28 June 2014

OVERWHELMED BY THE GRACE OF GOD

SS PETER AND PAUL
acts 12:1-11; 2 timothy 4:6-8, 17-18; matthew 16:13-19

allen gardiner was a british royal navy officer and a missionary to south africa, chile and patagonia. despite the many hardships he experienced during his missionary life, he said: «while GOD gives me strength, failure will not daunt me.» he died, in 1851 at the age of 57, of disease and starvation while serving on picton island. his body was found days later with his diary nearby. it bore the record of hunger, thirst, wounds, and loneliness. the last entries showed the struggle of his shaking hand as he tried to write legibly: «i am, by his abounding grace, kept in perfect peace, refreshed with a sense of my saviour’s love… i am overwhelmed by the grace of GOD.»

peter and paul, like gardiner, could write and talk about the abounding grace of GOD in their lives! 
the first reading recounts GOD’s dramatic rescue of peter from prison. four squads of four soldiers each guard peter, who is secured by double chains. an angel leads a dazed peter (virtually by the hand) past the guards and past the closed iron gates. the whole episode indicates that peter’s escape is through GOD’s grace.
in the gospel, JESUS tells peter that it is GOD’s grace alone that has revealed to him that JESUS is the CHRIST.
paul’s words to timothy in the second reading—«i was rescued from the lion’s mouth»—attest to GOD’s grace, which has preserved him «from every threat.» because of GOD’s abounding grace, paul could write «we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed» (2 corinthians 4:8-9).

through the hardships and difficulties of our lives—nothing compared with the hardships that peter and paul (and allen gardiner) underwent—can you and i feel GOD’s abounding and overwhelming grace?

21 June 2014

ROUTINE—NOT NOVELTY—SAVES!

THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST
deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 corinthians 10:16-17; john 6:51-58

ronald ronheiser, in «eucharist as new manna», writes about a friend’s description of alcoholics anonymous meetings: «the meetings are always the same. everything is totally predictable; everyone, except those who are there for the first time, know already what will be said. but i don’t go to alcoholics anonymous meetings for novelty. i go because, if i don’t, i know that i will start drinking again… i go there to stay alive!»

ronheiser opines that this can be a description of the eucharist! among other reasons, we go to the eucharist to stay alive. it is GOD’s daily (or weekly) manna that keeps us alive in the desert of our lives. 
in the gospel, JESUS tells the peoplewho came searching for him after he fed the five thousandthat he is the bread of life. he links the eucharist to the manna with which GOD fed israel during her sojourn in the desert. the israelites found it boring; they complained about the routine food; they yearned for novelty… but it was the «boring and routine» manna that sustained them and kept them alive.

the eucharist—the body and blood of JESUS—is the new manna GOD gives us to sustain us. perhaps we find it boring and routine; perhaps we crave novelty and creativity. but it is in the ordinary ritual that GOD sustains us and gives us life. 

will i go to the daily/weekly eucharist, and allow the sometimes boring routine to keep me alive?

14 June 2014

ALL IS FORGIVEN! LOVE, PAPA

TRINITY SUNDAY
exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 corinthians 13:11-13; john 3:16-18

in his short story «capital of the world», ernest hemingway tells about a spanish father and his son paco. one evening, in the heat of an argument, paco hurled some hateful words at his father. he packed up his few possessions, stomped out of the house, and travelled to madrid.  the despairing father missed his runaway son. he waited for him to return, and eventually placed an ad in the local newspaper: «paco, meet me at the hotel montana at noon on tuesday. all is forgiven! love, papa.» when the father went to the hotel on tuesday, there were eight hundred young men named paco waiting for their forgiving fathers!

this is our story, too! a story of rebelling against GOD, of refusing his friendship, of leaving home. each one of us is «paco.»  and GOD seeks us out and says: «all is forgiven! love, papa.»

today’s readings and feast remind us that GOD’s nature is love. his is not a sentimental/ emotional love but a love that forgives and does not condemn.
in the first reading, moses intercedes with GOD—after the debacle of the golden calf—to forgive his people. GOD tells moses that he is «a merciful and gracious GOD, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.» he renews the covenant with israel, forgives israel’s sin, and continues to journey with them.
in the gospel, JESUS tells nicodemus that GOD sent him because he loved the world and wanted to save us.

am i ready to return to my forgiving and loving GOD? do i forgive and love like he does? whom will i forgive and love in the week ahead?

07 June 2014

LIFTED FROM «LOW TIDE»

PENTECOST
acts 2:1-11; 1 corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; john 20:19-23

a ship strayed off course near san diego and got stuck in a reef at low tide. twelve tugboats could not budge it. finally, the captain instructed the tugs to leave, and waited until high tide. a few hours later, the rising tide  lifted that ship and put it back into the channel. what human power could not do, the rising tide of the ocean did! 

something similar happened to the apostles on the day of pentecost. they were stuck in «low tide» in the upper room. they were afraid after JESUS’ crucifixion, and confused by his post-resurrection appearances.
at pentecost, the power of the SPIRIT lifted them and put them into their «channel»: from being fearfully locked behind closed doors, they moved with bold freedom out into the open; from being silent spectators, they became vibrant preachers of the gospel; from being a cluster of individuals, they became a community and a church with a definite mission and mandate to be agents of peace and reconciliation.


the same SPIRIT—which JESUS «breathed on» the apostles and which descended on them «like a strong driving wind»—is within us. he lifts us from the «low tides» of our lives… when we allow him. he helps us also move from fear to freedom; from silence to proclamation; from being individuals to being community; from division to reconciliation… when we are open to his working within us.

will i allow the SPIRIT to lift me and transform me? do i foster peace? what steps do i need to take to build peace and forge reconciliation?