Thursday, October 30, 2014

Arming myself for Battle against Evil

In today's first reading, Ephesians 6: 10-20, Paul asks us to put on the armor of God, to gird ourselves with truth, to shield ourselves with faith.  We are at  battle, not with "flesh and blood," but with "the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens."  Satan sets traps for me that I can easily fall into without realizing that Satan strategizes all of the time to catch me off guard. That is why, in my case, it is so important to begin my day in prayer.  I am still vulnerable to fall  but I am also more likely to be alert.  The Word of God, Paul states, is "the sword of the Spirit," needed to "slay" Satan.  Do I take the time each  day to arm myself with the Word of God? If not, why not?  With the Word of God, I will, in Paul's world" be more likely to "resist on the evil day," and be able "to hold...[my  ground] of building God's Kingdom, a Kingdom of love. I will, more likely, be a means of reconciliation, of union, versus being divisive, disruptive, and selfish.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

God's Dwelling Place

St. Paul reminds us in today's first reading, Ephesians 2: 19-22, that we are "no longer strangers" nor are we "sojourners," that that we are "being built into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."  What does all of this mean? First of all, we are not strangers to the Lord. A stranger would not take time to visit, would not enter a stranger's house, would not be known  by the other. On the contrary, to God, we are a friend.  We have permanent residence with the Lord, existing in the very core of God's Being, held in the palm of His hand. We are friends who are always welcome, persons God confides in, speaks to heart to heart.  We are part of "structure "held together" and growing "into a temple sacred in the Lord."

We are "being built into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit." What building materials is the Lord using?  God uses the materials from my life: its mud, its cement, its clay, its brilliant and dull colors, its woodiness, its softness, its pearls and diamonds--everything that makes me who I am in my strengths and weaknesses, my successes and failures, my ups and downs! Everything! The "mud" God changes into grace. The earthy elements into diamonds and other pearls of great price. He uses my vulnerabilities and weaknesses and creates strengths that support me to become pillar of truth and goodness needed in situations lacking these "pearls."

You and I need to bring these mundane materials to the Lord to be transformed by grace.  Nothing is "not good enough." God never disapproves of what I bring Him.  And, yes, all I have to bring are my weaknesses and my sinfulness. God uses these to grow me into the best version of myself, into "a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Imitators of God

"Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma," Saint Paul challenges us in today's first reading, Eph. 4: 32-5:8.  "Be an imitator of God." God is a loving God. God is a caring God. God is a compassionate God. God is an inclusive God. Jesus, the Son of God, came into this world, became one of us, not to condemn us but to save us!  "Be an imitator of God!"  How loving am I, caring am I, compassionate am I, first of all toward myself? toward others? toward those of another race, another culture? How loving am I toward those I do not like? can't stand to be around? How caring am I? toward the homeless, the neglected; those whose who are repulsively unclean, uncaring, unloving? How compassionate am I toward the same?

"Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma."  How willing am I to be" handed over" for another person's sake? that another person not be "stoned with words," that the other is not embarrassed,  that another person's need is met while the meeting of my need is delayed? Am I willing to sacrifice for the opportunity that another person to have a chance to "shine"?

The Christian journey of faith is a demanding one. Am I up to the challenge?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Stewardship of God's Grace

Paul begins today’s first reading, Eph. 3: 2-12,  with the statement: “Brothers and sisters: You have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for your benefit…”  Each of us, also, has been given “the stewardship of God’s grace” for others’ benefit, not for our own.  Earlier in this same letter,  Chapter 1, verses 1-11, Paul says to us: “In Christ…[you] were…chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory.” We “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,…the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession,to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1: 1-11).

Do I realize that I am not my own, that I belong to God? Do I realize that today God has a purpose for me or am I so intent on the goals I have set for myself that this underlying, foundational goal set by God is lost to me?  Does “this is what I am going to do today, in this meeting, in this encounter,” shut me out of waiting upon the Lord, allowing the Lord to show me His glory in “what I am going to do today, in this meeting, in this encounter”? Am I do noisy that I do not hear God at work?  If God’s grace is given to me for other people’s benefit, in what way do I allow “God’s grace” to reveal itself without my interference in  how that will happen in the events, the relationships, the opportunities given to me today to experience the “inheritance toward redemption”  (Ephesians 1: 11-14)that God wants to show me?

In Utmost for His Highest, the spiritual writer for today’s meditation, Oct. 22, challenges me with the words: “…abandon yourself to Him in total surrender….abandon your own reasoning and arguing” and then God will witness “to what He has done.” “The Spirit of God,” this spiritual author states, “witnesses to the redemption of our Lord, and to nothing else….We are inclined,” he says, “to mistake the simplicity that comes from our natural commonsense decisions for the witness of the Spirit, but the Spirit witnesses only to His own nature, and to the work of redemption, never to our reason[ing].”
All I can say is “Lord, have mercy!”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two becoming one in Christ Jesus

What a promise in Ephesians 2: 12-22,  today’s first reading, namely that  all those who were once “without Christ, alienated from the community…and strangers to the covenants of promise (the old covenant given to the people through Moses and the new covenant given through Christ), those of us “without hope and without God in this world” are now one with Christ and thus one with each other and with all persons. Christ, Paul tells us, is our peace. He made both covenants one and “broke down the dividing wall of enmity”—a wall Satan tries to erect between us and God and  a wall  which the law with its legal claims creates between peoples of all cultures. On the other hand, Christ, the New Israel,  creates “in himself one new person,” reconciling the two covenants, “with God, in one Body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. “He came  and preached peace to…[us] who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him, …[all of us, those of the old covenant and those of the new, both Jews and Gentiles] have access in one Spirit to the Father. All of us are “fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of [both] the Apostles and [the] prophets [of old], with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Our faith may be sorely tested as we await the creation of this new person, of this sacred temple, of two becoming one. We look around the world and even within our own space, within ourselves, and witness enmity, divisiveness, opposing “covenants” and  laws imposed upon persons of cultures different from our own that seem to  totally violate the rights of its people.  We then find ourselves slow to believe the promises Paul speaks of in this reading.

