Sunday, September 30, 2018

The One Who Is Least

The One Who Is Least

Then Job began to tear his cloak and cut off his hair. He cast himself prostrate upon the ground, and said, "Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!" In all this Job did not sin, nor did he say anything disrespectful of God.  Job 1:20-22

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest." Luke 9:46-48

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For He has looked with favor on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His Name.

Who among us has been tested as much or as deeply as Job? Job’s story is an “exquisite dramatic treatment of the problem of the suffering of the innocent.” Yet, despite Satan’s best efforts to have Job betray the Lord, God’s confidence in his servant Job is not in vain. Job’s reaction to multiple tragedies of loss does not result in a lack of faith in God. With nothing to his name, Job was powerless, penny-less, and poor in spirit.  He lost everything yet still blesses God for the gifts he was offered.

The child whom Jesus holds up as an example in his lesson has as many possessions to his or her name as Job has left.  Nothing.  Yet, Jesus holds up the powerless, the poor, and the weakest among us as equivalent to Himself. 

“Looking with favor on his lowly servant” is a theme we encounter throughout Luke’s writing. The theme is set up early on in the Canticle of Mary:
He has shown the strength of His arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.

If Job has not lived 500-700 years earlier, he would have truly identified with the humility of Jesus and Mary.

Today’s Memorial to Saint Thérèse reminds us that Pope John Paul II proclaimed her Doctor of the Church by Pope John Paul II.  She is only the third woman to be so proclaimed, after Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Teresa of Avila.
St. Thérèse wrote once, 'You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them."  

Job.  Mary.  St. Thérèse.  Let these lead us through life as examples of humility and love in action. 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

“All the People of the Lord Were Prophets” by Jim Bayne

“All the People of the Lord Were Prophets” by Jim Bayne

So, when a young man quickly told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp," Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses' aide, said, "Moses, my lord, stop them." But Moses answered him, "Are you jealous for my sake?  Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets!  Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"  (Nm 11:24-29)

At that time, John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.  (Mk 9:38-41)

Prayer of St.  Francis
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love

For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life

The dictionary defines a prophet as "a person regarded as an inspired teacher or proclaimer of the will of God."  In the readings from Numbers and from Mark, presented above, people are attempting to define who can be "an inspired teacher." 

The followers of Moses and of Jesus have clearly decided who is NOT qualified for the role of inspired teacher.  However, both Moses and Jesus disagree and greatly expand the definition of who is an inspired teacher.

Moses says he wants everyone to be an inspired teacher.  Jesus says anyone who isn't against is for us and therefore can be an inspired teacher.

By either of these definitions, you and I have the potential for being inspired teachers!  Wow!!  Who would have thought!!

But how does one become an inspired teacher? 

Our Cursillo movement has as its main purpose, the goal of making each and every one of us inspired teachers by living the three legs of the Cursillo tripod on a daily basis:

In what ways did you personally encounter Christ in your life this week?
In Another Person, In Personal Prayer, In Liturgical Prayer, In Meditation, In Mass and Holy Communion, In Nature, During Lexio Divina, Through Spiritual Direction, In Serving Others

By what means did your Study this week enable you to encounter Christ and get to know Him better?
Bible Study Group, Spiritual Books, Periodicals, Radio/TV Programs, Church Documents, Your Environment

What actions did you take this week to enable others to encounter Christ in their lives?
In your Environment, In your Parish, Through Other Service Opportunities

If we're living the tripod on a daily basis, our first opportunity to be an inspired teacher comes when we share the results of our Cursillo lifestyle with the members of our weekly group reunion.  We do need all three legs to be fully inspired.  You can't do it with just one or two legs.  Remember the three-legged stool from your weekend?

Beyond group reunion, the larger community – which can be as big as the world – will come to recognize our status as inspired teachers and prophets by the way we live our daily tripod lives. 

As one member of my group reunion likes to say, "People would rather see a sermon than hear one."  As scripture tells us, "By their fruits, you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?"  (Mt 7:16) 

Are you in a weekly Group Reunion?
Are you living the Cursillo tripod in your daily life?
Do others see you as an "Inspired Teacher"?

