Thursday, November 26, 2015

Jerusalem Tears

Jerusalem Tears (Luke 19:41)
    The end was near.  His death lay before him.  His final pilgrimage is at its end.  Jerusalem comes into sight, and Jesus weeps for her.  This snapshot of Jesus’ humanity is heartrending, raw with emotion.  His life’s mission, his passion to save, is crushing down upon him.  He who is Eternal is out of time.  He who is All-Powerful, is helpless in the face of rejection.  All that he had done within her walls -all the miracles, the healings, the outpouring of love –was to no avail.  Jerusalem remains deaf to his call, closed to the Word he bears.
    After failing to defeat Jesus, in the desert, at the beginning of his ministry, Satan promised to return.  Surely this moment was ripe with invitation.  Could Satan resist whispering vile temptations into Jesus’ breaking heart?  Would not this be the opportune time to demand Justice be served, to call down lightning upon Jerusalem, to shake the dust from his sandals and offer his Love to a more deserving people? Why should he die for this Unfaithful Bride who spurns his Love?  Would not this be time to test the Son of Man, to convince him, that his identity is not Son of God, but of a Failed Prophet?  Surely, you have sacrificed enough, why cast your pearls to the swine?  Jesus, Man above all men, you deserve better, you have done enough!
    But the Devil’s ploy is lost to the wind.  Jesus only listens to the Voice of his Father, and that Voice is calling him to do even more, to enter Jerusalem and mount the Cross that lies waiting.  Jesus wiped the tears from his beard, stood erect, breathed in the Spirit of his Father surrounding him, and continued on, to finish what had begun long ago, when the First Man of men bit into that forbidden fruit.   Satan withdraws, still confident in his plan of Death, unaware of the Defeat looming at Calvary.
Oh praise the Cross of Christ,
The Blood, that flowed complete.
Salvation has it won,
Bowing Satan to its feet.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Zacchaeus Joy

Zacchaeus Joy (Luke 19:1-10)

    As a tax collector, Zacchaeus was loathed and despised by his fellow Israelites.  Viewed as a traitor, he was employed by the occupying Romans to extract taxes from his own people.  Tax collectors were not paid a set wage, instead, they were allowed to keep whatever they could extract above and beyond what Rome demanded.  He was a wealthy tax collector, so clearly, he was gifted at his extortion.
    Zacchaeus could not have been a man with a conscience.  His success depended on not caring about the consequence of his actions.  Whether a father would default on a debt and be sent to prison, or a widow denied her last meal, his only concern was to collect the money.  He was a Wound in Humanity.
    Successful and at the top of his game, Zacchaeus was drawn to the “Rock Star” status of this Jesus that was coming to town.  He climbed that sycamore tree because he was curious.  He wanted to see what this Jesus looked like.  He did not want to miss out on the entertainment.
    When Jesus stopped beneath him and looked up, it was not Zacchaeus who first spoke.  It was Jesus who sought him out, who was calling his name.  This was a Miraculous Moment of Mercy.  In the time it took Jesus to call Zacchaeus down from that tree, the entire world of Zacchaeus The Tax Collector was fundamentally transformed.
In this Miraculous Moment of Mercy, Jesus heals a lifetime of sin.  When the eyes of Jesus found the eyes of Zacchaeus, an Eternal Love was unleashed, an unfathomable forgiveness was communicated, a soul without a conscience was made whole.  Zacchaeus climbed down that tree filled with Joy.
With this Joy, he welcomes Jesus into his home, gives half of all he possesses to the poor, and vows to repay fourfold, all he has extorted.  His tax collector colleagues in the crowd would have been dumbfounded.  Their sense of reality would have experienced a head-on collision with Love and Mercy.
I as well, grapple with what happened in that tree.  Like Zacchaeus, Jesus found me caught up in a life of sin.  And like Zacchaeus, after encountering Jesus, I invited him into my life.  But unlike Zacchaeus, my life, my values and priorities changed slowly, and only after I had repented of my ways.  
That Zacchaeus’ life transformation was instantaneous and preceded repentance, can only be miraculous.  My life transformation has been incremental and charts along the same time-line as the letting go of things incongruent with Christ’s love.  This may appear more logical, but it is in no way, less miraculous.  Both Zacchaeus and I, did not first love God.  God first loved us.  -“For the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”
Lord, I am forever grateful that you did not give up on your dream for me.  Thank you for seeking me out, for saving me from my sins.  Thank you for your gentle patience, mercy, and unconditional love.  May the Joy of you finding me be ever new.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Lost Sheep

Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1)

