Monday, October 26, 2015

Master, I want to see!

In today's Gospel, Bartimaeus says: "Jesus, son of David, have pity on me!"  Jesus responds: "What do you want me to do for you?"  Then, Bartimaeus says: "Master, I want to see." 
Do you ever wish that you could have a conversation with Jesus like Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, had?  Well you can.  The first key to having this conversation with Jesus is to realize that we are blind and cannot recover our sight on our own.  Now, most of us are not physically blind.  Due to prescription glasses, contact lenses, and laser surgery, we can see pretty well.  Instead, I am talking about spiritual sight.   That is, how we see things which have an impact on our eternal life.    In a spiritual sense, the eyesight of all of us is clouded to one extent or another by the world that we live in.  We cannot help but be influenced by the movies and TV that we watch, the music that we hear, and by our friends. 
My point is that we are all influenced by these things whether we realize it or not.  They can give us spiritual blinders when it comes to our eternal destiny.  And, to make it even worse, we don't even realize it.  Our moral decisions are clouded and yet, we think that is perfectly normal.  Yes, this is the state of affairs in our world today because, as Jesus tells us, the devil is the prince of this world.
So, what can we do?  We can start by approaching Jesus as Bartimaeus did in the Gospel, saying: "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!"   We need to acknowledge our sinfulness and beg for his mercy.  No matter how many or how few sins we might have committed, this is an excellent place to start.  We can go to the sacrament of reconciliation which will wipe away our sins and give us a clean slate.
Then, we can approach Jesus in the sacrament of the Eucharist and prayerfully listen to his loving advice.  In our prayers after receiving the Eucharist, we can pour out our difficulties to him and then  silently listen to his will for us.
Anyone who repeatedly exposes himself or herself to the Eucharist and confides in it will be changed.  We cannot receive the Body of Christ again and again, we cannot sit in his presence frequently without being affected by him and challenged by him, being changed and led by him.  We may of course lag behind him.  But, in the long run there are really only two possibilities: either to shake off the Eucharist or to surrender to it, to hold fast to it.  If we hold fast to the Lord, we will not be abandoned by him.  If we share our problems and concerns with him calmly and patiently, humbly and sincerely, we will be led by him and will never be denied his light.
Besides receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, we have a great opportunity to pray here at St Francis every weekday before the tabernacle.  And one day each week, the Eucharist is exposed in the monstrance so that we can actually see the consecrated host as we pray.
I have been blessed to have an adoration hour in church on Monday from 1 till 2 for the past twenty years.  Before I retired, this was my busiest day at work but during my prayer hour I would normally experience peace in the presence of the Lord.  I have witnessed many changes in my life over those years.  Often, I have placed my concerns and my struggles before the Lord.  On occasion, I didn't like the answers that I received from him.  Although sometimes I have been challenged, in the end I have found joy when I have followed His will.  I have come to realize that he knows what is best for me better than I do.  I still haven't managed to completely let go and let God.  I am still stubborn and think that I know better.  But, I'm improving and he continues to work with me. 
If you don't already have an adoration hour, I'd encourage you to sign up for one.  Normally, there are one or two people at each hour, so you'll have Jesus almost to yourself during your hour.  You can sit or kneel in the adoration chapel and experience the presence of the Lord.  You might wonder what you will do for an hour in silence without your phone or anything else interrupting you.  You can pray the rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet.  You can read and meditate on the bible.  You can write a letter to God and share your joys and sorrows.  Or you can just sit quietly and listen. 

Bartimaeus waited patiently for Jesus on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem.  Then, he had to ignore the rebukes of Jesus followers  and continue to cry out for his mercy.  When we want to spend time with Jesus, it is much easier, maybe too easy.  We can receive him in Holy Communion when we come to mass in the state of grace.  We can spend time with him in the adoration chapel on any weekday.  All we have to do is to commit to one hour each week.  If you don't already have an adoration hour, please sign up for one in the gathering space at the end of mass.  Jesus is waiting for you.  He will ask you as he did Bartimaeus: "What do you want me to do for you?"  Then, you can tell him: " Master, I want to see."

Monday, October 12, 2015

The rich man goes away sad

In today's Gospel, a wealthy man came to Jesus to ask what he needed to do “to inherit eternal life.” Evidently, this man was where many of us are. His material needs were being met, but not his spiritual ones. He wasn't a bad man, just an empty one.

This man believed that, if he just kept the Law, he would have it made spiritually. He thought money would make him happy. But it didn’t. He thought minding all the rules of his faith would make him happy, but it didn’t. All his life he had been taught that if he had enough money and if he was a good person, that would be enough. But it wasn’t.

He was asking the right question: "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"   This is the ultimate question for all of us.  But, he didn't get the answer that he was expecting and hoping for.  He probably was expecting Jesus to tell him that he was following all of the commandments and was a pretty good guy, so he was on the right track for heaven. 

Jesus looked at this man and loved him. Jesus knew this man was trying to live as his society told him he ought to live. And Jesus appreciated that. Jesus wanted to give him the key to what he needed. “One thing you lack,” Jesus said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 

If accumulating toys won’t bring you happiness and keeping the rules won’t buy you salvation, what’s it going to take? If we take everything we have and sell it, and give the proceeds to the poor like Jesus was telling this man to do, is that enough? Well, that depends. Is money what’s most important in our life? Is it money that’s keeping us from giving our all to God? When Jesus told this man to sell everything he had and give to the poor, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus was telling this man the truth about what came first in this his life--and that was his money.

What is it that comes first in our life? What is it that keeps us from doing something great for God? Is it our job? Is it time playing computer games, or watching sports on TV, conversing with our friends on Facebook, or some hobby? Where do we devote our time, our money, our dreams, and our energy? Is it the accumulation of ever more wealth, ever more toys?
Jesus calls us to follow Him not on our terms but on His.  In fact, Jesus doesn't even promise us a roof over our heads.  The foxes and birds have better benefits than we do.  Jesus demands our all.  It would be unreasonable for anyone else to make such demands.  But a crucified, nail-scarred Savior has the right to expect our all. 

Jesus' teaching can evoke feelings of guilt.  We are a comfortable community.  Few of us have any fears about food or shelter, or basic human needs.  Our children are cared for, our responsibilities are met, our future is as secure as one might hope for in these insecure times.

But Jesus’ words today call us to look beyond our lives, to the needs of the poor.  Nobody likes to feel guilty, but I think guilt is like cholesterol.  There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol; so too with guilt.  Bad guilt can immobilize you, making you feel hopeless or helpless. Good guilt helps you get off the dime and get moving, and opens you to making some needed changes. 

The wealthy young man who came to Jesus probably thought that he had it made. But, in truth, he was a slave to his wealth. Jesus was offering him a lifeline, but he couldn’t see it. All he could see was what he would be giving up.

Jesus doesn't say that it is impossible for people with money to enter the kingdom. He said, “All things are possible with God.” The people in danger are those who put their wealth before God. The people in danger are those who enjoy their wealth while turning a blind eye to the needs of the poor. The people in danger are those who have no greater purpose in life than the accumulation of more.

We all want to be liked.  When we post something on Facebook, we want to get a lot of likes.  In fact, some are almost addicted to being liked.  But, in the big picture of life, these likes don't matter.  What matters is the like that we get from Jesus at the end of our life.  St Francis of Assisi once said: "Who you are before Jesus is who you are; nothing more, nothing less."  All of the money, the friends, and the power we might have in our life doesn't matter.  What matters is who we are before Jesus.  Will he like us?  Will he comment: "Well done my good and faithful servant, now enter the kingdom of heaven"?