Under the Fig Tree

Under the Fig Tree

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it.  Revelation 7:10-12

Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."  John 1:48B-49

Life has a stark tone during wartime. And the mood changes when one has powerful allies. (@frmattfish)

When I was a child, there was always lots of talk about angels (especially guardian angels) and the “Devil.” In learning about right and wrong, good guys and bad guys, having opposites was easy to understand. Kierkegaard reminds me of the tyranny of the Either/Or. Even one of our most famous comics of the 1960’s popularized the phrase, “The Devil made me do it.”

Good guys.  Bad guys.  White hats.  Black hats. Those were the lessons of a child.  However, adult life is not as simple as the Storm Troopers and the Rebel Alliance squaring off to conquer the Death Star. Seeing what is good and choosing it can be easy.  Nathaniel saw what is good and shows his faith. Our Good News from John makes it appear that we can (like Nathaniel) choose correctly.  However, Revelation reminds us that, in reality, forces are out there trying to “deceive the whole world.”

"Enraged at her escape, the dragon went off to make war on the rest of her offspring." (Rev 12)

Those evil tendencies (forces) were not conquered in this life by humans. They were conquered when the Angels squared off against the Demons and expelled them from heaven.  Where did the expelled demons go?  Hell?  Hades? Purgatory?  All of the above.  However, they also were “thrown down to earth” where they took up residence to tempt every one of us – including Jesus – in our daily struggles.

How did the skeptical Nathaniel know that Jesus was…well, Jesus?  He was already suspecting something questionable because Jesus was from Nazareth, not Bethlehem as expected from his study. Maybe today that would be like expecting Jesus to come from Like someone coming from North Caldwell, New Jersey as a neighbor to Tony Soprano.   

The fig tree reference is the clue. The term "under the fig tree" is an ancient Jewish idiom[i] that means studying the messianic prophecies.  The idiom stems from Micah 4:4, in a passage describing the future messianic kingdom: “They shall all sit under their own vines, under their own fig trees, undisturbed; for the LORD of hosts has spoken.”

When Jesus spoke to Nathaniel, he knew that only the Messiah could know that about Him without being told, which is why he acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah.  No Demons could interfere with that direct encounter!

When war breaks out on earth, the innocent die.  Lexington and Concord.  Sumter and Gettysburg. Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Khe Sahn and Saigon.  Basra and Baghdad. Anywhere and everywhere. When war breaks out in heaven, look out.

For me, the message today is “let us emulate the peace-seeking, faithful follower Nathaniel.”  Let us look for the good and when we find it in Jesus, follow it.

“Grant that our life on earth may be defended by those [friends, family members and, yes, angels] who watch over us.”

Friday, September 28, 2018

A Time to Mourn, And A Time to Dance

A Time to Mourn, And A Time to Dance

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to give birth, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said in reply, "The Christ of God." He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised." Luke 9:20-22

The Byrds introduced my grey-bearded “ge-ge-gen-er-ay-shun” to this passage from Ecclesiastes with the song “Turn, Turn, Turn.”  Although not in a spiritual setting, I learned early on that there is an appointed time for everything -- even things we do not want to witness. Today’s first reading was also a passage read at my father-in-law’s funeral – a time to mourn – which came just three months after the birth of our first daughter – a time to dance. Life teaches us these same lessons and has throughout history.

Knowing what the present moment holds for us is a gift.  Being strong enough to accept what comes up is a gift. But that does not mean we willingly accept the bad – just like Peter refused to believe or understand Christ’s three predictions of his execution (time to lose) until after the Resurrection (time to heal).

According to Fr. Matt Fish (you can follow him on Twitter @frmattfish), "Ecclesiastes teaches us the limit of what we can see on our own. In all of time's turnings, has man ever discovered what God has appointed? No, it must be revealed. Even Israel's hope in the Messiah must be shown the unthinkable: the cross.  After all that time of waiting, we finally had a savior but many did not recognize Him until it was too late."

