“And in this corner … !”

A Rosary Meditation: The Fourth Joyful Mystery, The Presentation.

“And they returned to Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, and the grace of God was upon him.” Luke 2:39-40.

Years ago, longer than I’d care to admit, I was a big fan of professional wrestling. I kept up with WWF, WCCW, NWA, and the AWA. I bought the magazines, read the books, and even went to some live bouts. Oh, I new it was all fake. I didn’t care about that. For me it was like some sort of  crazy soap opera. Kinda like the Three Stooges meets All My Children. And I had my favorite stars. I always rooted for the baddies, the ones everybody else hated. I figured that if they could make all the fans soooo mad, well, they were the better actors. A little like rooting for Cagney even when he played a psycho. Anyway, I had a lot of fun even though I wasn’t all that popular with the fans of the good guys.

“Hoopla” is defined as : “Excitement surrounding an event or situation, esp. when considered to be unnecessary fuss.” That’s a pretty good definition of pro wrestling. Its a good definition of Hollywood, politics, and most sports too. But have you ever noticed how low key great happenings are in the Bible? There’s no hoopla, no parades, no confetti, no microphone thrust in someones face while camera bulbs go popping all around. What happens in the Bible happens quietly, matter-of-factly, and things continue afterwards at a normal pace.

Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple. They take the Messiah, God in the flesh, into God’s own house. There are no trumpets blasting, no screaming crowd, no announcer, no color commentary. Just a quiet, simple presentation of the Lord. That’s all. And then? They went back home, just like any other normal family would have.

Do you know anyone who’s “over the top”? A real attention getter? One of those people who obviously take great pains to be the center of attention? When they walk into a room you can almost hear the guy in the center of the ring calling out their name and rattling off their stats. And they get attention. But its pretty shallow. Not that many people really fall for it. They know its fake.

Every day we present the Messiah, God in the flesh, to the world around us. Its up to us how we go about this. We can engage in a lot of hoopla and empress ourselves while getting on everybody’s nerves or we can simply go about our business in a normal fashion, trying our best to be the good Catholic we know God wants us to be and will help us be. Because no one believes the hoopla, no one really believes that pro wrestling is for real (well, almost no one). And hoopla has no lasting effect. Think back and recall the people who’ve had the greatest impact in your life. We’re they the ones parading around the ring, holding the World Championship belt over their head, or were they the ninth grade math teacher who obviously practiced what they preached?

” Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. 4 That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. 5 And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.” Matthew 6:1-5, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … When presenting Jesus to others we have a wonderful opportunity to practice the Golden Rule and show Him to others as we’d like others to show Him to us.

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Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 3:00 am  Comments Off on “And in this corner … !”  

The Saga of the Shrimp

You know, for a while now I’ve been down as in down in my back prior to surgery and now down as in down because of the fact I’m recuperating from the back surgery. I’ve got a few more weeks of going easy. In a way its kinda nice because I have a ready made excuse for not doing anything I don’t want to do. And then there’s the added perk of being able to guy-clean and be OK with it. (Guy-clean = You walk by something, notice dust on it, take a deep breath and blow. Wah-la! Clean.)

But not being able to do certain things leaves some time on my hands. I don’t get bored easily but after a few months of being down one way or another, well, I suspect just about anybody would get bored. And let me tell you, the internet is a dangerous place when you’re a; bored, and b; going through your second childhood. OK, so this is probably more like my third or fourth childhood but whose counting?

A few weeks ago I rediscovered the wonders of Sea-Monkeys. I remembered the package I got when I was about 6 or 7. The excitement. I was gonna have a whole family of little critters! And of course they all died almost immediately. My grandparents wouldn’t float me another loan to try again (“Its just a waste of money son.”) so the Sea-Monkeys got put on a back shelf some where in my cranial cavity. Until I got bored. So I sent off for a kit. It didn’t cost much. You can get the whole thing for around $14 off eBay. With FREE shipping! But I started to research. These were NOT going to die on me like that other bunch did! So … Sea-Monkeys need warm water. So I ordered a small aquarium heater. And they need lots of oxygen. Oxygen requires a pump, and tubing, and an air stone, and little suction cup thingies (technical term there) to hold things in place, and valves, and another kind of valve, and … So I sent off for the oxygen equipment. Sea-Monkeys also can use, not “require” but “use”, a variety of things like vitamins, toys, medicine (just in case), and so on. And on. Well, I sent away for all that too. Now the tanks you get with the kits are pretty small. So I figure, “Use something bigger, that way the water temperature won’t be able to fluctuate so much because it’ll take longer for more water to change its temp,” just in case the heater doesn’t work so hot. Literally. So I decide on a peanut butter jar. Finally, something I didn’t have to pay for. Of course more water means more water purifier. So I sent off for that.