I do know, however, that God speaks to my heart in what Paul is preaching. What am I doing to reconcile myself with opposition within my very being, between my thoughts and my will, between my ego and my spirit. What am I doing to be a reconciling presence in my community, my family, my parish?     And in what way, each day, do I allow God to do what God needs to do so that I am growing into a temple sacred to the Lord?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Storing One's Wealth for Personal Use Only or Sharing It?

In today’s Gospel,  Luke 12: 13-21, Jesus reminds us that our lives do not “consist of possessions,” not that possessions are bad but that such is not what life is about.  Life is about love, loving, and being loved; about caring and showing others that we care, about compassion and being compassionate, about understanding and being understood, about consoling and being consoled, about forgiving and being forgiven. It is all about relationships, about modeling our relationships on the relationships of the Trinity, where all share equally in the Trinitarian resources,  where each in included in the activity of the other and equally contributing, equally rewarded and compensated;  where each Person of the Blessed Trinity is of one in mind, one heart and one spirit, committed to doing good and being goodness in the lives of all humankind, reconciling us to our Creator God.  The Trinity models love.

The core realities of life spiritually, I believe, are faith, hope and love--love of God, love of self, and love of one’s neighbor.  The expression of love is the richest of life’s experiences and transcends all of life.  Of faith, hope and love, only love lasts eternally. Am I using my surplus to show love and concern for others, or am I hoarding it? The use of wealth for the benefit of others enhances love. The accumulation of wealth for its own sake, to “build larger” storage spaces to “store” one’s good, and then say to oneself, as the rich man in today’s Gospel, now I have”so many good things stored up for many years,” I  will rest, eat, drink and be merry” the rest of my life. (cf the parable in Luke 12: 13-21) can be a source of hardening one’s heart toward another’s plight and need for compassion.

What do I do with the wealth with which I am blessed?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The First Installment of our Inheritance

Today’s first reading, Ephesians 1: 11-14, led me to think about  the excitement of persons who won a lottery of millions and millions of dollars and are promised 1000’s of dollars weekly.  The excitement, I imagine, is uncontainable. The future looks brighter than it ever has been.  For some, the hopes and dreams for their future are realized in genuine, authentic living of the messages of the Gospel. For others, living a purely secular lifestyle, the worst in human nature can spill out into jealousies, envious actions, abusive spending, selfish pursuits, wild ambitions, covetousness, prideful claims and so on.  Life, somehow, can become emptier and more chaotic than ever imagined.

Desperation, for some persons, leads them to turn to God, to take up the Bible, looking for help. The Spirit within them breaks through the darkness, as somewhere in the world prayers are being offered continually for the salvation of all persons.  Searching for God in the letter of St. Paul to the  Ephesians  in Chapter 1 verses 11-14, they are told that they are “chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that…[they and] we might exist for the praise of his glory.”  In this passage, Paul reminds them and us that  we who first hoped in Christ….[and those who later come to believe in Him are] sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,…the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession.” 

Wow!  I wonder why our excitement is not as overwhelming as the excitement of those lottery winners!  We do not need to imagine “winning the lottery” that only God can give.  We did not even purchase a ticket. Jesus purchased it for us through His obedience to the Father’s plan for our redemption, his death and resurrection.  We have been given this inheritance  by the price which Christ Jesus paid for it.   The “inheritance toward redemption” includes the following: 

  •  Being “chosen, destined in accord with the purpose”  of the Holy One, the giver of eternal wealth 
  • Being “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”  the “first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession”
My response and yours? Let us, with Mary and all the saints and angels in heaven [and on earth],  praise God in the words of the Magnificat: “My being proclaims your greatness,” O God, “and my spirit finds joy in you, God, my Savior, for you have looked upon me, your servant, in my lowliness…God, you who are mighty, have done great things for me. Holy is your name….”

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Destined to be Loved Forever

In the first reading of today’s liturgy, Ephesians 1: 1-10, St. Paul reminds us that we are blessed-- "blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.”

“Every spiritual  blessing!” Do I  realize, I asked myself,  what that truly means? Every blessing, not just some, but all! Every blessing “in the heavens”, not “every blessing in or from the earth,” though, of course, I receive those heavenly blessings here!  Every blessing in the heavens—that means union with the Lord God, God’s love, abundant love; reconciliation with the Lord, the forgiveness of sin.  In Psalm 103, the psalmist proclaims: “….he takes our sins farther away than the east is from the west.”
Paul also reminds us about being adopted by God: “….[God] destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.”  Jesus is the one who removed the consequences of our disobedience and restored us to right relationship with God the Father as an adopted daughter, an adopted son of God.   
How awesome! How deep the love of our God for each one of us “destined…for adoption”!
And there is so much more in this reading. I encourage each of you to open your Bibles to Ephesians 1: 1-10. You will be filled with grace as you ponder this passage and make appropriate applications as given you by the Spirit of God speaking within you.