Saturday, April 27, 2013

It’s not about us…good, bad, indifferent…

Reflection on Mk 16: 9-15

It was Easter morning…the first Easter. The end, or at least what surely seemed like the end, had come so rapidly…and so brutally. And the brutality was infectious. Judas, having betrayed Jesus for those 30 pieces of silver was so desperate when he realized…too late…what he had done, that he took his own life. Peter had denied Jesus three times, and when he heard the cock crow, he was so devastated that he ran away and wept bitter tears. Jesus’ mother was pierced through the heart with grief. The rest had scattered in fear for their own lives, and in disbelief.

Among those remaining at the foot of the cross, Mark mentions Mary Magdalene by name, and here now on that first Easter morning, Jesus appears first to her. Jesus had cast seven demons out of her…not one, or two…but seven. Can we even imagine how possessed she must have been? And yet she is the first to experience the risen Lord.

She went and told the apostles, who were behind locked doors overcome with grief, that he was alive, and that she had seen him…and they did not believe her. Healed by Jesus of seven demons…with him when he died…on her way to anoint what she thought would be his lifeless body…and they did not believe her. How much better a witness could we have asked for?

Two disciples experience the risen Jesus in another form. We know from Luke, that these were the disciples on the way to Emmaus. Jesus illuminated the scriptures and the prophets for them….and they recognized the Lord in the breaking of the bread. This is the first Easter Sunday…who knew anything about the breaking of the bread except those closest to Jesus?

But when they returned with their witness, the eleven just couldn’t bring themselves to believe them either. So Jesus then appears to the eleven. He rebukes them for their unbelief and hardness of heart…after all, had he not sent the most believable of first-hand witnesses? And then…immediately…he sends these wounded and broken men out into the world with the most precious of gifts…his salvation, his forgiveness, his infinite love, his body and blood…and so those most precious of gifts come even to us…here…now.

Peter denied him three times, and Jesus makes him the head of the Church. Mary Magdalene had been possessed by seven demons, and she is the first one he shows himself to after his glorious resurrection. The eleven closest to him did not believe that he had risen from the dead, and they are the bearers of the good news of salvation to all of the world.

Don’t you see? Don’t you see? It’s not about us…good, bad, indifferent…it’s just not about us. It’s about him, and his father, and their spirit; it’s about all that he said, and did for us; it’s about all that he gave us, and all that he took away.

He became one of us, he bore our guilt, our sins; he suffered and died, was buried, and rose from the dead. And even though it’s not about us, it is up to us. It’s up to us to surrender, to say “yes”, to believe, and to accept his incomprehensible love. W.W.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Don't you see it? Reflections on Jn 6:60-69

I was standing there in the mall, staring intently at a piece of cardboard about a foot and a half from top to bottom, and maybe three feet wide. There were blobs of very nice colors in some of my favorite hues…but there was no pattern that I could find.

This guy comes up and asks me excitedly “Do you see it? I obviously didn’t, so I ask innocently “See what?” He blurts out “It’s the United Nations building in New York!!”

For a minute or so I look back at the cardboard, and then at my new friend…a few times…really trying hard. I finally have to ask “Where?” By now he’s so excited he’s really talking fast…and he’s pointing…and he’s outlining…and he’s telling me about the flagpoles and the shrubbery. What he was telling me was hard…and I just couldn’t accept it.

He finally tells me “you have to look beyond it…focus behind it.” Now, I came through the sixties, so I was kind of used to situations like this…so I believed him, and after a few minutes trying to figure out how to do what he told me to do…it clicked…and there it was…complete with flagpoles and shrubbery…the UN building in New York City.

I believed what he said, and after I was able to see, I was convinced that he was telling me the truth.

Today’s Gospel reading takes place just after Jesus tells the disciples that “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” He tells them “It is the Spirit that gives life…the words I have spoken to you are Spirit and Life.” And they struggled with it…and some of them went away; we struggle with it today, and some of us have gone away.

Faith is a gift from the Father that allows us to see; it allows us to focus beyond mere logical reality… beyond mere flesh that is of no avail. Faith infuses the Spirit into our ability to understand. It allows us to accept what is hard. Faith opens our hearts to the Spirit, and allows our reason to be convinced.

Jesus’ words are Spirit and life…they infuse us with the gift of belief, and they bring us to life. Peter is the one who says it the best…”We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

If only the rest of us…disciples both then and now…will open our hearts and our heads at the same time so we can see; so that we can believe and understand the Truth…even when it’s hard. W.W.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Hope You Dance

Several years ago, a noted Southeastern Conference football coach was a little bit frustrated with his team. It seems that they had a lot of talent but it just wasn’t showing in practice or on the field. Were they just not interested? Did they care? So, he sat them down and had them listen to a country music song by Lee Ann Womack in hope that it would inspire them. Here are a few of the verses of her song, “I hope you dance”.
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance

Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance

As parishioners of St. Paul’s Parish, we have many opportunities to “dance”. We can do this by
becoming involved in stewardship via one of the 58 current ministries instead of sitting on the sidelines.   These ministries give us plenty of opportunities to share our time, talent and treasure. Even so, while many of us are actively involved in parish ministries, some choose not to do so. Why? Here are some classic excuses and why they just don’t hold up in the light of day.

·        They have enough people already. Well, that’s not always the case and in scripture it says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” (1 Peter 4:10).
·        I’m not holy enough.  Again, it is written, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) And no matter the stage of life you're in or what your past has been, God wants to use you now!
·        I don’t have the time. What could be more important than time given in service to your Lord and Savior?    In (Luke 16:13) it says "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other….”
·        I don’t have any special talent. Not true.  "Just as each of us has one body with many parts, and these parts perform different functions, so in Christ we, who are many, become one body, each member belonging to all the others in order to function as a whole. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us." (Romans 12:4-6a).
·        I’m not into self- edification. Good because that’s not what God expects of you either. Following his example, our Lord expects you to be a Servant Leader. He made it very clear to his disciples when He found them arguing among themselves. “Whomever wishes to be first, shall be the last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 10:35)

 Those who serve in a ministry often say that they feel truly blessed and that they “receive much more from serving others, than what they feel they give”. So, with that in mind, my prayer for all parishioners on the sidelines is that you “dance” and keep these verses from another song uppermost in your mind.

I danced for the Scribes and the Pharisees
They wouldn't dance, they wouldn't follow me
I danced for the fishermen James and John
They came with me so the dance went on
Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance, said He
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said He.

'Lord of the Dance' by Sidney Carter 
Post by J.G.