, but perhaps because of the times we live in, the phrase “offer no resistance” jumped out at me very clearly.

            Should we not work against evil and injustice? I believe in the social justice aspect of my faith, and very often things of faith are put into the image of doing battle against evil. So what does Jesus mean? Many of the commentaries I looked at point to an emphasis against violence and revenge. We are not to resist evil with wreaking vengeance or doing violence. Okay, I can go with that, but even that can present some difficulties when we think of terrorism and war.

            I want to share an excerpt from one of the commentaries I read. It was written by John L. McKenzie in The Jerome Biblical Commentary (Prentice-Hall, 1968). Mr. McKenzie writes: “It is difficult to see how the principle of non-resistance and yielding could be more clearly stated. The rationalization of the words of Jesus do not show that his words are impractical and exaggerated, but simply that the Christian world has never been ready and is not ready now to live according to this ethic.” Granted, this was written in 1968 or so, and may reflect its time, but the depth of the challenge of Jesus’ words are still there.

            So what are we to do? Do we just bypass Jesus’ words because they are too difficult to put into practice? I believe Jesus is calling us to wrestle with them if we have to. I am also reminded of Jesus on the Cross. He did not return violence with violence, and yet, He did not refrain from speaking the truth. And even though His enemies put Him to death, evil did not win! He did not have to do violence to gain victory!

            Perhaps, by the grace of God (that would be the only way this could happen), we could work against injustice and evil without resorting to evil ourselves. Maybe we could find others of good will to help make a better world. Maybe we could even ignore how foolish and idiotic it may seem to the rest of the world to follow Jesus in this. At the end of our Gospel reading, Jesus says, “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” What I got from the commentaries on this is that “perfect” here does not speak to some neurotic perfectionism that so often can paralyze us, but that it speaks to being “whole” and “integral”, or as I would put it, being true to the people God made us to be. Perhaps we can only be completely true to ourselves if we practice this kind of radical love.

            May God fill us with the grace to love, even our enemies.

            I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

                                                                                          In Christ,

                                                                                           Phil, CP


 

 

February 9, 2017

Obedience As Response

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:27 am by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, February 12, 2017: Sirach 15:15-20; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37

To all,

In Sunday’s Gospel reading,  Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” As I read some Scripture commentaries about this, and I reflected on it myself, I think the important things about these words from Jesus is that He is not advocating the approach of some of the Pharisees and the scribes. Jesus is not talking about getting caught up in the minutiae of the Law handed down by Moses. That is what some of the Pharisees and the scribes were doing, and they used their extensive knowledge of the Law to lord it over others, and to put spiritual burdens on people who were already burdened by the circumstances of their lives.

Even though Jesus was not using the Law to browbeat people, His words are a challenge to us. In the words we hear today, Jesus invites us to go deeper into the implications of what it means to obey the commandments. Instead of taking the prohibition against killing at face value, Jesus warns against holding onto anger which so often leads to violence. Jesus does the same kind of thing with the commandment against adultery and the lust which can lead to infidelity, and other things as well.

I think these words are a challenge to us because we are so often tempted to test the limits put upon us. We’ve done it as children, and in some ways we do it as adults. Aren’t we often looking for loopholes? This kind of thinking is so far from what Jesus means! Ultimately, obeying the commandments is not observing rules. You may be saying to yourself, “What?” So I’ll say it again. Obeying the commandments is not observing rules! Obeying the commandments is responding to God’s love by how we honor Him and each other!

And how much does God love us? St. Paul, in our second reading from 1 Corinthians, quotes from Isaiah and writes, “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him.” We can’t even describe the love God has for us! All we know is that Jesus didn’t look for loopholes, or tried to determine the least He could do for us, and still accomplish something! Jesus gave us His all! And so, obeying the commandments, looking beyond the letter of the law, is not something we do to avoid God’s wrath, or to check off items on some list, but how we respond to a love that is beyond our comprehension!

As we grow in our love for God and for the world, we become more and more willing to let go of what gets in the way. This what I believe Jesus is saying when He talks about getting rid of one’s eye or hand, if they cause us to sin. But perhaps even more importantly, we become more and more willing to love unconditionally (We’ll hear some more about this next week). We move from a legalistic approach to the commandments, and move towards responding to the overwhelming grace and love showered upon us!

May we obey Jesus’ commands.

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In Christ,

Phil, CP

February 1, 2017

Your Light Must Shine

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:39 pm by pdamiancp

Scripture Readings for Sunday, February 5, 2017: Isaiah 58:7-10; 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16

To all,

In Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus tells us something about ourselves that should wake us up! He says: “You are the salt of the earth;” “You are the light of the world.” And then, Jesus says, “A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Our light does not come from us, but the light of Christ that is in us is supposed to shine, not for our benefit, but for the sake of the Gospel. Our first reading from Isaiah puts it in a different way: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed.” What this tells us is something we know from experience. When we move outside of ourselves, and move towards others, healing comes much easier. And it’s not only healing for us, it’s for the world!

And so the light of God’s love in Jesus Christ is to shine through us. If I may continue with the metaphor a bit longer, I would say it doesn’t matter what type of light each of us may be. Perhaps some of us come on instantaneously, and are very bright. Others of us might be like the compact fluorescent bulbs, which take some time to warm up, but are just as bright when they get going. Still others might be a laser light, focusing on some particular need or issue. And still others might be more like the light of a candle or fireplace, offering some gentle comfort and reassurance. Whatever type we may find ourselves to be, the light in us is not to be hidden, but to be shared, so that people need not dwell in gloom, but know that they are loved.

Please let me push the metaphor a bit further. What about the times when all our lights come together? It can amount to something beautiful. Part of our letting our light shine is to encourage others to let theirs shine as well. I’m thinking of a string of Christmas lights. Sometimes when people get together, we can get tangled up, like any string of Christmas tree lights I have ever dealt with! There is something about the older generation of lights that is pertinent to this reflection. It isn’t so much the case anymore, but it used to be that if one light went out, the whole string of lights did. You could be searching for hours trying to find the one that caused the whole string to go out. Perhaps we are called to take the time and search for those whose lights have gone out. They may be alive, but they’ve lost hope, or don’t believe they have any worth, or are so worn down by poverty or oppression that they find little value in continuing to live. Similarly, we cannot seek to extinguish someone else’s light. In the first reading we had for the Baptism of the Lord a month ago, the prophet Isaiah described the Messiah this way: “A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3).

In the words of our first reading, may we remove from our midst “false accusation and malicious speech.” May we bestow “bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted.” May the light of Christ shine through us in our love for God, for each other, and for the world.

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In Christ,

Phil, CP

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