Now I’m thinking, “Man! Come on! These are brine shrimp that originally came from a lake in Utah!” Yea, sure. But they’re gonna be LIVE brine shrimp from a lake in Utah! Oh, I bought extra food too. Anyway …

What started out as a second childhood whim has turned into a major undertaking. You’d think I’d joined “Save the Whales” or something and was singlehandedly financing it. And know what? If I can blow dust off of a cabinet and feel good about it I can do this. (I know that statement doesn’t make just a whole lotta sense, but we’re talkin’ Sea-Monkeys here so go figure.)

Guess what else? There is actually a point to all this “Tail of the Shrimp”. In the beginning God made the world and everything in it. Brine shrimp and Utah included. He looked at it and said that it was all good. Then He made Adam and told him to name all the living creatures, including brine shrimp (but not Utah, that got named latter by I don’t know who). Can you imagine the wonder and joy Adam felt while doing this? Remember, he was still in a state of perfection. He didn’t get tired, there was no boredom, it was not a tedious task. Bottom line? He enjoyed it. There is a wonder in God’s creation that I don’t think we can afford to lose touch with. When we lose touch we become separated from not only the wonder of it all but a part of ourselves as well. God made man to live in the Garden of Eden, not in smog and plastic. Anything that helps us connect with God’s creation in a wholesome way helps us connect with the Creator of it as well.

So, I’m going to do this and it will be good, just like God said in the beginning. I’ll probably end up naming them too. I’m told that you can end up with something like 100 of  ’em. Great. Now I need to buy one of those baby naming books. *sigh*

Published in: on March 30, 2014 at 8:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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Believing is Seeing

Today’s Gospel Reading (short version) is John 9:1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38.

As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.His neighbors and those who had seen him earlier as a beggar said, “Isn’t this the one who used to sit and beg?” Some said, “It is, “ but others said, “No, he just looks like him.” He said, “I am.”They brought the one who was once blind to the Pharisees. Now Jesus had made clay and opened his eyes on a sabbath. So then the Pharisees also asked him how he was able to see. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and now I can see.” So some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” But others said, “How can a sinful man do such signs?” And there was a division among them. So they said to the blind man again, “What do you have to say about him, since he opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.”

They answered and said to him, “You were born totally in sin, and are you trying to teach us?” Then they threw him out.

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

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     You know, we’re all born blind. Our blindness stems from original sin. But as hopeless as the situation may seem, being born into darkness, its not hopeless at all. And we needn’t worry about the means God uses to restore our sight, to bring us to conversion. The man we read of here was born blind. There were doctors who were knowledgeable then just as there are now. There was nothing they could do for him. None of their elixirs or potions would help. There are things modern medicine can’t deal with either. The common cold is a good example. But what did Jesus do?
     “He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” — which means Sent —. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.”
     Jesus didn’t use any of the things a doctor would have. He didn’t use anything the world would have turned to. He used mud made with spit. And he does things like this all the time. The simple element of water becomes a vehicle of grace in baptism, simple oil brings comfort, and perhaps healing if its Gods will, during the anointing of the sick. Everyday bread and wine are changed by a miracle into God Himself. And mud gives sight to one born blind.
     We usually complicate things. If it had been me trying to help the blind man see I’d have looked for all sorts of herbs and minerals and would’ve put him on a regimen of diet and some sort of exercise. I’d have complicated things. And the blind man? He’d still be blind.
     Jesus never complicates things. He always keeps things simple. And then the world, like the Pharisees here, debate and argue about how such a thing could happen. How was it that this man, blind from birth, now sees? Jesus is still using simple things to open eyes, to bring about conversion. Something as seemingly insignificant as a string of beads. And the world wonders, people around us argue and debate. How could it be that someone like this one, who lived such a life of depravity, now be so different, so … Changed? When a persons eyes are open their viewpoint changes.
     When people begin to see after having been blind they change. Because they change the world, the folks around them, casts them out. People with real sight don’t fit in with the crowd that’s stumbling around in the dark, blindly. So they get cast out. And that’s a good thing. When they threw the man who could now see out who was it that immediately came looking for him?
     When we receive our sight and the world wonders, as we experience conversion, the ongoing process of turning to and drawing nearer to God, and the world sees the difference and shoves us aside because we don’t fit in anymore don’t worry about being cast out. Because when we’re cast out He takes us in. And that’s a sight to behold.