    “The Tax Collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes were complaining…”  The Pharisees and scribes thought they deserved the attention of Jesus, not the sinners whom they detested.  So Jesus tells them the story of the Lost Sheep.  They thought the parable was about the Tax Collectors and sinners, but in fact, they were the ones who were lost.
    The Tax Collectors and sinners were not a holy lot, but neither were they lost, for they were drawing near to Jesus to listen to him.  They encountered the love of Jesus and were on the way to New Life.  Conversely, the Pharisees and Tax Collectors were driven away, deprived of God’s tender care.  Driven by fear of the Punishing Judge, they were exiled from love.  In detesting sinners, they embraced Sin.  Hopelessly lost, they were unable to recognize their self-righteousness.
    Blinded by condemnation, they were indignant that Jesus would welcome the company of sinners.  Their hardened hearts hid them from the Mercy of their God.  For this reason, Jesus paints for them the parable of the Good Shepherd seeking the lost sheep.  How else could his Mercy penetrate their hearts?  They must first come to believe that their Punishing Judge is in truth, a Kind and Merciful God.
    So it is, that the Good Shepherd is compelled to search for his wayward sheep, and when he finds it, he does not put a rope around its neck and drag it back to the fold.  Rather, he picks it up and carries it around his neck.  Now, sheep are not these cute and cuddly creatures we see on TV.  They are dumb.  They stink.  And they are nasty dirty, as manure and dirt are forever matted into their wool.  Yet, Jesus presents the Good Shepherd as oblivious to the filth, as he joyfully returns, carrying the sheep on his shoulders.
    St. Luke leaves us hanging as to how the Pharisees and scribes responded to Jesus’ parable.  Did a light go on?  Did they receive God’s Mercy?  Or was it too late?  Were they so hardened, that defending their pride took precedence over defending their souls?
    All the characters in this Gospel passage were in need of redemption.  But it was those, most successful in their religious appearance, that were in the darkest and most dangerous plight.  The Tax Collectors and sinners knew their lives were unholy.  They merely needed to repent and be saved.  The Pharisees and scribes either knew they were unrighteous and pretended to be holy, or they were deceived by their religiosity, and actually believed it to be so. In the end, they found themselves spurning the Mercy of God.
    Lord, where do I play in this parable?  I do relate to the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank you God that I am not like this sinner.”  I still feel disdain toward those who fail to meet my criteria for decency.  Your Blood has covered me in righteousness, yet I cling to a self-righteousness that is unbecoming of a child in your fold.  Selfishness and Pride are still familiar Voices.  The wool you have washed white in your blood is so easily soiled.  In my stupidity, I wander from your protective presence.  I tell myself half-truths so I can do things you would have me not do.  And I am sad to admit Lord,  there are parts of my heart, from which mercy does not yet flow, where doors are yet tight closed to your Light.
    Father, I am in desperate need of your Good Shepherd.  Fill me anew today with the in pouring of your Holy Spirit promised.  Holy Spirit, do with me what I cannot do.  Purify my mind, heart and soul.  Open my heart to the Truth of your way.  Jesus, may your Death reign in me, that I may live for you, that I may never wander from your Love.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Come To Me My Bride

Come To Me My Bride (John 6:37)

    “All the Father has given me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I shall not turn him away;”  We are the Children of God, as such, we belong to him.  Because we are so cherished, God our Father, gives us to his Son –as a father gives away the Bride, so we are given to Jesus.  We have been created to encounter the Heart of Hearts, the Source of All Love.  We have been infused with an Incomprehensible Grace –an insatiable deprivation, to hunger and thirst for fulfillment, for Truth, for the consummation of Eucharistic Union, to know the intimacy of our Beloved Spouse.
    “All that the Father has given will come to me…”  When the Father lifts the bridal veil, our eyes behold an Un-graspable Beauty that yet grasps us.  In this Sacred Embrace of eyes, the Spirit of our Spouse invades our Soul, a power that drives us to abandon our Old Name, and take on the identity of our Lord.  This Power impels us, to leap into the Darkness Of Faith, to trust in a Hand we cannot see, to surrender to a Love that is await to consume us.  This is the Spirit that is calling, enabling and transforming us now.  It is a Grace we cannot see until we look back onto the Darkness from which we have come.
    “…and whoever comes to me I shall not turn away;”  The moment we utter “I do!”, the Covenant is Eternal, unfazed by our unfaithfulness, forgetting of our failures, only ever wooing us deeper into the abyss of his embrace.  We are given, by our Father to Jesus, as a Gift, made attractive and pleasing with the White Garment of Faith.  Not only can he not turn us away, but he can only desire what his Father has made so Beautiful, so filled with his Spirit, so becoming in his Likeness.
    Lord Jesus, your Word is so clear in this morning’s light.  It is all about you.  I am redeemed by your Mercy, made Beautiful by your Love -by your Body and Blood.  Nourish me anew today.  Raise me up Lord.  Wash me afresh with your Holy Spirit.  Gladden my heart with the Hope of serving our Father, all the days of my life, with you at my side.