Tuesday, June 20, 2017

                                                The Movie Version of Your Life
                                        (A Lighthearted Summertime Reflection)

A while ago a ‘Ted Talk’ presenter said something like: “We are the lead actors in the story of our lives”.  That language got me to think about seeing the thread of our lives as a movie.    

So, imagine that you’re writing the script for the movie version of your life.  What would the core message be?  Name 2 or 3 real-life incidents that would capture your basic story line.   Include a time of crisis in your life.  

The Ted Talk presenter also said something like: “Everyone else in our lives are ‘supporting actors and actresses’.”   Name your real-life best supporting actors and actresses…people who made/make a big difference in the unfolding of your life.   

How would you show your relationship with God in the movie?  Is/was there a particular incident in your life when you just knew that God was with you?  How would you depict that moment?       

If God/Jesus were to name the film of your life, what would it be called?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

                                         Visiting Jesus in the Middle of the Night

In last Sunday’s Gospel we heard Jesus’ famous sentence: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)  Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin, who comes to talk to Jesus at night.   

Why does Nicodemus seek Jesus out at night?  My hunch is that he doesn’t want to be seen with Jesus in public.  As a member of the Sanhedrin, he’s probably afraid of what his friends might think. He’s not exactly a wholehearted disciple!     

But when Jesus dies, Nicodemus comes into the light to help bury Him.     

Do you ever worry about people who grow up in our faith, but rarely go to church?  Maybe they are like Nicodemus. Maybe they also talk to Jesus ‘in the middle of the night’... when they’re in trouble and don’t know where to turn.  In fact, I bet they do.     

Nicodemos became a Saint.  His feast day is August 31st.

This week let’s pray for people like Nicodemus who may be hidden friends of Jesus.  And let’s pray for ourselves, that we’ll be less judgmental and as accepting of others as Jesus was.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

                                                         How’s Your Conscience?

As I get older I have some regrets.  I think about people I hurt when I was younger.  Some of those early errors had long-lasting effects.  They shaped relationships.  Regrets like these drive me buggy.  I wondered if other people experience the same thing.       

So I brought this issue to my spiritual director who assured me that I am not alone. He said that psychological studies show that many people develop ‘more sensitive consciences’ as they get older.  Later in life we often see what we couldn’t see sooner.    

That comforted me. But now the problem is what can I do about it?  I know I can pray for people I hurt.  But that doesn’t seem enough.  Mulling it over, I remembered that 12 step programs address this issue.  Steps 8 and 9 include compiling a list of people that we harmed and making direct amends to them when possible.

So I’m trying to do this. It’s a little awkward, but it feels like the right thing to do. 

How sensitive is your conscience?  Do you have similar regrets?  Will you join me in making amends to people we’ve hurt in the past…or maybe more recently?    

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

                                                               Fending for the Jailer

During Easter we hear many readings from the Acts of the Apostles.  Last Tuesday’s reading was an unusual story about Paul and Silas who were in prison in Philippi. (Acts 16:22-34) The jailer was told to guard them securely and he did so.  But in the middle of the night there was an earthquake that shook “the foundations of the jail”.  All the doors flew open and the chains of the prisoners were pulled loose.

If you were unjustly jailed and the doors flew open and your chains loosened, what would you do?

I would get my fanny out of that jail as fast as I could! 

But not Paul and Silas.  As Paul suspected, when the jailer realized happened he was ready to kill himself. And Paul shouted: “Don’t harm yourself; we are here.”  They didn’t want to cause problems for the jailer. And the jailer was so touched that they fended for him, that he became a follower of Christ! 

Fending for those who don’t seem to count for much in this world, is what followers of Christ do. Name some people who have fended for you when the chips were down in your life. Consider contacting one of them to just say “Thanks”.  For whom have you fended recently?

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

                                                             Last Words

When do your loved ones tell you the most important things they want you to hear?

My experience is that I’m more likely to hear those things in an intimate moment or when some kind of crisis is pending or when death is on someone’s mind.     

So it is with Jesus.  In John’s Gospel He raises the most important things He wants His disciples to hear at the Last Supper.  Once the washing of the feet is over and Judas has been dispatched to do what he is going to do, Jesus spends a lot of time telling the others what he really wants them to remember when He’s gone. 

In that context we hear things like:  “Love one another,”  “Remain in my love,” “I will always be with you,” “Don’t let your hearts be troubled,” “I will send you another comforter,” “You will see me again.”

When He says those things His disciples don’t exactly understand what he is talking about.  Only in hindsight does all of that make sense.

What are the most important things you have heard from your loved ones?  What are the things you ultimately want to say to the people you love?  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

                                                         The Answer is: The Way
                                       Read  Acts 9:2, Acts 19:23, and Acts 24:14. 

So ‘The Way’ was the earliest name for the growing group of Jesus’ followers after His dying and rising.  They were people on The Way. The source of that description, in Jesus’ own words, is found in John’s Gospel 14:4-6a. It was in last weekend’s Gospel text.

Jesus says: “Where I’m going, you know the way.” And Thomas says: “We don’t know where you're going.  How can we know the way?” And Jesus responds: “I am the way.”

The Way not only indicates Jesus’ path but also Jesus’ way of life.  Jesus' path includes His journey from equality with God, to becoming a ‘slave’ who washes feet, is rejected and crucified. His way of life is unconditional love for people like you and me.

At what point in your life did you become serious about following ‘The Way’ of Jesus? How does that affect the way you live? What’s the hardest part about doing that?  Can you name a particular time when you felt Jesus’ unconditional love for you?    

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

                                                Jesus the Shepherd and the Gate

The figure of the ‘Good Shepherd’ is the oldest image of Christ depicted in the catacombs of Rome.  It was drawn and etched on the underground burial sites, where the earliest Christian martyrs are buried.  It was a sign of hope and comfort in the risen Lord.

Jesus amplifies that image by adding that He is also the Sheepgate. (Jn. 10:7) This refers to the entrance to the pen where the sheep were kept at night to protect them from wild animals and thieves.  Frequently the ‘gate’ was a shepherd who would lay down across the opening.  As ‘the gate’, Jesus shows that He is willing to lay down His life for us too. 

These images tell us something about who Jesus is for us.  But they also tell us what Jesus wants us to be for each other. 

How is Jesus your Good Shepherd? (Pause and reflect).  Besides Jesus, can you name others who are good shepherds to you?  Think of people for whom you have been a good shepherd? Lastly, who lays down his/her life for you and how do you lay down your life for others?