 

The Fiftieth Day

A Rosary Meditation: The Third Glorious Mystery, The Descent of the Holy Spirit.

“When the days of Pentecost were drawing to a close, they were all gathered together in one place.” Acts 2:1.

The word Pentecost comes to us via Middle English, from Old English pentecosten, from the Late Latin pentecoste, from the Greek word pentēkostē, which literally means “fiftieth day”, from pentēkostos fiftieth, from pentēkonta fifty, from penta- + -konta (akin to Latin viginti twenty). Short version: Pentecost means fifty days.

Jesus had told his faithful few to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit and they did. Can you imagine what that must’ve been like? You’re told to wait. OK, wait for how long? A week? A month? Years? These people had not the slightest glimmer of an idea. But they waited anyway. Obedience.

From the Rule of St. Benedict, chapter 5: “The first degree of humility is obedience without delay. This is the virtue of those who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ; who, because of the holy service they have professed, and the fear of hell, and the glory of life everlasting, as soon as anything has been ordered by the Superior, receive it as a divine command and cannot suffer any delay in executing it. Of these the Lord says, “As soon as he heard, he obeyed Me” (Ps. 17[18]:45). And again to teachers He says, “He who hears you, hears Me” (Luke 10:16).” There’s some more to the chapter. You might like to Google it.

Obedience regardless. It takes a lot of faith and trust. It takes a lot of love to be willing to wait, not knowing for how long. What do you think it was like at the end of week one? Or after twenty seven days? Or on the thirty ninth? Did anyone murmur? Was there fear or discontent? Did faith waver? Did Peter want to get back to his nets and boat and just go fishing? Maybe some of this, maybe all of this, maybe none of this. Any answer we come up with regarding these people and what their thoughts or attitudes may have been probably tells us more about ourselves than it does them. But whatever may or may not have happened they waited anyway, didn’t they?

Sometimes we’re faced with a “something”, it doesn’t matter what it is so you can pick one, that requires us to wait. Its hard. A child on Christmas eve wants morning NOW so they can unwrap their gifts. It doesn’t matter how hard they want they still have to wait. And sometimes so do we. So there’s obedience and patience as well. Its not an easy combination to muster. But its going to be that way, the wait will be there no matter what, so we may as well take a shot at being obedient and patient.

If the folks back then had given up in disgust on, oh, lets say the forty ninth day, where would God’s Church be now? Where would we?

“Be you therefore also patient, and strengthen your hearts: for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:8, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Don’t give up before the wait is over. The disciples waited and experienced the miracle of Pentecost. Don’t miss your miracle.

Leading away …

A Rosary Meditation: The Third Sorrowful Mystery, The Crowning with Thorns.

“Now the soldiers led him away … ” Mark 15:16a.

I’ve wondered, in the past, what it must’ve felt like to be Jewish in Nazi Germany. “Branded” with a yellow star, packed into railroad cars, watching loved ones going you didn’t know where while you yourself were going in the opposite direction. Did the people being led away feel fear, disgust, hatred? All of these being led away by soldiers. Or how it felt to walk the Trail of Tears, going to a territory that was altogether foreign, watching as some of the people you were closest to died on the journey, no proper burials, no ceremony to mourn their passing, buried in forgotten graves. Did the brave warriors feel fear? Did they feel hatred? How did the old women and the young children feel? What did they feel while being led away by soldiers?

Jesus was led away by soldiers. They weren’t kind or understanding. They mocked him, placing the crown of thorns on his head. A fine jest. Did any one of them feel the slightest twinge of pity or guilt? Did the Nazi soldier feel anything? Was there any remorse at all? Did any of the U.S. Cavalry soldiers consider what it was they were doing to fellow human beings? Or was it just a job, the people only “things” less than human to be disposed of? Or was it a fine jest?

We’ve all heard people say things like, “No one gets out of this world alive”. That’s true. I think its just as true that no one gets out of this world without being crowned with thorns one way or another. At some point we are all led away by soldiers. The “soldiers” may take on a different guise, but the leading remains the same. And it doesn’t really matter whether you’re a Christian or not.

(And before someone takes it wrong and starts thinking I’m down on the military, I’m not. This is an allegory.)

