Monday, August 10, 2015

A Grain Of Wheat

We have all heard the expression, God loves a cheerful giver.  Like so many sayings we hear today, this one comes from the Bible; in fact, it is in today's first reading.  
"Each one should give as you have decided in your heart to give.  You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give.  God loves the person who gives happily."  2 Corinthians 9:7

Today is the feast day of St. Lawrence, the arch-deacon of the Diocese of Rome in the year of Our Lord 258.  One of Lawrence's responsibilities as deacon was to proclaim the Word of God, look after the material goods of the Church, and to care for the poor.  

Christianity was an illegal religion in Rome at that time.  Pope Sixtus II was put under civil arrest, and martyred.  Lawrence knew the Empire would come after him next.  When the civil authorities of Rome demanded that Lawrence produce the treasure of the Church, he told them he would do so, but said he needed a couple of days to get it together.  He sought out the poor, widows and orphans, the blind and the lame, and the lepers.  He gathered the money he had, and even sold the sacred vessels of the Church, and he disbursed it all to them.

When the prefect came for the Church's money, Lawrence simply pointed to the crowd and said, "Here is the treasure of the Church."   The prefect did not understand what Lawrence was saying.  Neither did he understand how Lawrence spent his life in the service of these poor people.  On August 10th, four days after the death of the pope, Lawrence was martyred.  

This is a feast of generosity and joy and abundance.  What Saint Lawrence did was reflect the generosity and joy and abundance of God.  He understood that the wealth of the Church was in the way our lives touch the lives of others.  We see God's generosity to us in the Gospel today; that unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth, it remains a grain, but if it dies it produces much abundant fruit.  We are called to produce abundant fruit, good works for the kingdom of God.

As we reflect on the feast day of St. Lawrence, let us ask the Lord to give us the courage and strength to joyfully and abundantly proclaim the goodness of God.  Let us remember that his Church is not about material things or money, rather it is about how our lives are connected to the lives of others; about serving one another, particularly the poor. 

Be blessed,

Note:  I was inspired for today's ZIA by Helen Williams, where I learned to tangle the wheat.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Perspective of Salvation

Have you ever heard a homily or sermon and felt that the preacher was speaking directly to you?  This Sunday, our Deacon spoke about the 'desert experiences' in our lives.  Those times we experience illness, death, dry periods, alienation, job loss, hopelessness.  He spoke of the grace of God coming into those situations.  Indeed, when I look back at those times in my own life, I can see that God was there, even though I was unaware of it at the time.  I can see, in retrospect, how he provided relief, help, encouragement, and support during those times.

Recently, my husband, Dan, and I have been enduring a prolonged period of desert experiences.  Dan's mom, who has been convalescing at home from a fall just nine months ago, fell again and broke her femur last week, requiring another hospitalization.  Rehab arrangements, meetings with staff and the social worker, phone calls, caring for Dan's handicapped brother, and so many other loose ends have been eating up our time and energy.  It is clear that some very difficult decisions need to be made now, as home is no longer safe for Dan's mom.   Dan is recovering himself from heart health issues.  Stress is at a high level for us now.

Deacon Dick's challenge to us this week is to be attentive to our desert experiences; to think about them and try to see them in perspective of our salvation.  When we are caught up in our situations, we cannot see beyond the problems and pain.  We do not see or feel God's provision.  We tend to turn inward and focus on our problem.  

When I think of my salvation, I can more easily put our current issues in their correct perspective.  I realize that it will not be like this forever.  I know that our time here is but a microscopic dot on the timeline of eternity.  God's grace brings me hope, and his blessings become more clear.   I can begin to see God's hand, working through circumstances, through people, and through the Holy Spirit during my prayer and reflection time.   We have friends who have graciously brought meals during Dan's heart procedure; others who have sent cards and call or visit, letting us know they are there for us.   Leaning on each other has brought us closer, as a couple and as a family.  We find joy in quiet moments together on the deck with a cup of coffee, and walking the boardwalk along the river, feeling renewed by the beauty and wonder of nature.  We turn to Jesus, and He is there, ever faithful, welcoming, and understanding.  

Yes, our problems are still there.  They often seem daunting, overwhelming.  Yet, with all of that comes the grace of God.  His love is magnified in our lives. 

"And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory 
in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself 
restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
                                                                     1 Peter 5:10

Be blessed!

Zentangle note:  Today's Zentangle tile features Circuital as the main tangle.  Also Lazy Eights, B'Tweed, Finery, Phuds, Striping.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Our Call To Joy


Joy is frequently mentioned in the Bible.  It is one of the Fruits of the Spirit, second only to love.  We sing songs about joy.  We celebrate occasions of joy; the birth of a long-awaited baby, an engagement or wedding, milestones, and victories.  Holidays are occasions for joy; Christmas proclaims "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!"

Pope Francis's first apostolic exhortation is entitled The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium).  In it he elaborates on many of the thoughts and reflections we have been hearing from this joyful Pope.  He emanates a warmth and welcome through his actions; and an enthusiasm for his role as Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the universal Church.  He brings a feeling of hope to a weary Church and cynical world. 

This Pope has a heart for evangelizing.  He has a solidly pastoral background, which comes through in his writing.  "An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people's daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others.  Evangelizers thus take on the "smell of the sheep" and the sheep are willing to hear their voice." (24)

Most importantly, Pope Francis's actions reflect his words.  He shows humility, compassion, inclusion, warmth, joy, and kindness as he interacts with people.  He goes about his business of sharing God's love with enthusiasm and pure joy, genuinely happy to be the hands and heart of Jesus to the poor, the neglected, the outcasts, and the disillusioned.   He teaches us, by the way he lives his own life, how to be joyful and how to share that joy with a hurting world.

Pope Francis, through his ministry, teaches us that the Gospel calls us to joy.   When things are going well, and our lives are rolling along smoothly, most of us find it easy to be contented, even joyful.  Yet, for myself, when my life gets complicated and difficult, and I'm feeling overwhelmed, confused, and hurt, I don't always want to hear that the answer is to 'keep the faith.'  To see my trial as a chance to grow.  The temptation to despair is part of my humanity.  But it helps to know that the difficulty is real, and that I am not alone.  It has been said that what you focus on, you give power to.  Pope Francis reminds us to keep our focus on the joy, not the pain.

The Gospels teach us about Jesus and his ministry.  The stories told by the apostles are filled with examples of Jesus's love.  They tell about Jesus teaching his disciples, and calling them to go out and spread the Good News, with joy.  This call extends to us, today.  

The joy of the Gospels is not something we should keep to ourselves.  We are called to go forth and share this Good News to others.  Jesus teaches us how in the Gospels.  Pope Francis models the precepts of Jesus with humility and joy.  He inspires me, indeed all of us, to do the same.

I am reading a book entitled, "Pope Francis And Our Call To Joy," written by Diane M. Houdek.  It is a mere 75 pages, but is filled with wisdom and hope.  I encourage everyone to read this book.  It may be just the jump-start we need to help us to be full of joy in the Lord, regardless of our circumstances.  And to share this joy and the good news with our neighbors.

"My brothers and sisters, be full of joy in the Lord."
Philippians 3:1