Buzzkill (9.24.2016)

My two-year-old has already decided that anything that can be said in two words should be said in four (he takes after me in that regard).  For instance, instead of settling for either “soon” or “almost,” Ignatius says “almost soon”.  “Almost soon we drive the car.  Almost soon I sit on the potty.  Almost soon I get off Hosanna (his little sister)”.  Despite his bizarre redundancy, it is good that he understands some things are now and some are not yet.  Unlike Iggy’s now or almost soon, we, as Christians live under a now and almost soon mindset.  A disciple, you could say, wears spiritual bifocals, both nearsighted and farsighted; now but not yet.

To see the world this way is not a burden when we are walking in the opening line of today’s Gospel, “While they were all amazed at his every deed.”  When we are honeymooning with God it is not hard for us to say, “God is doing great things now, and has greater things in store.”

The going gets tougher though when we meet the ‘reality check Jesus’.  The Jesus, who said to the disciples, “Pay attention to what I am telling you.  The Son of Man is to be handed over to men” while the disciples were standing in amazement of all he had been doing. What a buzzkill.  With that kind of mood changing statement, are we surprised they didn’t understand him and “were afraid to ask him about this saying”?  I don’t think so.  You can almost imagine one of the other Apostles clamping a hand over Peter’s mouth as he was bout impetuously blurt out a question because they didn’t want to hear more of the ‘depressing stuff.’

However, as we pursue Christ’s called to be peacemakers, we know that an important peacebuilding tool is truth-telling.  We need to hear about injustice and our contributions to it, about division, strife, poverty, unbelief, etc.  We need the reality check Jesus to help us have peace and be peacemakers.

In what part of your life do you need to hear truth-telling?
What plugs your ears from hearing the Truth?
Where do you need to encounter ‘Reality Check Jesus’ today?


Praying with the Psalms

I read the Amos prophecy and thought of some really cool, impractical thoughts I could offer.  So, I ruled out those.  Then I read the Gospel and felt so distant from cloak patching and wineskin drinking that I wasn’t sure what to say there.  I then thought, what about this often forgotten section, the Psalm.  Remarkable isn’t it?  We read the Psalms multiple times a day in the Church.  Psalms are included in nearly every office of Liturgy of the Hours, every daily Mass, and every Sunday Mass.  This is one rich Old Testament book.  So today, let’s look to the Psalm, and I want to offer a rewording of the Psalm as a meditation.  So you don’t have to leave this page, here is the original text:

“I will hear what God proclaims; / the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people. / Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him, / glory dwelling in our land. / Kindness and truth shall meet; / justice and peace shall kiss. / Truth shall spring out of the earth, / and justice shall look down from heaven. / The LORD himself will give his benefits; / our land shall yield its increase. / Justice shall walk before him, / and salvation, along the way of his steps.”

Help me listen for your voice, Lord.  I trust that You speak and that I will know Your voice for it will lead me to peace.  For with You there is peace as I am near the fullness of life.  I find peace in You, especially when I admit that you are God and I am not.  When I walk so as to please other people I find myself lost amid the paths of wilderness.  But when I fear You, when I desire to please You above and beyond any creature, for You are Creator, I find the narrow way stretching out before me.  When I walk this way I see how little comes from me and how all that is around me is a gift.  The world is charged with Your grandeur, O’ God!  When I walk with You, difficult things to reconcile become well acquainted.  To know You, to follow You, is to walk as a disciple of Love and Truth incarnate.  It is to stand in awe as Justice and Peace kiss where the beams of the cross meet.  We call this choreographed collision of Love, Truth, Peace, and Justice, Mercy.  Misericordia, Your righteous heart (cordia) stooping low to encounter the truth of our misery (miseri) which is lifted to You by Truth nailed to a tree.  In this mercy, this meeting of Your heart with our misery, we share in Your love, compassion, and even Your divine nature.  Help us to bear fruit, Lord, so that Your vineyard may grow…

Now this prayer isn’t over yet.  I did not rewrite the last two lines of the Psalm because want to invite you to adapt them into your own words.  Use this as an opportunity to practice praying the Psalms.  Even share your rewrite if you are so inclined.

– Spencer Hargadon

The Exception that Proves the Rule

Scripture Readings

I remember speaking with some friends shortly after college.  We were feeling like we had matured a great deal because we didn’t cuss as much as we once did.  As a matter of fact, we were talking about how we would cuss just to add emphasis, to communicate that we really meant what we were saying.  We were a work in progress.

That memory came to me as I read the final words of today’s Gospel, “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’  Anything more is from the Evil One.”  I was kicking around what does it mean for “Anything more [to come] from the Evil One?”  What does that mean for the oath taker and the oath hearer?  And what does it mean for how we listen to the Lord?

“Anything more is from the Evil One,” because he is the Father of Lies.  He is the one who in the beginning called into question the integrity of God.  He sowed doubt and not the doubt that comes from ignorance or uncertainty, but the one that comes from distrust.  As sin entered the world, creatures lost the implicit trust that they should have in the Creator.  Once that first, most basic and natural relationship of trust was corrupted it led to falsehood and suspicion between us.

We’ve coped with this by salvaging moments and formulas that we call oaths where truth telling is universally expected.  But these are the exceptions that prove the rule.  We don’t expect the truth and we don’t tell the truth like we should.  As Christians and Disciples we are quick to think that we can help solve this by telling the truth more and waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.  The problem with this is that we generally still walk in suspicion that others are lying to us.  We make every effort to speak truth, but we are not quick to heal our ears so that we listen with trust.

What does this mean for our relationship with the Lord?  Likely many things but let’s focus on two.  First, we are prone to listen to the Lord with the same ears of suspicion that we listen to our peers.  This means that we are not attentive to whispers and brief answers, but are looking to be convinced.  This is not how the early Church in Acts listened in today’s first reading.  Luke described it this way, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.”  They worshipped.  They heard and trusted the Holy Spirit.  They acted without pause.  This doesn’t mean long-term discernment is succumbing to doubt, but if we need the Lord to pinky swear and cross his heart and hope to die before we believe him, that is not discernment that is distrust.

Finally, it is good for us to remember that more than God being trustworthy, He is Truth.  When we lie we usurp His prerogative and lay claim to authority over His nature.  Additionally, when we listen with ears and hearts waiting to catch a lie we are seeking the influence of the evil one.  So let us seek God at all times by listening with ears and hearts that seek reasons to trust.  Let us walk as Children of Truth rather than the Progeny of Deceit.

QotD – Power of Truth & Love – 2.14.2016

But the power of being is not man’s own power; it is the power of the Creator. And faith teaches us this about the Creator: that he is not only Truth, but also Love, and that the two are inseparable. God has as much power in the world as truth and love have. This would be a melancholy thought if all we knew of the world was what we ourselves have been able to observe and experience in the course of our lifetime. But from the perspective of the new experience that God has bestowed on us in Jesus Christ, together with himself and the world, it is a sentence full of triumphant hope. For now we can read this sentence in reverse: truth and love are identical with the power of God because he not only possesses truth and love, he is Truth and Love. Truth and love are, therefore, the real, the definitive power in the world. On this certainty rests the hope of the Church and the hope of Christians. Or better: that is why Christian existence is one of hope.

(Ratzinger, J. Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. 59–60)