So what does matter? If we’re Christian it matters whether or not we accept the crown of thorns we receive for love of Christ. Receiving a crown such as this outside the love of God no doubt counts, and it counts in a multitude of ways. But does it count for eternity? There’s the difference. And that difference does matter.

Pity and pray for the “soldiers” who do the leading. (Husbands leading wives astray, corporations that lead consumers “away” with less than healthy commodities, fellow high school student who … and etc.) “Just following orders, that’s all.” Not putting authority in its proper place, as in God and His commandments coming first with the will of men coming second at best, the “soldiers” that do the leading are being led by one crueler than they could ever be. When a Christian is led we’re led like lambs to the slaughter and regardless the crown we receive from men we receive a greater from Him. But the ones following orders, and it doesn’t matter who it is giving them, are the ones that receive a reward that’s dreadful.

“The four and twenty ancients fell down before him that sitteth on the throne, and adored him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, … ” Revelation 4:10, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … “No one gets out of this world alive.” That’s true. As far as it goes. But it doesn’t go far enough because if you leave this life with the Life of Christ in you then you DO get out of this world alive. And you’ve a crown waiting.

Sorry, but Dr. Dolittle loses hands down

A Rosary Meditation: The Third Joyful Mystery, The Nativity.

“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’ s crib … “, Isaiah 1:3a.

A few hundred years ago the majority of theologians believed the above scripture was a reference to the animals that were present in the stable at the birth of Jesus. I’m not sure what the reasoning was although I’m sure the second half of the verse (feel free to look it up) along with the reception Christ received from Israel had something to do with it. And I’m not sure exactly what changed in theological circles but the consensus now is that it doesn’t refer to the stable at the birth of Jesus. Well, we’re not dealing with dogma here so I suppose its safe to pick either if someone cares to pick at all. In a lot of things I tend to favor the old guys from days gone by, being one myself and all. (Old guy that is.) So I believe, honestly, that it does reference the animals in the stable. And even if it doesn’t, humor me and consider the following …

Animals are far from stupid. My cats all know what things like “Its OK” and “You did a good job” mean. People who study animals, folks like animal psychologists and such, will tell you, for example, that an average cat will learn the meaning of about 30 or so words while a dog on the other hand learns about 200. Being the cat person that I am, and with all due respect to dogs and dog lovers ’cause I think a great deal of both, I consider their understanding of 30 words (the cats) and 200 words (the puppies) a clear indication of the cats superior intellect. I mean think about it. A cat can express itself with only 30 words while it takes the dog 200 to get the same idea across. Baring the possibility that dogs are just long winded, well, I rest my case.

In the Psalms we’re told: “Let everything that has breath give praise to the LORD! Hallelujah!” Psalm 150:6, New American Bible. Its hard for me to believe God would say something like that and not mean it. So? So it means that everything that has breath has the capacity and capability to praise God. And given this verse the obligation as well.

All of nature sings praise to God. When birds chirp, when dolphins squeal, when rhinos grunt, what are they saying, really? Lots of scientists believe animals possess language of some sort. So what do they talk about? Wouldn’t it be a marvelous turn of events if scientists were able to crack, oh, lets say the language of dolphins and hear this …

“All praise and honor to our Creator Jesus Christ, the Lord God Almighty!”

Now think about the animals there with Mary and Joseph that first Christmas night. Remember the old story about the animals being given the ability to speak at Christmas time? Maybe there’s more to that than we’ve thought. However they may have done it, aloud or silently to themselves, what did they say? What would you have said? What do you say now?

“But had a check of his madness, the dumb beast used to the yoke, which speaking with man’s voice, forbade the folly of the prophet.” 2 Peter 2:16, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … You know, if you believe what you read in the kids story book, old Dr. Dolittle had a lot going for himself. Personally I think those theologians of a few centuries back had even more on the ball. But when it comes to the Nativity, the birth of Jesus, the Christ Child in the manger, its praise from the heart that really counts, isn’t it?

The Blessing

A Rosary Meditation: The Second Glorious Mystery, The Ascension.

“Now he lead them out towards Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them.” Luke 24:50.

The culmination of 33 years, Christ’s life on earth, ends in a blessing. But then that was what he was all about, wasn’t it? Blessings were his business.

