QotD – To Till and Keep – 05.18.2016

We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev25:23).

(Pope Francis, On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si), 67)

Spiritual Envy

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter

I don’t like sin.  I think that is a good thing.  However, what I really don’t like is owning up to my own sinfulness.  It is a piece of cake to hate sin in another person’s life, but difficult to hate my own sins.

To help overcome this potential blindness I have been practicing putting myself in the shoes of someone in scripture.  I avoid being a bystander, or Jesus, or one of the seemingly swell people.  Instead, I try to imagine what it was like for Judas to hear Christ prophesy his betrayal.  Or what was it like to be a Pharisee.  Or in today’s first reading, what it was like for the Jews of this city as they chased out Paul and Barnabas.  This practice stops me from casting a hasty judgement on these people.  As opposed to distancing myself from them I ask the Lord to show me how I make similar mistakes in my own life.  The practice has been eye-opening.

Today, my struggle with pride and spiritual envy was laid on my heart.  This is what happened with the Jews in the town.  They likely felt pride in their place as God’s people.  They were a people chosen to reveal God’s goodness and righteousness to the world through their devout adherence to the Law.  Thus, when Paul and Barnabas attract large crowds and begin professing that God’s choice has expanded through the death and resurrection of Christ to include the Gentiles the Jews became jealous.  Acts tells us so in these words, “When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy.”  In their pride they became jealous.  In my pride I become envious.

But this is not Jesus’ way.  Instead, in the Gospel Jesus promises, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.”  It’s absurd that I can be so prideful that I am envious when someone is better than I am, while our living God is so humble that He gives His greatness away.

In giving out greatness, God lavishes us with a diverse spread of gifts and talents.  Today, go out of your way to swallow pride and cut off envy by sincerely acknowledging and praising the gifts and talents you see in another person.  Go one step further and offer this encouragement to someone who the world would see as your competitor.

My (nearly) 2 Year Old Found this Prayer

I have no recollection of writing this, but it was floating around my house.

Lord, grant me humility by deflating my pride.
Lord, grant me courage by destroying my fear.
Lord, grant me confidence by forgiving my shame.
Lord, grant me strength in my faith by removing my doubt.
Lord, grant me wisdom by enlightening my mind.
Lord, deepen my love, by removing my barriers hindering Yours.
Lord, make me gentle as the sheep that I am.
Lord, set me free, by taking control.

Confident Humility

Scripture Readings

It seems that whenever John the Baptist comes up in our readings, I write about humility.  I’m not saying that is bad, I’m just noticing a trend.  Let’s not break a good tradition when John’s brief coverage in the New Testament is a wellspring of wisdom about humility. Continue reading “Confident Humility”

Healthy Honesty = Humility

This is the end of today’s first reading from Romans 14:7-12 and I want to focus on the emboldened line:

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written:
As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.
So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.

This one line is a call to a healthy honesty that will lead to humility.

Healthy Honesty

This is healthy honesty for a few reasons.

One, I will deliver an honest account of myself, not because of coercion, but because how are you going to lie to God?  You can’t!  My honesty will be freely chosen, because I will have a clear recognition of who God is, and seeing things as they really are is the best definition of sanity I’ve ever heard.

Two, it is healthy because I will not be condemning or acquitting anyone else, but instead giving an account of myself.  It is too easy to lie to myself and make someone else my scapegoat.  But, the sick person doesn’t get any healthier for diagnosing his neighbor.  I know this sounds stupid, but emotionally and spiritually I do this ALL THE TIME!

Three, I’ll give an account of myself.  This is neither exclusively positive nor exclusively negative, simply honest.  So what does that mean?  It means I’ll be honest about the good and honest about the bad.  That is healthy!  I’m gifted at retaining knowledge, but a chronic procrastinator… that’s the honest truth.  It would be false humility to say I don’t know anything and prideful to say I’m so gifted at working without deadlines.  Those lies destroy humility, because to be humble is to see yourself as you really are, strengths and flaws.

Humility

So if honesty, before God, with and about self leads to humility, how can this line about giving an account when we die apply to the present and our pursuit of humility today?

  1. Whether in public or secret, recall this line as you choose between right and wrong / the Gospel of the Lord or the draw of the World, because you will relive this moment.  Not only will you relive, you will be the very one retelling it.  How humbling!
  2. Do not be ashamed of your gifts, nor despairing of your shortcomings.  One day you will stand before God telling him about the great stuff and the terrible stuff, why wait until then to recognize them?
  3. Frequent confession.  Why wait until you are dead to start to give that honest account of your sins?  Start now by standing before the mercy seat of God, the throne of grace.
  4. In your prayer do not forget praise so you remember who this God you can’t lie to is; do not forget thanksgiving so that you can begin to be honest with yourself that your gifts come from the Lord; and do not forget to pray for yourself because as you become more aware of your weakness you’ll see how much help you really need.!

A Hard Pill to Swallow

Christ has many difficult teachings.  He tells us that adultery can be committed in the heart (Mt. 5:28), that we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood (Jn. 6:53), and that whoever is not with him is against him (Mt. 12:30).  He calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him (Mk. 8:34) and to pray for and bless those who persecute us (Mt. 5:44).  A teaching from today’s gospel can keep company with these other challenging commands.  Jesus tells his disciples to listen to the Pharisees.

Continue reading “A Hard Pill to Swallow”

A Revolutionary Idea of God

I’ve been watching the TV show Revolution on Netflix.Revolution_Infobox  It is a turn your brain off and go for the ride kind of show.  I enjoy the concept and the plot.  I have no problem with the way it seems to Frankenstein itself off of other Post-apocalyptic works.  It starts as a kind of step-child of S.M. Stirling’s Dies the Fire and CBS’ Jericho.  Its not so distant cousins certainly include Jeremiah and I’m sure a host of other shows and books I’ve never been exposed to or can’t recall.

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SPOILERS BELOW Continue reading “A Revolutionary Idea of God”