Saturday, July 11, 2020

“Tilling Our Soil” by Wayne Miller

“Tilling Our Soil” by Wayne Miller

Thus says the Lord: / Just as from the heavens / the rain and snow come down / and do not return there / till they have watered the Earth, / making it fertile and fruitful, / giving seed to the one who sows / and bread to the one who eats, / so shall my Word be / that goes forth from my mouth; / my Word shall not return to me void, / but shall do my will, / achieving the end for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

You have visited the land and watered it; greatly have you enriched it. (Psalm 65:10)

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23)

The seed is the Word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will have life forever.

“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Matthew 13:1-23

“I AM A GOD NEARBY”, David Kaufmann, Good for the Soul Music
I know you have tirelessly sought out to find me
Like some explorer might do
Gone to the ends of the Earth for a cause
In my name have you named what you do

But under your feet is the ground
Where my joy can be found
So, close your eyes and feel my presence for

I am a God nearby, I am not far away
I am a God nearby; I am not far away from you.

Jesus says we are four types of soil. Isaiah and the Psalmist promise that nothing sowed is ever wasted. And St. Paul tells us that if we hold onto the first fruits of the Spirit that we have received (and do some groaning occasionally), we will share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. Just as Jesus coached his disciples, we must live and announce that the KINGDOM OF GOD is here and now. 

At Ascension just a few weeks ago, the disciples asked Jesus if He was going to establish the Kingdom. He said NO, YOU are going to spread the seed of my Word to all the Earth!

How do I do that as I experience the FOUR TYPES OF SOIL that exist in my life? HOW DO I NURTURE THE SEEDS GIVEN ME? HOW DOES GOD NURTURE THE SEEDS GIVEN ME?

Our Cursillo weekend gave us the Grace to know that God loves us, and the Tools to nurture and discover how God calls each of us as his unique, beloved children to LIVE His Love every day of our lives.

Our beloved Catholic Church gives us Sacraments, Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, a rich Teaching Magisterium, and Community (worship, education, social interaction, and opportunities to act on lessons learned). However, there is another aspect of this Christian Catholic life that we miss: reflection. Am I so busy doing Christian things that I don’t take the time to BE a Christian?

Hard path: What is a “hard teaching” for me? In Group Reunion, I have a secure, intimate, trust relationship with brothers and sisters.  Each of us seeks a deeper relationship with God, who have experienced epiphanies in their walks that encourage me and open my vision and heart to understand and connect with God in my response to the hard teachings. What if Jesus’ followers that abandoned him over His Bread of Life discourse had gone to a Group Reunion and expressed their dismay to their brothers?

Thin, rocky soil: When the Word/Seed takes root and springs up into exciting bouquets of action, it is easy to burn out quickly. I have committed to lots of holy DOING, without reflecting on how God is manifesting Himself in my life and activities. My Group Reunion holds me accountable for discerning where God is in all this busyness. How do my conversations with Him and the wisdom gained from the universe of spiritual sources show me where God is in my action? Group Reunion is not just a time for the recitation of “problems” or “accomplishments”; it is a precious time for reflection and sharing of how God is alive in me! 

Life among the Weeds: Group Reunion keeps me focused on my relationship with God amid all the weeds that inevitably grow in my life. I can’t stop the weeds, and God certainly doesn’t make them grow there. They are just part of life. But the question is: How do I live my Kingdom Life in their midst? What does God want me to learn? I must show up at Group Reunion for reflection on my Piety, Study, and Action, where I’m inspired to hear God speaking through my brothers and sisters and my reflections. Group Reunion is my Google Maps to get through the Weed Patch and back to Kingdom Living.

I am flourishing in Rich Soil: Life in the Kingdom, here and now! Great Piety, Amazing Study epiphanies, miracles are happening in my life and the lives of those I love and serve. What do I need Group Reunion for, when I’m living and reflecting God’s Love every day? This time is when I MUST show up at Group Reunion – for my brothers and sisters – because they deserve to hear the Good News as it’s happening in my life. If I don’t return the gift, they have so often given me, I’m nothing but “a noisy gong or a clashing cymbal” as St. Paul told the Corinthians!

Cursillo doesn’t end on Sunday night of the weekend. Cursillo BEGINS on Sunday night when we return to our world and face how to live and proclaim the Kingdom. The “world” is more durable than the most influential individual Cursillista. Let’s live our Fourth Day in community with brothers and sisters who are willing to gather consistently to hold each other accountable for how they see their relationship with God.  Then we can proclaim the Kingdom in our lives and our words and see miracles even more happen!

