Friday, June 25, 2021

I am heeding you By Beth DeCristofaro

 I am heeding you By Beth DeCristofaro


Abraham prostrated himself and laughed as he said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Or can Sarah give birth at ninety?” Then Abraham said to God, “Let but Ishmael live on by your favor!” God replied: “Nevertheless, your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you shall call him Isaac. I will maintain my covenant with him as an everlasting pact, to be his God and the God of his descendants after him. As for Ishmael, I am heeding you: I hereby bless him. I will make him fertile and will multiply him exceedingly. (Genesis 17:17-20)


And then a leper approached, did (Jesus) homage, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will do it. Be made clean.” (Matthew 8:2-3)



Jesus, my friend, prepare my heart to receive your surprising gifts.  And soften my heart to share them among all your friends.



The readings today amplify God’s generous work in the world.  Both Abraham and the leper are given new lives and new community, surprise gifts. I am touched by their approach to the divine – gentle skepticism? Push back? Yet hope and yearning. Divinity assures each that they are heard.


In other Scripture passages, people respond with what appears to be skepticism, and God’s answer is not acceptance and generosity.  King Ahaz famously answers God’s offer to “ask for a sign” by saying I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test (Isaiah 7:12). The Pharisees and Sadducees devise questions to trap Jesus, who rightly points out their duplicity.  God sees into our hearts and responds to Truth, not to words.  And God wants our hearts to be one with Jesus, one with the Word.


In his Angelus address June 20, Pope Francis said, “Faith begins from believing that we are not enough for ourselves, from feeling in need of God. When we overcome the temptation to close ourselves off, when we overcome the false religiosity that does not want to disturb God, when we cry out to him, he can work wonders in us. It is the gentle and extraordinary power of prayer, which works miracles.[i]



In believing that we are not enough for ourselves but that we first and foremost need God, our hearts become open to God’s surprising gifts.  And also, our hearts become primed to expect surprising gifts for all those God loves.  We no longer need to categorize or judge ourselves or others.


What does my heart hold as Jesus approaches me?  Do I cling to narrow definitions of myself and others?  How can I better invite and accept Jesus’ cleansing?  God is heeding me.


[i] “Journey with the Pope”, Missio, June 24, 2021

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

“The Narrow Gate” by Colleen O’Sullivan

 The Narrow Gate” by Colleen O’Sullivan


Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time


The land could not support (Abram and Lot) if they stayed together; their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. So, Abram said to Lot: “Please separate from me. Lot looked about him and saw how well watered the whole Jordan Plain was as far as Zoar like the Lord’s own garden or Egypt. This was before the Lord had destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, therefore, chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain and set out eastward. Abram stayed in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled among the cities of the Plain, pitching his tents near Sodom. Now the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked in the sins they committed against the Lord. (Genesis 13:6, 9b, 10-11a, 12-13)


Jesus said to his disciples: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets... Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:12-14)


Lord, help me look at myself honestly, seek forgiveness where it is needed, and ask for your help in living a more Christ-like life in what I think, say, and do. 


Our Gospel reading today is still part of the Sermon on the Mount, which, in its entirety, is more likely a collection of Jesus’ sayings over time on the qualities found in a true disciple than a one-time actual sermon. In today’s verses, Jesus talks about the Golden Rule, treating others as we would like to be treated, as well as the narrow gate that leads to eternal life.

Getting through this narrow gate requires being intentionally Christ-like in our actions and direction in life. That, in turn, means we need to be mindful of all we say and do. However, many of us don’t examine ourselves that closely – our thoughts, our intentions, or our actual actions. Consequently, we float obliviously through the wide gate much of the time on any given day. 

I thought about those wide and narrow gates as I read the story of Abram and Lot. Abram is a generous uncle to his nephew Lot. Both of them have large households, and extensive livestock holdings, more than one parcel of land could support. They need two separate holdings. They stand together, surveying the land as far as the eye can see. Abram gives Lot the first choice as to where he, his family, and flocks will go. Lot seems rather self-centered. He looks to the horizon, and he selects the more beautiful-looking portion of the land (at least at a distance). In his eagerness to get the better piece of land, he forgets that this choice will put him just down the road from Sodom and Gomorrah, two places infamous for their sinful ways.

According to Genesis, life goes on for years, and then, one day, God can’t put up with the iniquity pervasive in Sodom or Gomorrah any longer. God destroys the cities but not before having two angels visit Lot to warn him, so he and his family can escape. Eventually, all that gorgeous, fertile pasture land dries up, and a long time later, the Dead Sea appears. Lot ends up being spared, but his dreams go up in smoke. All that is left are the ashes. 


When I was young, I found the image of the narrow gate frightening. What would a person have to do to slip through it?