Jesus was always a blessing to those around him. Healing the sick, casting out demons, preaching the truths of the kingdom, offering forgiveness when no one else would. And he was willing to be a blessing to those who hated him if only they’d soften their hearts. It wasn’t Jesus who refused them the blessing, it was them who held it at arms length. God help us all. The crowd that screamed at Pilate, “Crucify him!”, and, “We have no king but Caesar!”, even these he allowed a blessing. They shouted, “Let his blood be upon us and our children!” Without realizing it, meaning to call down a curse upon themselves, they called down a blessing instead. What greater blessing than to be covered by the Blood of Jesus?

Here, in the above scripture, he is about to ascend into Heaven. But before he leaves his faithful few he blesses them one more time and then sends them into all the world to make disciples of all nations. One way of looking at that is this: He blessed them so that they could carry the blessing to others. And then he ascended, leaving them (us) to do his work.

Jesus was a blessing to others and still is. Through his Church. We’re supposed to be like him in all things. And if we’re a blessing like he was? Someday we’ll experience our own ascension, with our own resurrection bodies. Then we’ll be with him for eternity. Which was the plan all along.

“And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be.” John 14:3, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … Looking forward to a resurrection (glorified) body? Me too. I think I’m overdue for a trade in. Yesterday my blood work all looked good. Thank you for your prayers. 🙂

Recognizing Your Political Status

A Rosary Meditation: The Second Sorrowful Mystery, The Scourging at the Pillar.

“Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. But thou sayest it; I am a king.” John 18:36-37.

That’s a very bold statement from someone in Jesus’ position, standing there a prisoner, being questioned by the one man who, supposedly, could grant him his freedom and his life. But Jesus doesn’t back down not one inch. Because he is a king and he knows it. To admit to anything else would be a lie.

As children of God, the sons and daughters of God (1 John 3:2), we are faced daily with choices like the one Jesus faces here. We can admit who and what we are or we can deny it. We can do either by our words and/or actions. We can carry ourselves like members of the Royal household or not. We can try to emulate Jesus (see Matthew 10:25 and John 14:12), recognizing our true spiritual political status, which is our best option. But its not our only option. Because if we aren’t trying our  best to follow and be like him there’s really only one other alternative and that’s to emulate the other guy, who only seems to have status. “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth; because truth is not in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.” John 8:44, Douay-Rheims. Notice that while God fathers kings and priests Satan fathers lies. Its our choice who we’re related to here. Its our choice as to our status.

We all have choices. We can be what God wants us to be, what He calls us to be, or …

Pilate had a choice here, didn’t he? He had the earthly power and authority to release Christ. And he did make an attempt. As a part of his attempt to release Jesus he had him scourged and then presented him to the people. “Behold your king!” I’ve always thought that by doing this Pilate was either trying to stir the crowd to pity Jesus or make Christ look a laughingstock. Either way, through the tears or the laughter of the crowd, Pilate probably thought he could talk the people into relenting. I’m sure there are as many “what-if” scenarios out there regarding this as there are believers who’ve ever given the matter any thought. But its what Pilate did that really counts, isn’t it? He had Jesus scourged. His intentions were good, or seem to be good. He WAS trying to release Jesus. But was having him scourged the right way to go about it?

Every day we are faced with choices. Sometimes, probably most of the time, it can be so easy to go along with the world. We might even make an excuse for worldly actions that sounds righteous. “I’ll go along with this, its no big thing. Maybe, if I do this, it’ll help people realize that Christianity and being Christian isn’t all stuffy and uptight.” Sometimes going along with the world can even be given an evangelistic flair. Bluntly, there seems to be a lot of this going around. But the faith still gets compromised, and that’s just one more way to scourge Jesus.

What we do is up to us. We can act like the kings and priests we are, which is what Jesus did, or we can follow along after the other guy like Pilate did.

“And hast made us to our God a kingdom and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:1, Douay-Rheims.

Just a thought … “By their fruits you shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Matthew 7:16. And having said that … Today I go see the oncologist for my regular blood work and checkup. I’d appreciate prayers, please, for my continued remission. Thank you. 🙂

A Mother’s Touch

A Rosary Meditation: The Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation.

“When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary … ” Luke 1:41a.

Mary going to Elizabeth, knowing she needs help during and after her pregnancy. Elizabeth, probably having seen Mary coming down the path, goes out to meet her. Its a very touching scene. Two mothers, both in need. Elizabeth in need of help because of her advanced age and the bearing of her first born. Mary in need of acceptance and understanding, of faith and trust, because she’ll soon be showing and everyone will know she’s pregnant during her engagement and prior to her marriage.

