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?

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

                                         Listening with Love to Someone’s Story

On the road to Emmaus two disciples are walking away from Jerusalem, leaving behind their community and their hopes in Jesus.  As they travel that road, Jesus appears as a stranger and walks with them.  After asking them what they are talking about, they give Him a blow by blow account of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, death on a cross and the empty tomb.  

Jesus, the stranger, listens with love to their whole story.  Only then does He explain the scriptures which describe the messiah and the new life he will bring.  He stirs hope in the disciples and they welcome the stranger to dinner. Finally, in the breaking of the bread, they realize that the stranger is Jesus, who is alive!   

Telling our stories and being listened to is key to true human and divine love. 

Here’s a truth about me.  I’m good at listening to someone’s story…for a while.  But  then I start thinking of my own story...not paying such close attention to my friend any more. And I often start telling my story before my friend is done telling his.  I wish I didn’t do that.

How good are you at listening to people’s stories?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

                                                        The Easter Surprise

The resurrected Christ appears to His disciples in unexpected places and often in disguise. And He always brings peace, hope and joy.

To the astonishment of His disciples, Jesus appeared to them on Easter Day when they were hiding in a room with locked doors. 

On that same day He appeared as a ‘stranger’ walking with the 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus. Only at supper did they recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.

Also on that day, Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener and asked him where he put the body. When Jesus called her name, she finally realized that the ‘gardener’ was Jesus.

I know that the Resurrected Christ is still among us.  It’s just that He appears in people and places where we least expect Him...bringing us peace, hope and joy.

Since Easter Sunday, how has the Risen Lord appeared to you? Have you seen Him in your spouse or your family or a friend?  How do others see the peace, hope and joy of the risen Lord in you?  Take 10 minutes to just think about these things.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

                                                                Empty Tombs

One of my favorite spiritual writers is Ronald Rohlheiser.  In 2015 he puplished a wonderful little book entitled: The Passion and the Cross.  In the final chapter, he described an Easter card he received.  On the cover it simply said: Happy Easter.  But inside the card was this thought-provoking sentence: “May you leave behind you a string of empty tombs.”

I’m still wrestling with that sentence.  I think it means that just as our resurrected Lord left behind a tomb that was empty of death, so should we leave behind whatever deadens us, since we have also died and risen with Christ in our baptisms.

Think about this.  Inside of our hearts there can be little crevices filled with harsh judgments, or feelings of anger over a past hurt, or a hidden jealousy.  Maybe we still harbor a resentment or some prejudice against another person or a group of people, or a feeling of shame about something of which we have never spoken.   

If the forgiveness of the Risen Christ is truly in us, if the joy, peace and hope of the Risen Christ fills us up, then those crevices, harbours and tombs will be empty.   

Name something entombed in your heart, from which you’d like to be freed. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

                                                           Dying Practice

If we want to be good at cooking or playing sports or speaking a foreign language, we have to practice.  I think the same is true when it comes to dying. 

What does it mean to practice dying?  First of all, let me tell you what it doesn’t mean.  It doesn’t mean laying down on the couch and pretending you're in your casket!  Practicing dying is a much more positive experience.

It’s what parents often do. When my mom was pregnant with me in 1947, my dad took a second job to replace our ice-box with a refrigerator.  He did that to help us. He died to himself 3 days a week and every other weekend for many years. 

I die to myself when I bite my lip before I say something hurtful. I die to myself when I don’t insist on my own way or when I respond to someone’s call for help.  I die to myself when I do good things that are hard to do or when I swallow my pride to respond with love.

Jesus gave his life away many times before He died.  He asks us to do the same.

Last week, how did you die to yourself?  How can you give your life away during Holy Week?  It’s a great time to get some ‘dying practice’.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

                                                        Blind Men and  Women 

Last weekend’s gospel about the healing of the blind man caused me to think about my own kinds of blindness.  Here’s my story.

Do you remember how some medieval heretics were burned at the stake over questions about what revolved around what?  Was it the sun around the earth or the earth around the sun?  In a similar way I’m guilty of my own occasional planetary heresy.  It’s called ‘Thinking the World Revolves Around Me’.     

Here are my symptoms.  When I feel overwhelmed by too much stuff or I think I got the short end of the stick or I’m in a funky mood, I can fairly easily slide into a kind of ‘pity-party’ for myself.  When I do that, I’m like the blind man. I don’t see the blessings and graces that are all over the place!  I hate that when it happens.     

So I pray that the Lord will heal me from my self-centered blindness and from other blindness too…like taking things for granted or judging people before I know their stories.  

From what kinds of blindness do you suffer? Ask the Lord for healing from your blindness before you leave this blog.