The foreigners who join themselves to the
ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and
becoming his servants—
all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to
them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my
house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all
(from Is 56:1, 6-7)
This past weekend,
there was a vile demonstration of hate in the Virginia town where I
spent my college days. White supremacists, neo-Nazis—some of whom I
imagine call themselves Christians—sowed violence and spewed hatred
against foreigners, people of color, and I guess anyone else that
doesn’t look or think or live the same way they do. Unfortunately,
this is not an isolated incident, and in other places around the
world, similar acts of terrorism are perpetrated against Muslims,
Christians, persons of different tribes, ethnic backgrounds,
religions, or sexual orientation, the poor, etc.
Many of the
readings this week have to do with the universality of God’s love,
mercy, and call, something that we, at times, can forget or ignore.
Why, even in today’s gospel, we see Jesus and his disciples need to
be shaken up by a foreign woman to understand that their mission and
message of salvation is for all peoples, not just “the lost sheep of
God’s house is a
house of prayer for ALL. Some say prayers in different languages.
Some have other names for God. Some have rituals that seem strange
to us. Perhaps others are true to the Spirit of Peace within without
outwardly worshipping God. All those who join themselves to the
Lord’s mission and message of love and compassion are welcome on his
How is it they live for eons in such harmony—the
billions of stars—
when most men can barely go a minute without
declaring war in their mind against someone they know.
There are wars where no one marches with a flag,
though that does not keep casualties from mounting.
Our hearts irrigate this earth. We are fields
before each other.
How can we live in harmony? First we need to know:
we are all madly in love with the same God.
(St. Thomas Aquinas, We are Fields before Each
Other, from “Love Poems from God”)
It is easy and so
tempting to throw up our hands and say there is nothing we can do.
But as Edmund Burke tells us, “The only thing necessary for the
triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” We know
violence begets violence, so continued heated arguments and attacks
in the media do nothing but fan the flames of hate that burn within
a small segment of the population.
Start with your own
heart. Recognize and be honest with yourself about biases and
prejudices that cause you to judge others without knowing them as
individuals. Consider ways to encourage dialogue in your church or
community. Volunteer with an organization that serves people you
might otherwise avoid. Listen to their stories. If you consider
yourself a good person, then do something. Don’t let evil have its
21: A young man approached
Jesus: “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?" ”If you
wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He asked him,
"Which ones?" (Mt 19:16-22)
this young man, notebook in hand, looking for specifics: “Which
commandments—give me a list so I can check them off and be
guaranteed a spot in heaven.” There are people today who depend
solely on following the rules as their ticket to eternal life,
without considering the motivation of their hearts. Jesus goes
right to this young man’s heart when he tells him to sell all that
he has and give to poor. He knows that, while the young man’s
intentions are good, he’s missed the boat on commandment #1: his
wealth is the god he serves, not the one, true God. Here’s prayer
exercise to try: Put yourself in the place of the young man. Jesus
sees your heart--your good intentions, but also those things that
get in the way of committing your life to him. Open yourself up to
hear what Jesus is calling you to surrender.
”Go with the strength you have…. I shall be with
you.” (Jgs 6:11-24)
If you are struggling with hardship,
illness, addiction, depression…go to God with the strength you have.
“How often we look upon God as our
last and feeblest response! We go to God because we have nowhere
else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us
not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.”(George
“My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the
usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give
this last one the same as you? ... Are you envious because I am
We all can identify with the workers who feel gypped
after having labored all day. Our human perception of fairness is
based on control, centered on ourselves. Some still struggle with
this when it comes to God’s love. WE control God’s love by our
actions, so if we’ve been faithful all our lives, we should at least
get better seats in heaven than those “Johnnies-come-lately” that
line up for forgiveness just in the nick of time! Jesus challenges
us to think differently. To rejoice, without jealousy or envy, over
the blessings bestowed on others—even the latecomers--and to revel
in the generosity of God’s bounteous love.
Nathanael said, “Can anything good come from
Boy, is Nathanael judgmental!
Nazareth is considered the “backwater” of the kingdom of Israel, and
he doesn’t hesitate to let his opinion of the town and its
inhabitants be known. Interestingly, Jesus acknowledges him as
having no duplicity, perhaps for that very reason. Nathanael is not
a hypocrite like many others Jesus encounters: those who say one
thing and do another; those who make nice in front of someone, only
to gossip about them later. We are wise to take a lesson from
Nathanael. It is harder for us to learn from Jesus, to work on
changing our perspective if we fail to acknowledge our prejudices to
begin with. Consider this today: What biased opinions do I hold
about others or people different from me that cause me to judge them
Aug 25: A
scholar tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law
is the greatest?"(Mt
I saw a New Yorker magazine
cartoon that depicts Moses coming down from the mountain with the
tablets. The caption has the people asking: “Are these the TOP
Ten Commandments?” The scholar is testing Jesus, and like the
young man we read about on Monday, he wants details. Jesus responds
simply: ‘Love God before all else. Love your neighbor as you want to
be loved.’ We often want the details, but you know what? They are
always available to us. All it takes is awareness. If we pay
attention to and take the time to consider the events and
opportunities life presents us, we can always ask for the Spirit’s
guidance: “Lord, how can I best show I love you? Lead me to the
right way to show love to all I encounter today.” It is as simple
and as challenging as that.
“The scribes and the Pharisees…widen their phylacteries and
lengthen their tassels.” (Mt 23:1-12)
A phylactery is a small leather box
containing Jewish scripture. Orthodox Jewish men wear them on their
foreheads as a symbol of keeping God’ word “top of mind.”
Ostensibly, the wider the phylactery, the more pious the wearer.
Jesus takes issue with those who make a show of holiness, but lack
compassion in their hearts. I am always amazed to see people who
wear crosses around their necks and preach hatred at the same time.
Let’s make sure our public displays of faith reflect the real love
of Christ we have in our hearts.