Saturday, August 31, 2019

Love One Another

Love One Another 

On the subject of fraternal charity, you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. Indeed, you do this for all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Nevertheless, we urge you, brothers and sisters, to progress even more, and to aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands, as we instructed you.  1 Thessalonians 4:9-11

“For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."  Matthew 25:29-30

Today, Matthew does not serve up his version of the prosperity Gospel.  Even though the three servants are dealing with the gold from the master’s treasury, God does not transact in gold talents.  The mater rewards the servants who UNDERSTAND what he asks them to do.  Thus, God gives further understanding to one who accepts the revealed mystery; from the one who does not, he will take it away (note the “theological passive,” more will be given, what he has will be taken away).

Jesus speaks in parables so that the crowds may not understand (Mk 4:12).  God wants us to understand.  He repeats the lessons throughout the Hebrew Bible and then into the four Gospels and the Epistles.  God wants us to try to understand and tries repeatedly to help us hear his message and put it into practice.  (Matthew and Mark use the identical story – what gets repeated is IMPORTANT!)

As St. Paul later addresses the people in Thessalonica, he reminds them very subtly of the message of charity to one another. He urges them to a deeper understanding and more complete fulfillment of the commandment.

However, while Paul says there is no need to write about loving each other, he proceeds to do just that.   On the subject of fraternal charity, you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another.” The reminders keep on coming. But the practice is long in perfecting.

How can you renew your commitment to charity every day, every week, every month?

What can you do to weave helping others in your family, your neighborhood, and your community into your affairs?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Light Dawns for the Just

Light Dawns for the Just

Brothers and sisters, we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that, as you received from us how you should conduct yourselves to please God—and as you are conducting yourselves—you do so even more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 4:1-2)

Light dawns for the just; and gladness, for the upright of heart. Be glad in the Lord, you just, and give thanks to his holy name. (Psalms 97:11-12)

(Jesus told the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, in which the foolish virgins went to buy oil, only to find the door locked when they returned.) “The other virgins came and said, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’ But he said in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:11-13)

Let us pray: Lord, please don’t lock us out. You have called us to piety, study, and action. Through these pursuits, we seek to come to you and dwell in your house forever. If we can’t live there with you, then we at least want to visit. If we can’t visit, then let us look in through the windows and see your face. If the curtains are closed, let us touch your door because we know if we knock in prayer, then the door will be answered. Make us worthy to enter by strengthening our faith in You, our hope for God’s Kingdom and our love for our sisters and brothers. Amen.

How much “oil” is in your “lamp?”

What are you going off to buy? Oil for your lamp or something less enduring?

The notes to this chapter in the N.A.B. (Revised Edition) suggest that our actions (or good deeds) are signified by the reference to oil in the lamps. Those who have lived a life filled with action/deeds consistent with what the Lord asks of us are the ones who will be ready when “the bridegroom” comes. This follows from earlier in Matthew when the Lord said, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them” will be saved.

It does not matter what your New Year’s Resolution was or whether you stuck with it. Our lives must be filled with right actions and right relationships now and in the future. Don’t wait until January 1, no matter what we have done in the past, today is not too late to make your plan to start September 1.

How and where you spend your money matters. Do you remember the Ideal talk from your weekend? A new group of Babe Chicks will hear it next weekend. How did the speaker get you to assess how you use your time, your talents and your treasures?

Have you begun to buy “fair trade” products? Buying certified products makes good social, economic and ecological sense. It cuts out intermediary buyers and guarantees small farmers and families a fair price that exceeds their production costs. It also helps protect the environment.

You can’t abandon everything but what if you tried to shift the purchase of 5 percent of the products you purchase next month to fair trade products. You could shift where you get your coffee, tea or chocolate. To begin to research what fair trade products are available, visit this site:

No longer do you need to look in small boutiques. You can find fair trade products online and, in many stores, where you may already shop: Costco, Target, Aldi, and others.

The Fair Trade Certified™ seal signifies that your product was grown, harvested, or made with care by farmers and workers according to rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards. To help you make a difference with your dollar, we make it as easy as possible to seek the seal on products while you shop.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

“We Stand Firm In The Lord” by Beth DeCristofaro

“We Stand Firm In The Lord” by Beth DeCristofaro

We have been reassured about you, brothers and sisters, in our every distress and affliction, through your faith. For we now live, if you stand firm in the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 3:7-8)

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. (Mark 6:20)

Let us pray that we, like John the Baptist, prepare for Christ

God our strength and our hope,
grant us the courage of John the Baptist,
constantly to speak the truth,
boldly to rebuke vice
and patiently to suffer for the truth's sake;

in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit
one God now and forever. Amen.[i]

