Monday, August 5, 2013

Daily Readings 03/05/2013: Well Thanks for the Manna God, but Could we have some butter and jam to go with it? Maybe a little caviar?

"I cannot carry all this people by myself,
for they are too heavy for me.
If this is the way you will deal with me,
then please do me the favor of killing me at once,
so that I need no longer face this distress.” Nm. 11: 14-15

"When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,his heart was moved with pity for them,
and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.” Mt. 14: 14-15

Moses, chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, out of slavery, is doing so, and they are complaining about the food. The manna that is miraculously falling from the sky for them every night, is not up to their discriminating palates. Moses, in turn, goes to God and talks to Him about it, ending up with what we see here. Basically asking why would you do this to me? Please, just kill me now! In essence, he is doing what the rest of the Israelites are doing.... "Thanks a lot God for leading us out of our slavery in Egypt, but as long as you're going through the trouble, would it be too much to ask for maybe, a pizza day? An ice cream social perhaps?" Moses' focus is on himself and the hardship he has to endure.

In today's Gospel reading, we find Jesus, sent by God to save His people from slavery of a different kind, slavery from sin. He is trying to withdraw alone and take some time to himself to mourn the death of John the Baptist. Well, word gets out and the next thing we know, when Jesus gets off the boat, there's a huge crowd there. But Jesus has a much different reaction. His first reflex is to compassion. Jesus feels pity for them. He then proceeds to carry on with his mission. He cures their sick, he teaches them and then he feeds them, with miraculous bread. And all of these things, he does while knowing that he will be dying for all of their sins when the time comes. 

Jesus' first reaction is to look outside of himself and see what he can do to help the others, Moses focuses on himself and his own hardship. And as Christians, we know which example we are supposed to follow here. Jesus came to teach love and to save us by his suffering and passion. In this gospel reading, we see how Jesus put other's needs before his own and continued doing what he was sent to do. Moses goes to God and tries to 'bargain' with Him, complaining to God about how difficult his own life is.

It is hard to live up to Jesus' example and none of us will ever get there perfectly, but I know I have reacted like Moses and the Israelites far too many times by not seeing what God has given to me, and by complaining about how everything is not exactly the way I would like it. I'm getting better. Not good enough yet, but I'm getting better. And how about you?

God bless,


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Daily Readings 08/04/2013: Poverty Cannot Buy Happiness

"But God said to him,‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.” Lk. 12: 20-21

In the beginning of today's Gospel reading, Jesus tells the crowd to "guard against all greed, for though one might be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions." 
It makes me think of the old joke:

If you think money can't buy happiness, then you don't know where to shop!

But the joke is just that, a joke. For as Jesus points out, money cannot buy true happiness, the everlasting joy of the Kingdom of God. There is no cover charge, no advanced ticket sales, no price at the door. This is not good news for those that focus only on earthly treasures and pleasures. However, that also means that there is no velvet rope to keep anyone out. This IS good news for everyone! And everyone includes those who are wealthy.

I think we all have this image of the wealthy as people who are obsessed with money and nothing else. But at the end of this passage (quoted above) Jesus says something interesting, he says "but". He does not say "that is how it will be for all of those who store up treasures for themselves", and stop there. He adds the 'but' "are not rich in what matters to God". He is telling us that although you cannot buy your way into the kingdom and that earthly wealth is not a prerequisite or even an advantage, neither is wealth a deal-breaker.

Jesus was put in a tomb after his crucifixion. The tomb was provided by Joseph of Arimathea. For Joseph to have a tomb carved in rock for himself that he could then offer to Jesus we have to consider two things. First, Joseph must have had a lot of faith and knew that Jesus would only need it for a few days. But second, Joseph of Arimathea was most likely a wealthy man as it must have been an expensive undertaking (pardon the pun) to have one's tomb carved in rock. As a matter of fact, Matthew's gospel describes Joseph as a rich man. And even though he was a rich man, even possibly a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph's heart was oriented toward Christ.

When we think of God as seeing everyone with equal dignity, we need to remember that this is the ultimate level playing field. When it is time for us to be judged, God will search the depths of our heart, the richness He finds there, the investment we made in His love for us and the dividends of that love that we paid out to others. This is the wealth upon which God hands us the Kingdom, this is where we shop for true happiness, for everlasting joy. Good news, there is no velvet rope, there is no VIP seating (complete with parking pass) and it does not cost a penny.

God bless,


Friday, August 2, 2013

Daily Readings 08/03/2013: Herod, Herodias and her daughter, Honey Boo-Boo?

"But at a birthday celebration for Herod,the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Mt. 14:6-8

Can you imagine a mother exploiting her daughter like this? I always kind of assumed that the daughter was a teenager dancing seductively and moving Herod by lascivious pleasure to make his promise. However, I recently read an article that suggests that Herodias' daughter could quite possibly have been an innocent young girl dancing to entertain the guests at a party the way that you might have a six year old perform the latest choreography from dance school or the newest kata they're learning at karate. Even if this were the case, Herodias betrays this innocence by prompting the girl to ask for an evil act to satisfy her own vengeance.

As I try to raise my daughters with an eye toward their future and developing an understanding of chastity and appreciation of the dignity of every person, I worry about the Herodiases in our world. They are not all out to exact any sort of revenge, but they definitely are trying to subvert our children's innocence for their own purposes.

For example, my wife used to work in a popular discount store and was amazed at how 'grown-up' the clothes that they sold for little girls were. Low-cut tops, belly shirts, skin tight skinny jeans, all for children. Just the other day I was shopping with my mother in Wal-Mart and putting aside all of the t-shirts with sayings dripping with attitude, they were selling 'low-rise' shorts for girls ages 3-6. Right there in good old, wholesome, all-American Wal-Mart! (tongue placed firmly in cheek, of course)

My question is, who profits from this? Who's interest does it serve to sell string bikinis for girls aged two or three (or younger)? Who profits from teaching these girls to be sassy, 'divas' with smart-aleck attitudes? Do they want all of our daughters to be like Honey Boo-Boo? 

In the end, I fear, they are just selling to those who buy. As much as I'd like to blame it on them all, it's not some vast Wal-Mart-DisneyChannel-Hollister-Abercrombie&Fitch-PlannedParenthood conspiracy. They are just selling to a generation of mothers who want their daughters to be sassy, exploited divas because they think that's the only way to get (as in Mark's version  of the story) half the kingdom.

I don't want my girls to settle for half of the kingdom. For as St. Paul tells us, there is a more excellent way, and that one leads to the inheritance of the whole Kingdom!

God bless,