To love or to not love. That is the question in today’s gospel. It is always the question. Every minute of every day we answer that question. The answer to that question orients our way of being, guides how we live, determines what we do, and chooses the words we speak. Ultimately, our answer reveals whether our life is aligned with Jesus’ life.
Mary answers the love question one way and Judas another. In silence Mary anoints Jesus’ feet and fragrances the entire house. Judas keeps to himself, questioning, criticizing, and scheming. Mary loves while Judas calculates. Continue reading
Detail of Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son (source)
When I was in the first grade I gathered my stuff and took off for the distant country. I ran away from home. Fortunately, it was a quick trip and I was back in time for supper. In the years since then my trips to the distant country haven’t been nearly as short or uneventful. There have been casualties and losses along the way. People were hurt. Sometimes it was me, sometimes it was others. The distant country always disappointed. It didn’t give me the life I was looking for. It didn’t make me the person I wanted to be. It left me feeling lonely, empty, and lost.
There are a thousand different routes to the distant country: sorrow and loss, sin and guilt, failure and regret, the sheer difficulty of life, to name just a few. More often than not our journey to the distant country is an attempt to run away from home, ourselves, and our lives. The distant country convinces us that the life we want and the person we want to become cannot be found within ourselves. It denies that the kingdom of God is within and creates the illusion that if we can just get to a new place, a new time, a new circumstance everything will be better. Continue reading
Read the headline news, listen to the stories behind the names and circumstances on our prayer list, observe life and you will quickly be reminded of what you already knew. Siloam’s was not the last tower to fall and Pilate was not the last to hurt or kill another person. Tyrants and towers are a reality of this world and our lives. They come in all sorts of events, ways, and circumstances. Sometimes it’s intentional, other times it’s accidental. Sometimes it’s of human origin, other times it’s the way of nature. Accidents, disease, crime, divorce, famine, poverty, war, earthquakes, tornados, and tsunamis. Those are but a few of the tyrants and towers in this world.
Whenever and wherever tyrants act and towers fall we are faced with the reality that life is fragile, unpredictable, and often tragic. In those moments we are often quick, too quick, to seek and offer easy explanations. “They got what they deserved.” “God has a plan.” “Everything happens for a reason.” “He’s in a better place.” “There’s a lesson to be learned here.” “This was God’s will.” “Someday when we get to heaven we’ll know why.”
Jesus has heard something like these explanations from the people who tell him about the Galileans whose blood pilate mingled with their sacrifices. It sounds a lot like they are saying that something bad happened because they were bad people. To this kind of thinking and all the other simplistic, trite, and unhelpful responses in the face of tragedy Jesus says, “No, I tell you.” Continue reading
So here’s what I wonder. What if Jesus had said, “Ok. Yes, I’ll do it?” What if he had turned just one small stone into a small loaf of bread? He’s hungry, famished. Why not fill the emptiness? Not a feast or even a big loaf. No butter. Just a little something to get him by. What if he had accepted the glory and authority of all the kingdoms of the world? They are rightfully his anyway. Don’t the ends justify the means? Why not free fall into the arms of the angels? After all he is the beloved son.
What if Jesus had said, “Ok. Yes, I’ll do it?” Would Jesus have been less beloved? Would he have no longer been God’s Son? Would Jesus have been a failure? Those sound like questions of idle curiosity, speculations, but they’re not. Jesus may not have said, “Ok. Yes, I’ll do it,” but I have. Maybe you have as well. Continue reading
The older I get the more aware I become of how my life, my way of being, is filled with contradictions. It is neither all darkness nor all light. It is both at the same time. I have said things I wish I could take back, made decisions I regret, and done things that don’t reflect who I want to be. In the darkness of what I have said, decided, and done, however, a glimmer of light always shines, illuminating what could have been and holding out hope for what can still be.
I suspect each of you could say similar things about your life. Contradictions seem to be part of the human condition. One moment we are kind and gentle and the next harsh and mean spirited. We are filled with compassion for one person and indifferent to another. The contradictions of our life are revealed in those moments when we say, “I don’t know what came over me. I’m just not myself today.” They are the cause of sleepless nights, hurt feelings, and the reason we confess our sins each week. They lie at the heart of all the times we’ve said, “I should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve.” Continue reading