One of the earliest, most important choices I made was to study abroad during college. It was a series of choices beginning with a friend’s decision to go to England and my snap determination to join her. That instant put many cascading, life-changing consequences into play. I chose a university in France despite my lack of language skills; eventually, I learned to communicate fluently. I made the trip with minimal funds resulting in rationed meals and activities. I journeyed by myself thus experienced deep loneliness far from anyone I knew. However, I began to rely on prayer, asking, and trusting that God would intervene. Therefore, I opened myself to meeting unique people, learning about myself, and encountering God in new, nourishing ways. Most of the many lessons sprouting from those choices I did not anticipate. And my friend? She decided to stay stateside and not travel at all, which was right for her.

John, Paul, and Herod all made choices. Their directions were vastly divergent but all life-changing. Two of them chose to trust in God’s plan of salvation, recognizing Jesus as their lodestar. Herod, on the other hand, had no center except his own insecure, worldly cravings. Both John the Baptist and Paul understood that following Jesus would not be easy.  However, it was the only path their spiritual longings allowed them to take. The Baptist explained to his followers “He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Did he realize that Herod would be his murderer? Even so, he stood firm in the Lord. Paul worried for the Thessalonians but cheered that they too stood firm in the Lord. Herod stood only for his flesh, which eventually betrayed him.

Jesus reminded his followers and us that choosing to walk with Him leads to difficulties, suffering, and yet deepening union with God. We can choose to bear a cross because he did that for us and before us. We trust that our walk will end in joy because of the resurrection. What choices do I need to make to more closely walk with Him? How firmly am I standing with Him? Are John, Paul, and our Lord reassured with my choices?

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

“There’s No Escaping God” by Colleen O’Sullivan

“There’s No Escaping God” by Colleen O’Sullivan

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I sink to the nether world, you are present there. (Psalm 139:7-8)

Jesus said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men's bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside, you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing. (Matthew 23:27-28)

O God, You Search Me (based on Psalm 139)
 Bernadette Farrell

O God, you search me and you know me.
All my thoughts lie open to your gaze.
When I walk or lie down, you are before me,
Ever the maker and keeper of my days.

The good news, according to the psalmist, is that there’s no escaping God. God is everywhere. Even in the places and situations that look pretty godless from the outside. I have to remind myself that God is in every detention facility for would-be immigrants arriving on the Texas/Mexico border. God is also in every place around the country where those men and women’s children have been sent.

God is in each of our homes, even on the days when we’re fighting with our spouses or tearing our hair out over teenage antics, or valiantly trying to make dinner with a baby on one hip and a toddler getting into everything on the other side.

God is with us wherever we are, whatever we’re doing. Are you having a great day? God is right there rejoicing with you. Are you down in the dumps and not sure what to do or where to turn? God has an arm around you, supporting you through whatever.

God was with us even before we were born. God saw our unformed bodies as well as all the days written in our books before even one of them came to pass. (Ps. 139:16) There is nothing about us that God didn’t know before God formed us in our mothers’ wombs.

The bad news, on the other hand, might be that there’s no escaping God. God is everywhere. Even when we’ve got the shiniest exteriors or live in the poshest neighborhoods, nothing keeps God from seeing past all that to our hearts. For the Pharisees, Jesus was addressing in today’s Gospel that wouldn’t have been good news. They looked like upstanding citizens on the outside, but their hearts were full of hypocrisy and evildoing and empty of compassion and mercy toward their brothers and sisters in the faith.

Today we remember Saint Augustine of Hippo. In his Confessions, he wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” He would tell us that God never gives up on us even when we’re living a dissolute life. God is there for us even when we’re not there for God. God was still there when St. Augustine finally opened his eyes to the truth and rested in the Truth.
When you’re praying, ask yourself honestly whether God being everywhere, seeing everything, is good news or bad news for you today. If there’s something in your life that you are trying to hide from God, bring it out into the open. God knows about it anyway. There’s no sin that can’t be forgiven or lifestyle that can’t be changed. God loves us and wants us at one with God.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Determined to Share by Melanie Rigney (@melanierigney)

Determined to Share by Melanie Rigney

Rather, we were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8)

You have searched me and you know me, Lord. (Psalm 139:1)

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean." (Matthew 23:25-26)

Lord, I offer gratitude for the times in which You show me the inside of my dirty, dirty cup… and how to clean it.

Parents know their children—not only how cute they are and how smart they are, but also the traits that are challenging. Maybe it’s stubbornness, maybe it’s crankiness, maybe it’s selfishness, maybe it’s a propensity to tattle. The most loving of parents celebrate their children’s unique gifts, but also help them work on the rough spots to become even better people. That’s what love is.