God doesn’t usually seem to punish us as much as allows us to reap the consequences of our sinful decisions and actions. Lot didn’t seem that caring about his uncle. He didn’t seem appreciative of the hugely generous gesture on his uncle’s part, allowing him first say. All Lot could see was a bountiful expanse of pastureland in the distance, which he wanted for himself. He let his greed blind him to the downside, the sin, and temptation present in the town nearest his intended home. 

Maybe Lot had never heard the saying: Don’t go looking for trouble. Trouble will find you soon enough. He didn’t use caution in terms of the people in whose neighborhood he chose to live. He lost his wife while they were fleeing, his fertile land, and presumably his livestock.

When I was much younger, I was much too busy with work and outside activities. I remember thinking one day that I had my schedule totally in hand. I got up every morning and went through my day as though I were the God in control of things. God expects us to take care of ourselves, and I went off track. I was brought up short when I landed in the hospital for a couple of weeks and then had to spend a long time recovering after that. I was reminded that even Jesus went off to quiet places and rested from time to time. I tell myself today that the first step toward the narrow gate is acknowledging first thing every morning that God is in control. 

When you think about the narrow gate, is there anything you would like to improve upon or change in your life? When you are praying today, ask Jesus to help you. Jesus desires to welcome each of us on the other side of that narrow opening.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

“Be Still” by Rev. Paul Berghout

“Be Still” by Rev. Paul Berghout

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time 


The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling bands? (Job 38:1, 8-9) 

(Jesus) woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” (Mark 4:39-40)


The boat was 26.5 feet long, 7.5 wide and 4.5 feet high, the fore and aft sections were decked.

Jesus had gone to the back of the boat to catch a nap, and then a storm hits. 

“Why doesn’t he intervene?” “Do you not care that we are perishing?”

Glen Scrivener says that a few years ago he prayed to God that he would get to know God better. Within a week of that prayer, Glenn’s employers transferred him from England to Australia, his longtime girlfriend broke up with him, and parents announced they were divorcing. In the midst of all these painful events, Glen had a revelation: God was using these storms to answer Glenn’s prayer. He realized that Jesus often leads to challenging pathways, into a storm because we can’t understand the power and the peace of God UNLESS we encounter it a storm. The best way to know is to be caught in a storm with Him.[i]

That is a lesson the disciples had to learn, and they could not learn it any other way. --“Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” 

All of us will encounter storms.

The question is whether we have faith for the storms. 

A few years ago, a woman named Chastity Patterson lost her father. After his death, Chastity continued to send daily text messages to his old phone number. She just wanted to feel like he was still there, still sharing the ups and downs of her daily life. It was her way of dealing with a storm of grief. For four years, she sent daily text updates to her father’s old phone number. And then one day, she got a reply. [ii]

Just before the fourth anniversary of Chastity's father’s death, she received this text from his old number: “My name is Brad and I lost my daughter in a car wreck August 2014 and your messages have kept me alive. When you text me, I know it’s a message from God.” 

Chastity posted their text exchange on social media to show her friends and family “that there is a God it might take 4 years, but he shows up right on time!”

In the Bible two other people were also asleep in a boat during a storm: Jonah and a drunk person in Proverbs 23:34. But only Jesus got up and said “Be Still” (it was actually more like Shut Up) because linguistically there is a linkage between exorcism and rebuking the sea.

The waves are akin to persecution whose source is Satan’s implacable hostility to Jesus’ mission. 

Jesus is overcoming the demonic element it was his purpose to destroy, because that element is at enmity with God, and therefore with God's creature, man.

"The breakers of death engulfed me." or “The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.” (2 Samuel 22:5) 

“He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemies." (2 Sam 22:17-18).

One writer suggests that “maybe he was inviting the disciples to reflect on what it means to be alive on the other side of a situation they thought would kill them. For us, that situation might be a divorce, an illness, the death of a parent or even a child, the loss of a job, depression, or middle school. It can feel as if it’s going to kill us. 

Maybe, if we survive the situation, we are being encouraged to ask questions. Where was my faith? Where was God? What did I fear?”[iii]

There are several Old Testament verses in which sleeping peacefully is a sign of trust in God’s provident care (Psalms 3:5, 4:8, Proverbs 3:24). 

Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?

Faulty thinking, that God does care instead of believing in God’s Provident care. 


Be still, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. The Lord is master even of those things.

St. Therese says that Jesus was sleeping as usual in her little boat, saying, “Ah, I see very well how rarely souls allow Him to sleep peacefully within them.”

Divorce is no real solution for many stormy marriage problems. Hang in there and make it through the storm. 

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain” (Anonymous).

“Greater is He that is in you” than any force trying to overwhelm you.” (1 John 4:4) 


[i] Dynamic Preaching]

[ii] Dynamic Preaching]

[iii] Ordinary #12B (Mark 4:35-41) by Nadia Bolz-Weber June 12, 2012