Monthly Archives: July 2013

18th Sunday of the Year – A Life Without God Is No Life At All

Under Construction

Study:  Recall a time when you were in difficulty and called upon God for help.  How did your faith give you direction and strength?

Pray:  Ask for the direction and strength you or a loved one needs right now.  Be specific and pray for guidance.

Serve:  Who in your life is struggling with faith right now?  How can you help them face their challenges?

18th Sunday Readings

The readings today offer some powerful thoughts for our reflection:

* Life (without God) is vanity [1st]
* Our life on earth is but a moment [psalm]
* Think of what is above [2nd]
* What good is treasure on earth? [gospel]

These points revolve around a single thought; namely, that a life without God is no life at all.

The first reading reminds us that without God no action or effort has meaning.  All of life appears as vanity when there is no purpose to our daily work.  If this world is all there is and death comes for everyone, then what is the point of trying at all?

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we now have hope both in life and eternal life.  We no longer see death as the end; indeed, it is but a step that leads into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The psalm today teaches us that our lives on earth are brief; too often we can take for granted this moment, assuming that there will always be another day, another opportunity.  In the end we acknowledge that we are just pilgrims – traveling through this world as we journey toward the world to come.

The second reading shows us how to stay focused in our pilgrimage:  “Think of what is above.”  When we keep our eyes fixed on our ultimate destination it becomes far easier to stay the course.  By directing our attention on Jesus Christ we know who we are (His disciples) and where we are going (His Kingdom).

This focus on what is above helps us in two ways.  First it gives us the ability to recognize when we encounter situations that are not in harmony with our faith.  Simply put, we see temptations, sin, and evil for what they are.  Second, it allows us to call upon the one who helps us in our moments of trial.  Indeed, the one who died and rose for us gives us the strength we need.

Finally, in the Gospel reading Jesus draws out all these ideas through the parable of the greedy man.

* God is not a part of his life.
* He has no thought of his own mortality.
* He has no value greater than possessions.

And when put to the test he has nothing to show for his life; the last time I checked, there will be no moving van for our possessions at the cemetery.

17th Sunday of the Year – Persistence


Study:  Reflect on a moment when you were able to keep going when life was difficult.  What helped you through it?

Pray:  What is difficult in your life right now?  Ask God for the strength to persist.

Serve:  Who in your life needs help right now?  How might your life help someone else keep going?

17th Sunday Readings

Have you ever watched a baby learn to walk?  It is an amazing experience to see a little one gain the confidence and coordination to move across a room for the first time.  To watch such an event is to observe the miracle of persistence.

At one end of the room is a person who is supporting the child, at the other end is someone who plays cheerleader.  As the child travels across the room there are shouts of encouragement and smiles.

Then the baby falls.  Not hard, but with enough force to remind the little one that this is not going to be an easy task.  A few rug burns, some minor bumps, and a lot of hard work occur with every attempt.

Then once the child learns to walk it is amazing at how such little feet can move so fast.  The tiny steps, applied with determination, can get a child into more places (and trouble) than many a parent can imagine (at least at first!).

The persistence of a child learning to walk reminds us that the challenges of life require our determination, attention, and effort.  The Scriptures today give us two examples of persistence as it is experienced by people of faith.

First, Abraham’s conversation with God shows his determination to save the innocent people who are still living in Sodom and Gomorrah.  His perseverance is great; he asks God six times to spare the city, each time pushing the limit a little farther.

Second, Matthew’s Gospel shows how persistence is revealed through the example of the unrelenting friend who knocks at a door.  Sooner or later persistence is rewarded, and “everyone who asks, receives; who seeks, finds; and who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Every day we experience moments that demand our persistent application.  Life is difficult; and our determination to encounter the struggles of life will be rewarded through time and effort.  Christ teaches his disciples that God will give us what we need, but we need to ask – seeking God at every moment for help and guidance.

May the persistence of a child learning to walk remind us that the difficulties of life are overcome with steadfast effort and tiny steps.  As we journey in our faith we trust that God will walk with us, supporting us and providing for our needs.

16th Sunday of the Year – Listening to Jesus

Water lilies

Study:  Where do you find stillness in your life?  Where is a calm spot where you can slow down and listen?

Pray:  Consider making a commitment to praying in a peaceful place for a few days.   How does your prayer change when you can be still and listen to Christ?

Serve:  Can your service help another find peace and stillness?  Can you help others in such a way that they have an opportunity to listen to the Lord?

16th Sunday Readings

One of the great gifts of summertime is the potential for quiet moments in nature:

* Watching a campfire
* Time in the garden
* The beauty of a sunrise or sunset
* The stillness of the water
* The quiet before (or after) a storm

Moments like these are filled with chances to listen – to our hearts, our bodies, our family and friends, and the world around us.  In these quiet moments we slow down to experience the beauty and truth that God showers upon us.

What’s important to note is that these times are not filled with activity, but stillness.  It is in these moments when we are quiet that we actually listen and see God at work in our life.  These insights happen when we stop and pay attention to the wonder around us.