May our actions today and always be guided by the letter and the spirit of this modern Ecclesiastes prayer.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

This prayer was first presented by Cardinal Dearden in 1979 and quoted by Pope Francis in 2015. This reflection is an excerpt from a homily written for Cardinal Dearden by then-Fr. Ken Untener on the occasion of the Mass for Deceased Priests, October 25, 1979. Pope Francis quoted Cardinal Dearden in his remarks to the Roman Curia on December 21, 2015. Fr. Untener was named bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, in 1980.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

“Wisdom and Change of Heart” by Beth DeCristofaro

“Wisdom and Change of Heart” by Beth DeCristofaro

The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor is the ear satisfied with hearing. (Ecclesiastes 1:8B)

But Herod said, "John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see him. (Luke 9:9)

Lord, you have been our refuge
through all generations.
Teach us to count our days aright,
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Fill us at daybreak with your mercy,
that all our days we may sing for joy. (Psalm 90:1, 12, 14)

In the Gospels this week we heard Jesus clarify that his family is made up of more than blood kin:  He said to them in reply, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it."  (Luke 8:21).  We saw Jesus send his followers out to enlarge his family:  he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Luke 9:2) We heard him begin to reveal his passion and the coming of the Kingdom:   For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17).  We will listen in as Peter witnesses to Jesus the Lord Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter said in reply, "The Christ of God." (Luke 9:20) So what’s with Herod who kept trying in vain to see him?  Why did Jesus not send disciples to him and, in fact, one of the Gospels tells us that as Jesus stood condemned in front of Herod, Jesus did not speak to him?

This passage made me consider just who was this guy, Herod?  Historically there are records but I wonder who was the man?  He was appointed tetrarch so he was most likely a political operative, able to play the game and placate the powerful for his own ambition.  He clearly enjoyed power, killing his own brother to climb the ladder and shacking up with his sister-in-law.  He certainly had stirrings to discover more – perhaps deeper – realities than he lived because he paid attention to John the Baptist and claimed to want to meet Jesus.  But his desires to know are too self-serving for him to actually want the truth. 

Herod’s casual statement “John I beheaded” chills me.  He is either so clueless that the dignity of life means for others not just himself or so basely evil that murder is merely an administrative command.  Herod wants knowledge but not wisdom, not truth.  Herod would scoff at Jesus’ command to the disciples to go and proclaim, taking nothing with you but the sandals on your feet.  Herod?  Leave behind the trappings and glitter of the Roman oppressor?  He does not comprehend Jesus’ challenge that of those who are given much, much is required.  Herod, who does not give anything but death, does not allow himself to be required of anything by anybody.  Rather he takes and takes including lives. 

What in me is Herodian in nature keeping me from hearing Jesus?  Do I adhere to practices of my faith yet crook my finger at God expecting God to come to me?  Do I trust enough to leave behind all that makes me comfortable and identifies me in order to proclaim His word?  Do I minimize the God-given humanity of others?  What within me “keeps trying to see him” on my terms rather than God’s terms?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Take Nothing but Your Faith by Colleen O’Sullivan

Take Nothing but Your Faith by Colleen O’Sullivan

Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me only with the food I need.   (Proverbs 30:8bc)

Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  He said to them, "Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there. And as for those who do not welcome you, when you leave that town, shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them." (Luke 9:1-5)

-       Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. 
I will not forget Your love for me and yet,
My heart forever is wandering.
Jesus be my guide,
And hold me to Your side,
And I will love You to the end.
Nothing will I fear
As long as You are near;
Please be near me to the end.

Me packing my carry-on bag for a trip: 
ü  Prescription Meds
ü  Jewelry
ü  iPhone
ü  iPod
ü  Kindle       
ü  Book (in case I can’t find anything to read out of the hundreds of books on my Kindle)
ü  Pajamas
ü  Cram in whatever else will fit

Jesus would fall over with amazement were I to take only myself whenever I go somewhere.  (For that matter, so would I!)   Our Scripture readings, therefore, present a real challenge.  The writer of Proverbs tells us to pray that God supplies us only with what we need for the day. Don’t worry about the rest of the week, or the year, or a lifetime.  Trust that God knows what we need to get through the day.  I am the queen of planning ahead and being organized in case of any eventuality.  And the anxiety that is conquered by all that is precisely what Jesus asks me to leave behind.  Trust in God.  God will provide.

