Monday, August 20, 2018

but the greatest of these...

Today's reading from the One Year Bible comes from 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13. And if I didn't know better, I would think that this chapter was written by St John. It's about love, for one thing, which John writes about throughout his gospel and all through his epistles. And it's also rather poetic, which we don't see alot of in Paul's letters, but find often in John. Maybe he was inspired by John for this chapter.

In any case, he tells us something very important, and something we need to heed today in the midst of all of our crises. Yes, there are lots of things to alarm us in the world around us. Sex abuse scandals in Hollywood, the Catholic church, and pretty much everywhere else you look. They recently discovered a compound in New Mexico where ISIS was teaching children how to do mass shootings. (Crazy that that didn't make the news.) And yes, there should be moral outrage about these things, no doubt.

But we also have to remember the number one commandment. We have to remember what Paul tells us in tonight's readings. No matter how outraged we might become, if we don't exhibit love, we become nothing. No matter how horrible some action is that some person in authority has committed, we have to remember love. Does love mean letting them off the hook? Giving them a get out of jail free card? No, of course not. Sometimes love means locking them away for life, to keep them from hurting other people and from destroying themselves. But let's not give in to the desire to cry out for their blood. To want them to be tortured and killed. Let's pray for their souls, and hope and pray that they find God and turn from their lives of foolishness and pain.

That's what love demands. And John DOES tell us that God is love. God demands that we love our enemies, pray for them, and care for them. It's not easy, when you think of the horrible things they've done.

It gets a little easier, though, when we think of the horrible things WE'VE done.

God, please fill us so full of Yourself that when we face the evil of this world, we can overcome it with love.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

your gift

Today we read in the One Year Bible from 1 Corinthians 12:1-26. Paul tells us that we are all given gifts, and we should discover what they are and use them for the kingdom of God.

You might be wondering what your gifts are. Well, the first thing to do in order to find out is to ask Him to show you what they are. Then think about what you're good at, and what people tell you that you should do. Try different things. Think about what makes you happy when you do it. Where your deepest passion meets the world's greatest need: that's your calling. That's your gift.

It might not be anything big. My hero St Therese of Liseux, was not famous or well known. She became a cloistered nun when she was just a child, so she didn't even meet very many people in her lifetime. When she died, her time in the convent had been so unremarkable that her fellow nuns were stumped about what to say at her funeral.

But she loved. In her little way, she found that her little gift was to love people. Even - and ESPECIALLY - those who were hard to love. She offered up her many sufferings to Jesus, to be united with His. And she wrote an autobiography (because she was ordered to by her superior) which was so full of wisdom regarding this "little way" that she has since become a doctor of the church, and her little book has been translated into dozens of languages and sold millions of copies around the world, helping countless people come to know God better.

So whatever your gift is, even if it's very small.... He can use it in a big way. Just offer it to Him, and then watch what He does.

God, thank You for giving all of us gifts. Please help us discover them, and use them for Your glory.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

when God disciplines us

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. In this selection, Paul says that God will sometimes discipline us. And this is true.

Why does He discipline us? Because He's angry? Vengeful? To punish us for what we've done and make us feel bad?

No, these are not the reasons. He punishes us for a purpose: to make us better. To bring us closer to Him. As the pic above says, to turn ability into achievement. He wants to take the raw material that He's given us - our gifts and abilities - and turn them into things that we do. For ourselves, for the world, and for Him.

In order to do that, He has to discipline us. Like Paul says, it's the same way that an athlete disciplines his body - so that when he runs a race, he can win. That's why God disciplines us. So we can win.

So the next time you feel like God is disciplining you, take heart. It's for your good. It's to help you run better. It's to help you win.

God, thanks for disciplining us, and for the reason why.

Friday, August 17, 2018

the relationship of holiness and love

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from Nehemiah 12:27-13:31. In this passage, the children of Israel are told to keep themselves holy by not marrying the women of the land where they're going. And that brings up the idea of holiness. To be holy means to be set apart for God. Not to be "of this world." And being holy is important, since God specifically tells us "be holy, because I am holy."

But it's easy to get too caught up in our own holiness, isn't it? Don't you know people who are so worried about being holy that they shun other people, look down their noses at those who are less holy, and become so worked up about maintaining their own holiness that they become impossible to live with? We have to remember the purpose of being holy: to be with Him.