Jesus uses strong language to describe the scribes and Pharisees. He accuses them of internal blindness, of being hypocritical. And yet despite His words, we know there is nothing He wants more than for these misguided leaders to change their ways. He wants with all His might that they would cleanse their hearts and souls so they can share in the hope of eternal life. Remember that He wants that with all His might for us as well. But we have to be willing to accept that gift, and the loving correction that comes with it.

Ask the Lord to show you where He desires to purify you. Then listen.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

“Turned to God from Idols” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@Father PB)

“Turned to God from Idols” by Rev. Paul Berghout (@Father PB)

You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. In every place, your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath. (1 Thessalonians 1:5C, 8B-10)

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.  Matthew 23:13

The theme for the Twenty-First Week of Ordinary Time starts with Jesus' caution about the difficulty of the Christian life.  He explains that many will be unable to "enter through the narrow gate." Jesus indicates it is those we do not expect who will be the first in the Kingdom: "Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last." Today, that lesson extends to the Pharisees who make it difficult for others to enter Heaven.

The first readings this week are from Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians, the oldest book in the New Testament. The letters are reminders of how hard the narrow gate is to pass. We hear about the humiliation and challenges that Paul met in preaching to this community he loved so much.

"The Screwtape Letters" is a classic book, where C.S. Lewis came up with the idea of a senior demon named Screwtape telling his trade secrets about how to corrupt a human soul. Regarding the narrow gate mentioned in our Sunday Gospel, Screwtape would say several things.

First, a broad, constructed road, requires a significant capital investment. Such a way leads either to the king's palace or somewhere very useful.  People frequently travel there safely frequented because the Kingdom properly polices broad roads.  The broad road is wide enough for you to do what you want or what everybody else is doing.  It stands opposite the "narrow road," which is a precipitous path likely to lead through robbers' territory.

The context from our Gospel, however, shows that Jesus advises his church not to follow the majority. Narrow is the way that leads to salvation. Many are the opportunities to fall into mortal sin and forfeit your salvation in Christ unless you urgently repent. After baptism, being saved means laying down the human burden of our sinfulness in repentance and confession, so we fit through the narrow door of salvation.

Second, a demon would also assert that the toll system of the broad road is entirely rational. Markets and inns need policing, caravans and individual merchants, traders, and countryfolk with produce to sell need protection. The inhabitants pay for the upkeep of their wall and broad gate. There are toll-collectors and spies, keeping a sharp watch.

Back then, the broad road was toll-free.  People wore clothing worn puffed up with many layers of garments (the heat did not trouble them too much).  Travelers paid the toll on slaves as well as cattle. Slaves back then were often prisoners of war or debt. If the slave owner declared at the toll-house, 'He is my son,' the rabbis debated whether, when he tried to sell him as a slave inside, he was estopped from denying his free status.' One was undoubtedly entitled to deceive toll-collectors even on oath. They were, after all, oppressors.

The Gospel truth is that just as many people would do everything reasonable to find an entry to a city which would diminish their financial loss.  The children of the light must strive to find that entry to the Kingdom of Heaven, which will admit them to 'life' while it disencumbers them of attachment to their belongings.  The entry into Heaven also strips them of their abundances.  Finally, it reminds them that the Lord will judge them on the corporal works of mercy; that is, on how they fed and clothed the alien and stranger who is Jesus in disguise.

Third, a demon also wants you to deceive yourself so that you only see the broad road. For St. Augustine, self-deception results from sinful behavior. For him, "the proper exercise of one's intellectual capacities depends in part on one's moral behavior and its resulting dispositions." In short, moral virtue is necessary for intellectual excellence. Sinful actions, on the other hand, not only destroy moral virtue but also undermine one's ability to understand oneself, God, and the nature of goodness.

St. Augustine believed that our sinful choices would form habits of making decisions based on a distorted view of goodness. Self-deception often leads to a false assurance of salvation.

James 1 also warns against the danger of self-deception. For example, verse 22 states, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

James is referring to deceiving oneself about your salvation. He is explaining what verse 21 means by receiving the word: it means not merely to hear the word but to do it. James later mentions in 2:19 that even demons, which are not saved, possess orthodox belief.

As Gregg Ten Elshof puts it, “Self-deception occurs whenever we manage our own beliefs without an eye on making progress toward the truth. It is most likely to happen when we have secure emotional attachments to a belief on some topic.

In conclusion, ancient cities were surrounded by a wall with gates, opened by day but closed at night or during a time of danger.