This is what we find in the Gospel today.  Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his words with complete and utter concentration.  When Martha (who was preparing the food and getting the house ready to welcome the Lord) complained that Mary was not helping, Jesus rebukes her – not because the work was unimportant, but because in life there is also a time and place to listen!

The need to listen is crucial, not only in life but in our life of faith.  We know that we cannot work around the clock; we need time to rest and renew our hearts.  We know that we cannot always be in constant motion (in action or in speech); indeed, there are times when we need to draw strength from the wisdom and beauty of others.

We find these moments in practical ways that are both accessible and powerful:

* Daily prayer (alone or with others)
* Reading the Scriptures
* Mass
* Quiet moments (inside or outside)
* Experiencing nature (see above!)

These are moments when we, like Mary, slow down and allow the Lord to teach and strengthen us.  Today we can pause and allow the Lord to love us; right now we have the chance to listen – hearing the faith, hope, and love we share as we sit at the feet of Jesus.

15th Sunday of the Year – Like Riding a Bike

How to ride a bike

Study:  Consider one area in your life that you could improve living your faith.  What would it be?

Pray:  Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to stretch and grow.

Serve:  How might the Lord be calling you to be a Good Samaritan today?  Right now?

15th Sunday Readings

My first bike was lime green.  It had a banana seat with curved handlebars (NOT designed for comfort).  The fenders were made out of industrial steel and it weighed more than I did.  In time I made a little wooden box to fit behind the seat that was barely big enough to hold chewing gum.  I thought it was the most awesome set of wheels in the world.

I still remember learning to ride it.  My family lived out in the country and we had a fairly long driveway.  I started with training wheels until one day my dad took them off.  He walked beside me a couple of times as I practiced and then watched at a distance as I rode (and occasionally fell) on the driveway.

Do you remember when you learned to ride?  At the time it is an exhilarating feeling.  The wind rushes by, the speed is great, and a new found sense of freedom appears.  What a moment!

Yet this discovery happens through trial and error.  Learning to ride a bike takes diligence and determination.  You can’t read it in a book or learn about it by watching television.  Riding a bike happens when we get on the seat and start pedaling.  It happens when we act, and in the process we learn by doing.

In the Scriptures today we are reminded that all the learning and teaching of our faith is only good when it is put into action.  The commands are not difficult to understand, and they do not require extensive explanation.  Yet without hard work, time, and steadfast application they are meaningless; only through action does our faith become real.

The Good Samaritan is a wonderful example.  As this Samaritan – filled with compassion – tends to the wounds and sores of the beaten man, he differs from the Levite and Priest (who knew better and still walked by).  He was a stranger and foreigner, yet he practiced his faith in God with a sincerity that serves as a sharp contrast to the “religious professionals” of his day.

We have opportunities every day to practice our faith.  Kindness, charity, forgiveness, patience, hope, and understanding are but a sample of the ways we show to others the faith we profess.  In the end our faith is not complicated; the challenge is to live each day with the conviction that God calls us to holiness and invites us to live the love of Christ with one another.

14th Sunday of the Year – God Works Through Us

Love one another

Study:  Name three people who have had a real influence in your life.  What did they do or say that made the difference?

Pray:  In your daily prayer, when you pray for people call to mind their faces (preferably smiling!).

Serve:  Who can you help today?  How might you be the living witness of Christ to someone God places in your path?

14th Sunday Readings

In the Gospel today Jesus chooses seventy-two disciples to go out and minister to the people.  They journeyed to every town Jesus intended to visit, proclaiming the Good News and healing the sick.

I’ve often wondered about this commission.  Why did Jesus do this?  We know through the Scriptures that Jesus performed countless miracles, so why did the Lord pick out certain people to share in his ministry?  He certainly didn’t need them, yet they were empowered by Jesus to participate in his work of redemption.

Simply put, God works through people.  The Lord chose these seventy-two individuals to be conduits of grace.  As instruments of God’s power, these disciples not only furthered the ministry of Christ, they became coworkers of God’s plan for the Kingdom.  These people, chosen by the Lord, proclaim the Word of God with a human voice.

Furthermore, God works through people to build a human community.  We do not walk through life alone.  The Lord not only invites us to reach out, but the Lord supports his people in their service.  This is why the disciples went out in pairs; they were able to strengthen each other in difficult moments and celebrate in their joys.

For these reasons the Church exists today.  God calls us to grow together – reaching out to those in need and supporting one another as we follow our path of discipleship.  This is the purpose of our sacraments, our prayer, our Eucharist, and our lives in the larger community.

For when we realize that God works through people we discover that God works through us.  The Lord invites us to be open to the Spirit of Christ.  As we imitate the example of Jesus by the practicing the love he proclaimed, we continue the Lord’s saving work here on Earth.  Our hands and feet carry on the service of Jesus so that healing and hope might continue.

The sending of the disciples reveals that God intends to give us an opportunity to participate in this wonderful work.  May we be open to this invitation, sharing the many gifts and talents we have received as we offer our lives to help build the Kingdom of Heaven.

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