Both of these women were putting someone else first. At first glance you might think that Mary was putting Elizabeth first, helping her when she herself was going to need so much help. And that Elizabeth, having been enlightened by the Holy Spirit as to Mary’s position as mother of the Messiah, was putting Mary first because of Mary’s importance. And I think that all of this is true to an extent. Of course there’s a lot more to it all but these things are a part of the whole. But when it comes to putting someone else first there was much more to it.

They were putting one another first but more importantly they were both putting God first. And not just in certain areas of their lives, holding back others. There were no “compartments” in their living. No “This parts mine and this parts God’s”. They each gave God their all, which is one of the reasons they were both given such important positions. The mother of the forerunner of the Messiah and the mother of Messiah. I can’t think of two more important women in the history of the world. And they both put themselves after God and after others. Humility, service, love, self-sacrificing living. All for God.

These two righteous mothers set us a joyous example. Its touching. And it should be. It should be touching our hearts, yours and mine, that these two women, arguably the two most important women of all time, put God first, others (us) second, and themselves third. A mother’s touch can be a marvelous thing.

4 Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up, 5 Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil: 6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth: 7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Douay-Rheims. 

Just a thought … The above scripture passage sounds like a good description of Mary and Elizabeth, doesn’t it? It reminds me of them. How much does it remind me of me, or you of you?

The Invitation

The Gospel Reading for today (short version), the third Sunday of Lent, is John 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42.

Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.

A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” —For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.— Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink’, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

“I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”

Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

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Its a different sort of scene here, isn’t it? Jesus, a Jew, with a Samaritan woman. It goes against the cultural grain. This sort of thing just wasn’t done. It wasn’t socially acceptable. The mindset of the Jews and Samaritans, either group the one towards the other, reminds me of the old Jim Crow laws. Only in this instance there wasn’t even the pretext of “separate but equal”. And this makes what happens here all the more striking.

Do you think that what Jesus really wanted was water? Or was asking for water a way of extending an invitation to the Samaritan? Because if she had known who it was that was speaking to her she’d be asking him for water. He lets her know that immediately. So whats going on here doesn’t have anything to do with her giving Jesus water. This is his way of extending an invitation to her, letting her know, giving her the opportunity to ask him. And he doesn’t make the offer in ignorance. He knows all about her and, in the longer reading, lets her know that for him her life is an open book. Despite this he still makes his offer, his invitation. And it stands. He doesn’t retract it at any point or for any reason. He has living water to give and the chance is hers.

There are a lot of people in this world who are forced onto social “reservations” just as many Native Americans were forced on literal reservations. There are a great many people in this world who are told, one way or another, that they are “separate but equal”, with the emphasis on the word separate. Every culture has its untouchables, the outcasts, those willfully ostracized. The world is still made up of Jews and Samaritans. And there are all sorts of reasons for it. Some of these reasons can even be made to sound plausible. None of these reasons are ever good, and never will they be Godly. In heaven? Everybody drinks from only one water fountain.

Think about the people who, for whatever reason, are made to live apart. Apart from “acceptable” society. Maybe its religion, perhaps its skin color, it can be something as simple as their speaking another language. But they’re Samaritans as opposed to Jews, or vice versa. They’re different, and lacking in some respect. And because of this no one would ever think to ask them for a drink of water. Neither would they think of extending to them an invitation of any kind.

Jesus saw things, he saw the woman at the well, differently. For him there were no outcasts, none that were unclean. There were, there are, only lost sheep needing to be found. There were, there are, only people dieing of thirst who don’t even know they’re dieing. There were, there are, only people needing an invitation.

Jesus spent two days with the people of that Samaritan village. He ate with them, he drank with them, he talked with them, he went into their homes. And during all of this his only goal was to extend to each one of them an invitation. Today? He has you and me, us, to work through. This means that we’re the ones extending the invitation now. Do we exclude the Samaritans, or do we go into all the world? Jesus set the example. Its our choice whether or not we follow it. Its our choice whether or not we follow him. Its our choice whether or not we extend the invitation.

Having said all of the above I’ve made my point. And now I have one more point to make. Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ.” A good example is one to be followed. (A good reason to daily read The Lives of the Saints.) Today we are blessed. We are being given a marvelous example to follow, a good Catholic example. God has blessed us with Papa Francis, who I’ve started to think of as the Pope of the Annunciation. Because that’s what he’s doing. He’s announcing Christ to the world in a very personal way. He’s extending the invitation. Pray for the Holy Father.