When authorities close the broad gates, entrance is possible only through the narrow gate (a small gate built into the large gate where only citizens can enter). The herald sounds the alarm. “Hurry!” cries Jesus to the lost sheep before the storm breaks loose. Don’t delay! The time is at hand!”

An ancient city kept a register of its citizens, and Scripture teaches us that in heaven there the Book of Life—the list of those who had title to eternal life. Revelation 20:15 declares, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The Book of Life is also mentioned in Revelation 3:5; 20:12; and Philippians 4:3.

How do you keep yourself from erasing your name from the Book of Life? After you receive Christian baptism, stay in the state of grace by repenting and confessing every mortal sin, and do what God wills for you.

“Sometimes This Way…Sometimes That” by Sam Miller

“Sometimes This Way…Sometimes That” by Sam Miller

I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. (Isaiah 66:18-19)

Praise the LORD all you nations;
glorify him, all you peoples!
Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
For steadfast is his kindness toward us,
and the fidelity of the LORD endures forever.
(Psalms 117:1,2)

“…for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges." Endure your trials as "discipline"; God treats you as sons. For what "son" is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. So, strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed. (Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13)

"Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, 'Lord, open the door for us.' He will say to you in reply, 'I do not know where you are from. And you will say, 'We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.' Then he will say to you, 'I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!' (Luke 13:24-27)

Here I Am, Lord by John Michael Talbot
I the lord of sea and sky
I have heard my people cry
All who dwell in dark and sin
My hand will save
I have made the stars of night
I will make their darkness bright
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?
Here I am Lord
Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night
I will go, Lord,
If you lead me
I will hold Your people in my heart

Our Old Testament readings at Mass this week, Monday through Thursday, have been from the book of Judges. The children of Israel had abandoned their true God, their Deliverer, to serve the Baals and foreign gods from the nations around them. Because of their waywardness, the Lord allowed these children to “fall into the power of their enemies round about whom they were no longer able to withstand…Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, He would be with the judge and save them from the power of their enemies as long as the judge lived.”

The Lord was with His judges and by them, the children of Israel were protected. We’ve learned of the Lord being with Gideon and telling him to cut down Midian to the last man. Then there was Jephthah into whose power the Lord delivered the Ammonites when he fought against them.

Why then, when the judges died, did the children turn away from God and go farther astray than before? The judges were showing the way to the “narrow gate” as they lived and when they died the TCC (Travelers Comfort Committee) began lobbying to add bonds to referendums of support for additional lanes, to broaden the pathway to the “narrow gate”. This plan, of course, I imagine, did nothing to facilitate entering through the “narrow gate”, but rather would have been the cause for confusion, frustration and possibly some cart rage at having to merge back into a single lane for entry into the gate!!

So, sometimes I’m ALL about being the Lord’s messenger. His Good News overflows from my heart and I can’t keep from singing!! I’m focused on the “narrow gate”, even to staying in my lane behind the Sunday drivers/tourists! Here I am, Lord! Need me, lead me, send me!!!

The flip side is the times when the Lord is correcting me for being too weak, too easily distracted, too rebelliously human. Sometimes, the discipline does chafe and I pull against the pain without being able to see the joy that I will have as a result of surrendering to it, of being repentant. I want to stay in the left-hand lane, on the broad highway headed for destruction. I’m all about getting down the road when I’m behind the wheel and anyone who doesn’t have the same aim should please remove themselves from my chosen path!

I don’t want to be sent away as an “evildoer”, unrecognized and unknown as one of the Master’s followers!! Sometimes, the paths for my feet do need straightening! Please help me, Lord to find the joy of Your discipline, to be trained by it and so enjoy the peaceful fruit of righteousness it brings. Here I am, Lord!

Need me, lead me, send me!!!

“Enter Through Me” by Jim Bayne

“Enter Through Me” by Jim Bayne

Thus, says the LORD:  I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. (Is 66:18)

Brothers and sisters, You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children: "My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges." Endure your trials as "discipline" (Heb 12:5-6)

Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" He answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. (Lk 13:23-24)

‘I am the door; the one who enters through me will be saved’ (John 10:9)

Collect: O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

From Richard Rohr’s daily meditation on Friday, August 16: In 1984 Father Thomas Keating invited a small group of contemplatives from eight different religious traditions—Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Islamic, Native American, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic—to gather at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado, to engage in what he called “a big experiment.”