The point of it all isn't to become the holiest people who ever lived. The point is to be with God, and to love Him and other people. If we set ourselves apart from the ways of the world (and we know what those ways look like: dog eat dog, climb your way to the top, get all you can and woe to those who get in your way) and seek to be more like Him, we learn to love. We learn that love is what brings us to TRUE holiness. And that kind of holiness is very attractive. It makes others want to be around you, and to be more like you. In our NT passage today, Paul says, "Imitate me, and I will imitate Jesus." Why would people want to imitate Paul? Because he demonstrated love.

And love is what holiness is all about.

God, thank You for calling us to holiness... so that we can learn to love.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

those with weak faith

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from 1 Corinthians 10:14-33. In this passage, Paul tells us how to treat people with weak faith. He says to limit the things that you do because you don't want to hurt their faith, or cause them to stumble. Even though eating certain foods may be completely permissible, if it hurts the faith of your brother, then refrain from eating it around him.

The Catholic church is going through a crisis these days. The sexual abuse scandal, and apparent "cover-up", has shaken the faith of many. I've read the comments of many people online who are considering leaving the church because of the scandal. That's PRECISELY what scandal does - and why scandal is so evil. It takes the sins of a few, and puts them in the face of people who then struggle to believe in light of those sins. It causes people to stumble in their faith, and for some, to leave the church to their own great detriment.

Many today are calling for the blood of the priests who were guilty of sexual abuse, and for the blood of those who didn't report them. In no way does anyone want to minimize the horrific nature of these sins. But we need to remember that we, too, are guilty of horrific sins. The priests who committed these acts are in great need of mercy and forgiveness, JUST LIKE you and I are. It is easy to forget the magnitude of our own sins when we see someone else's sins publicly displayed. Should there be consequences for their sins? Of course, just like there are consequences for your sins and mine. But we need to forgive them and pray for them, just as we accept forgiveness and accept the prayers of the saints on our behalf.

The reading in mass today was very appropriate for our current situation. It's about the man who owed someone a huge debt, and is called in and told he must pay. He begs his lender to give him more time, and in a huge demonstration of mercy, the lender not only gives him more time, he actually forgives the debt entirely. Then the man goes out, forgiven, and finds someone who owes HIM money. He strangles the man, and refuses to give him more time to pay his debt. The person who lent the first man money finds out about this, and turns him over to be tortured.

If that isn't clear enough, the Bible then goes on to say that we sinners will be forgiven EXACTLY in the same way that we forgive others. Let's not forget that admonition when it comes to our present crisis. Should these priests be taken care of responsibly, and removed from positions in which they could repeat their offenses? Of course. But crying out for their blood is not in the spirit of Jesus, who told us that we must forgive to be forgiven. Who said, "Neither do I condemn you," to the woman caught in adultery.

God, please help us remember to forgive, as we are forgiven. And help those with weak faith make it through this crisis.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

a way of escape

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from 1 Corinthians 9:19-10:13. And in this selection, Paul tells us that God always provides a way of escape when we're tempted.

That's good to know. So as along as we WANT to escape our temptation, we will find a way to do so. Of course, many of us pray along with St Augustine, and say "Lord, make me chaste. But not yet." We don't always WANT to escape temptation.

But we can ask Him to help us want to. That's the cool thing about prayer. If you WANT to want to escape, you can ask Him to help you want to escape. And then when you want to, He'll provide the way to do it.

So maybe right now, while you're (probably) not facing temptation, it might be a good time to ask Him to help you WANT to avoid temptation. That way when the time comes, you'll be ready.

God, thank You for helping us escape temptation - and to want to.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

bring along a believing wife

Today in the One Year Bible, we read from 1 Corinthians 9:1-18. And in this passage, there is a verse I don't remember reading before.

It's odd, because I've read through the Bible multiple times, using the One Year Bible over the course of several decades. But every time I do, I find verses that I don't remember reading before. I think that sometimes when we read the Bible, we aren't ready for what it says yet, and our brains kind of read along until they find something that clicks. Today I clicked with the verse that said that Peter and the other apostles, even Jesus's relatives, took along "believing wives". In other words, they went on their mission trips and their wives went with them. Which makes Paul's admonition to be "like him" and refrain from marriage an interesting one.

But we see an answer to the question asked in my previous blog. Should we get married or should we remain single? Either way, God can use you. You might be called to get married and stay home and raise kids, like Louis and Zelie Martin, who raised several daughters who were nuns, including the amazing St. Therese of Liseux. Or you might be called to get married and then go do mission work. Or, perhaps God calls you to be single, and be salt and light in the workplace. Whatever He's calling you to do, seek His will and do it. That's where you'll find the deepest joy.

God, thank You for calling all of us. Help us to do Your will.