Jesus tells the disciples to leave everything at home, to go out empty-handed.  No extra clothes, no backpacks, no bag lunches, no bottled water.  Just yourself.  Trust that what you need will be provided along the way.

The truth is, we are never really empty-handed.  Wherever God leads us, we take along our relationship with Jesus.  That’s what the Christian journey is all about – a relationship.  When we reread the Gospel verses for today, we realize that Jesus never talks about results or what success or failure would look like.  It’s not about that.  It’s about being faithful to our relationship with the Lord every step of the way.  It’s about believing that relationship is more important than what we wear or our social media, or anything else we consider so important that we can never be without it.                                                                                                            
As I reflected on today’s Scripture readings, I was reminded of the principle of Ignatian indifference, which St. Ignatius spells out in his Spiritual Exercises.   It isn’t just our material possessions that we are tempted to carry around but also our desires for how we prefer to journey through life. 

We must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed…  Consequently, …we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life.  The same holds for all other things.  Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we were created.  (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, #23)

No matter what our circumstances, all we need to do each day is pray for sustenance for that day’s journey and trust in Jesus that he walks beside us every step of the way. 

When you are praying today, reflect on your faith journey and any extraneous baggage you are carrying.  Ask God for the strength to give up anything we don’t need to carry and for the desire to rely solely on God for sustenance.

“Act on It” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

“Act on It” by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3)

Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands. (Psalm 119:35)

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” (Luke 8:21)

Jesus, thank you for welcoming me to the family.

If you came from a loving, generous, considerate family with minimal drama, you might find Jesus’s comments in today’s Gospel reading hard. Why the seeming indifference about seeing Mary and his cousins and other relatives? They want to see him but can’t get through the crowd. Why doesn’t Jesus excuse himself for a minute to greet them, or ask those gathered to let them through?

If, on the other hand, your background includes disconnection, disrespect, and worse, you may warm to this passage. There is another family for you, a bigger family, a family where people try to emulate the Lord. They don’t always succeed here on earth, of course. But they try. And faith brings the hope of spending eternity with the greatest Father of all.

You see, Jesus wasn’t turning his back on those he called mother and brother. He was opening his arms to embrace all who seek to listen to and do God’s will.

You know who I’m talking about—the person at your parish or in your ministry or prayer group who works your nerve, even though he or she doesn’t realize it. Make a point of spending a few minutes alone listening to the person the next time you meet; look at him or her as a beloved relative, not an annoyance.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Come to the Light

Come to the Light

Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in your power to do it for him. Say not to your neighbor, “Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give,” when you can give at once. Proverbs 3:27-28

Jesus said to the crowd: "No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.  Luke 8:16-17

Don’t get confused by today’s readings. These have little to do with material possessions and everything to do with justice and mercy. Justice toward one’s neighbor brings blessing.

As in other instructions in the Book of Proverbs, the father urges the son to seek wisdom, which in this case means practicing the virtues of “deliberation and planning,” a specification of wisdom. Practicing these virtues brings protection from violence in earlier passages and friendship with God in later passages.  However, today’s selection focuses on mercy toward our neighbors.

The Bishop’s Lenten Appeal might prefer to give the first reading a specific fund-raising interpretation.  However, it is broader than giving money.  As we are reminded in Corinthians, the golden rule is called a rule because it rules. It is about how we treat each other.

Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.  Matthew 7:9-11

For when we treat each other with mercy, justice, generosity, and R-E-S-P-E-C-T, then the Lord also will hear our calls. In Luke’s version, Jesus prefaces his golden rule story with a story of sharing good gifts.

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’ I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.  Luke 11:5-8

The light we have may be “stuff” (material possessions) but that is not necessarily what Proverbs and Luke refer to today.  It may be money or bread.  However, it is more likely to include wisdom, justice, and mercy. If we have the ability to speak out and act for justice, Scripture teaches us to use that gift. If you have these gifts, don’t hide the light. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Whoever Receives One Child by Phil Russell

Whoever Receives One Child

“The Lord upholds my life.” (Psalm 54:6)

“Wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant., full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is /’sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” (James 3:16-4:3)

“(JESUS) Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, (........) [read the rest of the Gospel again, and then again!] (Mark 9:30-37)

“Prayer is the center of the Christian Life, it is living with God in the here and now.” Henri Nouwen

Sometimes, I read a passage in Scripture and fail to place myself within it. I think, “It’s about the disciples.” 