The experiment was to see what would happen when meditators from different traditions meditated together and shared the spiritual insights they gleaned from their meditation. Within a few days it became clear to the attendees that while their religious vocabularies were different, their experiences were not. As one attendee put it:

I enter into meditation as a slice of American cheese: thick and solid; my egoic self intact and feeling apart from both God and creation. I return from meditation as a slice of Swiss cheese: thin and filled with holes. I know myself and all others to be a part of God. Indeed, there is no other at all, only the One, the Whole, the Ultimate Reality I am calling God. And with this sense of wholeness comes a sense of holiness, a sense of love from and for all beings.

The first reading today begins with the words I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.  I think Fr. Keating’s “big experiment” gives us a good idea of what can happen when people of every language gather to spend time in prayer focused on the Ultimate Reality or God.

Back in 2008, Diane and I decided to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary by attending one of Thomas Keating’s Intensive 10-day Centering Prayer retreats.  It took us some years of experimenting with Centering Prayer before we decided we were ready to take the plunge. 

We were a group of about twenty men and women from all over the country. Our leaders told us that even though we would have few opportunities to talk, by the end of the ten days we would experience a close bond with each other.  And so, it was for us just as it had been for those who participated in the “Big Experiment.”  God truly was our focus and, in the silence, we did indeed feel a special bond with each other.  All of our differences faded into oblivion.

Needless to say, spending three hours per day in Centering Prayer and staying focused requires discipline.  By the third hour of sitting each day, one also may feel disciplined.  Some of you may recall having your parents send you off for a “time out.”

In the Gospel, Jesus tells his followers to enter by the narrow gate.  He, of course, is the gate; and the gateway is to live like he did, focused on loving God and loving neighbor. Our natural tendency is to focus on our needs and wants.

The main benefit of a practice like Centering Prayer is that it puts the focus on God instead of us and our wants and needs.  In Centering Prayer, it is our intention that matters.  The intent is not on accomplishing something, the intent is on simply being available to the presence of God.  The fruit of this form of prayer comes in a changed life after the prayer time is complete.  Over time they shall come and see my glory.

Fr. Keating suggests that we spend 20 minutes twice per day in Centering Prayer.  Most of us can’t just jump in and do that right off.  Start small - say 10 minutes twice per day or even just once per day.  Some people can’t do two 20-minute sits so they do one 40-minute sit. The important thing is to make time to stop and be still whenever and wherever you can.  Time spent with God in silence is indeed “The Big Experiment” in our noisy world. But as you make time for God and grow more aware of His presence in your life, the narrow gate won’t seem quite so narrow.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A True Child of Israel

A True Child of Israel

The angel spoke to me, saying, "Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb." He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal. Revelation 21:9B-11

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him." Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" 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 1:47-49

From “The Things We Leave Behind” by Michael Card

Every heart needs to be set free,
from possessions that hold it so tight
'Cause freedom's not found in the things that we own,
It's the power to do what is right
Jesus, our only possession,
giving becomes our delight
We can't imagine the freedom we find
from the things we leave behind

We show a love for the world in our lives by worshipping goods we possess
Jesus has laid all our treasures aside "love God above all the rest"

'Cause when we say 'no' to the things of the world
we open our hearts to the love of the Lord and
it's hard to imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.

Some people are “clingers.”  They prefer to hang onto traditions. Familiar things (people, places, rituals, etc.) make them feel comfortable. Change unsettles them and takes them out of their comfort zone. 

Other types of people are more impatient and want the status quo to change.  They tap their foot in anticipation of a future hoped for.  Jesus unites the old and new, the past and the future.

In today’s first reading, we encounter “the bride,” who is the proverbial wife of the Lamb of God.  In essence, that is a description of the church Jesus left behind to grow.  This is not the temple of Jesus’ youth in Nazareth; this is the New Jerusalem predicted by the Nazareth Manifesto (Luke 4:18-19). 

The “new” meets the “old.”  Jesus is the connecting tissue between heaven in the skies and earth rooted on the ground. Jesus is the New Testament’s answer to Jacob’s ladder: “…a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens; and God’s angels were going up and down on it.” (Genesis 28:12)

In the readings from Friday, (August 23), we encountered Pharisees clinging to the old laws.  Enforcing the old laws gave them job security.  It also gave them a prominent position in village society.  Into that comfort zone stepped Jesus – simplifying the laws and afflicting the comfortable.

Today, Nathaniel is quietly resting under a peaceful fig tree.  Into his world steps Jesus of Nazareth and the world rocks.  Unlike the Pharisees, Nathaniel welcomes the Messiah and the change that will happen when Jesus enters his life. By accepting Jesus as Lord, Nathaniel encounters the living reality of Jacob’s dream: “…you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Where are you resting?  How will you react when Jesus enters the scene? What will you leave behind?