I need Group Reunion not to boast of the blessings God has showered on me, but to share the vision of God’s blessings to keep the Kingdom Dream alive!

Don’t invite your friends to a “weekend” upgrade. Invite them to a lifetime of Love, Joy, and Peace with brothers and sisters in relationship with our Triune God, who loves each of us exactly as we are and only wants us to discover the Pure Joy of living His Love in every aspect of our lives. No new clubs to join. No dues. There are no bake sales or car washes. Just great coffee (?) and companions and consistent awareness that we are never alone.

Invite them to a life of perfect balance. Invite them to reflect on how God is in every moment of every day of every situation in our lives.

De Colores!

Thursday, July 09, 2020

"Peace Will Remain if Invited In" By Beth DeCristofaro

"Peace Will Remain if Invited In" By Beth DeCristofaro

My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you. (Hosea 11:8-9)

As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. (Matthew 10:11-12)

May the distresses, distraction and temptations we feel each day in the uncertainties of life, strengthen our desire to lean on you and your Word, O Lord.  May we be sustained and nurtured by your presence.  May we be led by the power of your spirit. May we be satiated with your peace.

Unique metaphors and descriptions of God acting upon us humans fill the Book of Hosea.  God is portrayed as a protector “out of Egypt I called my son.”  God speaks as the parent of a toddler “it was I who taught Ephraim to walk.”  God guides “I drew them with human cords, with bands of love.” God becomes the rejected caregiver “though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.” God admits to being heartbroken “My heart is overwhelmed.”  Yet with great patience, God comes back again and again and took them in my arm.  One can hear God’s sadness at our obstinacy yet mercy in these phrases.

Jesus offers the peace of God through his disciples.  And yet he knows there will be rejection.  Jesus does not judge the person unworthy, but instead, he is wise enough to know our human hearts.  It is within us to be worthy of experiencing the bands of love wrapping us close to God and divine peace that fill us.  If God’s peace does not stay within us, can we be convicted enough to accept that the Holy One is present among us?  Can we imagine and hope that Jesus’ peace is for us when we are ready to turn back to him, not turn our backs on him.

In what way do I experience God’s peace?  Am I fulfilled?  Am I longing?  In what ways might I make room for God’s peace to satiate me and which I might offer to others?

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

“Prosperity Doesn’t Always Serve Us Well” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Prosperity Doesn’t Always Serve Us Well” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth.  The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built; The more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up.  Their heart is false, now they pay for their guilt; God shall break down their altars and destroy their sacred pillars. “Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety; break up for yourselves a new field, for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain down justice upon you.”  (Hosea 10:1-2, 12)

Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out.  Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.  Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.     (Matthew 10:1, 5-7)

Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the Lord!  (Psalm 105:2-3)

Have you ever looked back over your life and realized that the times you felt closest to the Lord often coincided with the times you experienced the greatest adversity?  It sounds paradoxical until we own up to having functioned, in essence, as the lord of our life when things were going well.  Days of prosperity can be dangerous.  Those are the times when we forget who made us and put us on this earth, the One on whom we depend for every breath we draw.   We pat ourselves on the back as we look at all our achievements.  We are often so busy congratulating ourselves and seeking more applause and acclaim that we have no time for God or our brothers and sisters. 
That’s exactly what Hosea says happened to Israel.  The rest of the world looked upon Israel as a luxuriant vine resplendent with fruit.  But what did Israel do with their riches?  They forgot about their God.  Instead, they built altars to other gods.  The bigger the harvest, the more idols they erected.  They were setting themselves up for a fall.
Worshiping other gods or taking all the credit ourselves for the successes we enjoy is sustainable for only so long.  Inevitably, we experience failure of our plans.  We lose our job or maybe our marriage falls apart.  We fall sick because we’ve burned the candle at both ends.  We lose a loved one despite the best of medical care.  Something always happens that brings us face to face with God and the realization that we have forgotten the One who gave us life. 
In his day, Hosea said the Lord was going to break down and smash all the idolatrous things Israel had built.   The prophet’s advice then is still good today:  walk away from the self-worship, start anew, plow a new field, one where we can sow justice and reap piety.  Our world is certainly desperate for whatever we can spare from that harvest.

It is always time to seek the Lord, to ask God to let us see ourselves as God sees us.  It’s never too late to ask for forgiveness when we’ve fallen away.  We are all at times the “lost sheep of Israel” Jesus sends his friends out to recover.  God always responds to our remorse by lovingly setting us back on our feet, dusting us off and, letting us begin anew.