Living in the NOW of The Gospel, I must apply it to my own Life; otherwise,

it’s just a failed attempt at “hearing.”

Jesus is taking (this child) me in his arms…he is speaking to me, both as child and disciple (whom he loves).

You see, I’m not so different than they were in the pack on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus is taking me gently by my ego, my hurts, my success, and my failings and teaching me!  Teaching us (to live in the Now).

Children, in Jesus’ time, were considered “least.”  Jesus, in His Father’s stead, takes this child and wraps his arms around “it” as the Mark recounts.
I recently met a couple, Mother and Father who had lost their son, just two months after I had lost mine. We met at a Bereavement/Grief Group. We were the only ones who had lost a child, the others had lost a spouse.

While my grief and loss had been two months longer, I witnessed the rawness of their wounds. I knew that the last time I spoke with Michael on the phone we finished with “I love you” to each other. I hung on, am hanging on and will hang onto those words of blessing.

This was my child, who had come to me when I turned 40. Twenty-Eight years later. Gone On!  I now hold onto to his two-year-old daughter who lives with us four days of each week.

Back to this couple. I went up to them after the group ended and embraced each of them in that community center parking lot where we met. I found out that they were both Catholic and were being challenged on very personal levels. We agreed, that God had not done this to us.

As I said to them: “When asked if I was angry at God for Michael’s death, I told people ‘NO.’  I am thankful that it was the same Father who had placed him in my care, the one who now has received him back to his embrace.”

This Gospel passage has a new lesson to apply to my Journey to Jerusalem with Jesus. I must decrease; so that Jesus might increase in ME.

This is where I am called to discipleship.

This is where he calls me as his disciple.

...In the Here and Now.

Produced a Fruit

Produced a Fruit

You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. 1 Corinthians 15:36-37

And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold." After saying this, he called out, "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear." Luke 8:8

During elementary school, we had a nun who was a quite popular visitor to religious education classes.  She visited one week and told us that the next week, she would return and show us something that had never been seen before and would never be seen again. Needless to say, it left us curious…but we promptly forgot and went about our childish “business” of schooling and sleeping and playing and eating until we returned the following Saturday.  Most of us probably forgot her promise until Sister Mary walked back into our classroom and produced a fruit -- an orange which was in the front pocket of her habit.

She stood in front of the class peeling the orange.  When the fruit was fully exposed, she separated it into sections and held up each section one-by-one. “No one had ever seen this section of the orange before,” she told us. As it disappeared into her smiling mouth, she chewed it up and swallowed explaining “…and no one will ever see it again.”   

That sweet-sour-juicy fruit was nothing like the seed from which it grew. Round, grey, small and hard. But with a little water, a little soil, a little time, and a little fertilizer, the seed become something completely different from its natural start.
I think Sister Mary probably read a lot of Corinthians and Luke and thought about those seeds quite a bit.  Our young minds were never the same after she held up that section of orange and contemplated what it was, what it is, and what it would become.  

And now for something completely different.

Paul and Jesus knew that the farmers of ancient Palestine would probably understand the analogy of the seed better than we do. They relied upon seeds to grow into their food.  A flood or a drought would spell hunger. A dust storm might carry away the seeds planted in the field. Weeds would choke the seeds natural growth.  Rocks would inhibit any growth at all.  Sister Mary might not be able to stand in front of their religious education class every year with her orange or pear or apple or fig or date.

What are we to become?

Hopefully, with a little piety, a little study and a little action, the seeds of our youth will grow into a committed Catholic of a new kind.

Maybe we should not equate religious education with grades of public schooling.  At some point, those classes end.  Some go on to college…or graduate school or professional education.  When school ends, life commences. But our religious education never ends. Confirmation is not graduation. It is a passes from one stage to another.

What have you become? Unless we let our childhood pass away, we never become a teenager.  Unless our teenage years pass, we never become adults. The seeds of a 20-year old adult grow into something different at 40, 50 or 60 years.  What are we to become next? We will never see our youth again.  But we have many ways to cultivate the person we will become tomorrow.