Monday, November 5, 2007
There came to him some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man's brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother. Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; and the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife." And Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him."
Aren't the Sadducees so silly?! They seem to have totally missed the point in this reading. The Resurrection doesn't follow the rules. It is a miraculous mystery that we will never fully understand. Yet, admirably, in their attempt to understand it, they inquire about the "law" of Heaven. How can there be eternal life if it is not logical?, they ask. It takes enormous faith to be at peace with a lack of understanding, and they do not yet "get it."
How often do we do the same? Do I get so caught up in the rules of Catholicism or what I am supposed to do every day that I forget about faith? Do I want Jesus to lay it all out for me and give me a specific formula to follow to get to Heaven? Do I rely so much on the rigors (or lament over the lack of consistency) of my prayer life that I forget to truly love God with my whole heart, mind, and soul?
I find myself doing this often. I would like to put my faith on my calendar, schedule it into my routine, and adhere to certain obscure guidelines. If I say these prayers or do these works, I will attain holiness. My problem is that I focus so much on the fact that I can never live up to my own expectations that I forget to simply adore Christ in the process.
Do you think He cares that we spend one minute or one hour in prayer every day? Yes! But, He cares more that we turn our hearts to Him regularly in complete abandon. He does not give us a law to follow. In fact, Jesus abolished the Law of the Old Testament to recenter our hearts on Him. People, like the Sadducees, had become so caught up in the details of the Old Law that they forgot the intent of it.
Heaven is of a different sort than our present life. It is something we cannot understand. We will not be married in Heaven, although, hopefully, our spouse will be there with us. Instead, we will be focused completely on the Lord, basking in His love and loving Him eternally. There will be no need for marriage, as Jesus tries to assure these men.
How do I feel about the mysteries of our faith that we can never understand? Do they frustrate me or do I find peace in my faith? Do I fully believe in the Resurrection, that my body and soul will be united eternally? Can I trust God with the details, or do I get caught up in the rules? Am I constantly seeking for a set of rules to guide my spiritual life? Do I do the best I can to simply increase my faith today, trusting God to work out the details?
Sunday, November 4, 2007
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchae'us; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchae'us, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zacchae'us stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."
How amazing was Zacchaeus' faith! He longed so much to see Jesus without even knowing who He truly was! A sinner was forgiven, because he went the extra mile to find the Lord. Do I put myself out there in potentially embarrassing situations to declare my faith? Do I take risks to find the Lord in new places? Do I even bother to look for Him when I know it will be difficult to see him (in another person, in a struggle, etc...)? Do I know that Christ can save me regardless of my sins?
Zacchaeus had an immediate conversion. By having the Lord in his home for one meal, he changed his life and made reparation for all of his sins. How frequently do I have a conversion of heart? Am I in need of one today? If I had Jesus in my home tonight, what would I cook? (just kidding!) What would I do differently tomorrow? How would my life HAVE to change?
"The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." Who do I know who is lost? Have I surrendered them to God? Do I pray continually for their conversion and put their faith journey in God's hands? It only takes one moment for a life to change; how fervently do I pray for those moments in the lives of those I love?
Luke 18: 9-14
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted."
How often do we, as women, compare ourselves to others? We strive for an unseen goal, to be just like her, even though we don't really know what that entails. While appearances may heighten our desires to imitate another person, we must remember that God calls each of us to be...well...us. We are not called to be someone else.
Therefore, there are two lessons, I think to learn from this parable.
First, don't judge a book by its cover. We've always heard this. We know this cliche, but how do we apply it? I know I usually think it to mean: Don't assume someone isn't "all that" just by their atrocious appearances. But, can we also take it the other way? Just because someone looks like they have it all, that doesn't mean they do. And, in my opinion, this reality is far more common in our society than the former.
The Pharisee looked holy, but he really wasn't. How many women hide behind facades of holiness? I am not saying we should assume that all those women we admire for their sanctity aren't "all that." But, I am saying we should be more careful when longing to imitate another woman. It is my nature to be drawn to women whom I want to emulate, but I have to humble myself to instead ask for their bits of wisdom and guidance instead of just settling for copying their outward appearances.
That said, I hide behind my own facade. It drives me nuts how many people compliment me on my faith, when they have no idea of some of the inner turmoil I experience, the doubt, the despair. You don't really know, and therefore, you should be cautious in your assessment of others.
The other lesson to learn, simply put, is to be humble. Never trust that you are holy enough. Always seek more. I truly believe that if we could convert our material desires into a desire for holiness, we could redeem our fallen world. If women longed more for union with God than with academic or career achievements, wouldn't we live in a different culture?
How often do I put on a pedestal other women about whom I know little? Do I focus on where God is calling me to grow in holiness, or do I simply try to imitate others' exterior actions? Do I beat my breast and beg God's mercy on me daily? Do I embrace my crosses and my unique circumstances as paths toward greater sanctity?
Do I assume too much about others' personal faith journeys merely by their outward appearances? How do I cultivate my character, so that others may see there is more to me than what meets the eye? Am I open with others about my faith triumphs and struggles? Am I humble? Do I give God the glory for everything in my life? Or do I seek control and try to "manage" God?