Thursday, August 2, 2007

Sunday, August 5 ~ Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 12: 13-21

One of the multitude said to him, "Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." But he said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?" And he said to them, "Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them a parable, saying, "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully; and he thought to himself, `What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?' And he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and build larger ones; and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.' But God said to him, `Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

Personal Reflection

The sins of our culture are many, but one of the biggest and probably the easiest to penetrate even the holiest of households is materialism. Coveting our neighbors goods is a sin. Our appearance-driven society leads us into daily temptation. How do I hold up? Do I look through my Pottery Barn catalog with an eye to serve God? Do I watch HDTV to be a good steward of my daily bread? Or, are these instances of temptation for me?

Much has been written throughout Church history on how to simplify our lives. Jesus reminds us "the abundance of [our] possessions" will not make us happy. All of us know someone who is unhappy and tries to fill his/her life with material goods or earthly successes. Most of the saints, however, practice poverty, austerity, some even drastically cutting themselves off from material things in order to avoid such temptations. What makes me happy?

Occasionally, I have the morbid thought that it would be nice if my house and all of my possessions were destroyed and insurance would cover their value. Then, if I had the chance to completely start over, would I have the strength to live as simply as my inner heart desires? I enjoy moving to a new home, because it is an opportunity to get rid of stuff. What things do I have that are unnecessary? What things do I have that are a result of giving into the temptation of trying to keep up with the Joneses? Can I part with them?

God reminds us that we know not the hour when our soul will stand before Him. Most of us do put a focus on those treasures that God values - our families, our faith, our virtues. But, all of us have room to grow. How can I be "[richer] toward God?" Can I reduce my material possessions to benefit others and grow closer to the Lord? Do I have a right attitude toward the material possessions I have and want, regardless of their quantity? It is not necessarily wrong to have; attitude counts.

We all know this life is passing. How often do I think of that fact on a daily basis? When is the last time I purged my closets? the kids' toys? my clothes? my shoes? etc? Is it time for me to let go of any items which I keep with unhealthy adoration? What objects would I be hesitant to give up? Are those with good reason?

I was brainwashed as a child by our culture to want more...more...more. I struggle with this on a daily basis, as we struggle to pay our bills. How can I break free of this constant tendency for covetousness? How can I break the cycle for my children and teach them to be grateful for what they have?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Sunday, July 29 ~ Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 11: 1-13

He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." And he said to them, "When you pray, say: "Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation." And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Personal Reflection

These words speak volumes to me. Who better to teach us to pray than the Son Himself? When I say the Our Father, do I truly reflect on the words? Do I embrace their meaning? Do I truly want God's kingdom here on earth and believe it will come to pass? Do I trust He will provide for my needs today, even if I don't see from where tomorrow's bread will come? Do I examine myself daily and repent of my sins? The closer I am to God, the better I will know our sins. How close am I?

And, personally, I struggle with the story of the woman seeking bread. How about you? I find myself thinking, How can I, a miserable sinner, influence God? Well, my pastor explained it well to me not too long ago. I believe this is from St. Thomas Aquinas. There are blessings God will grant us whether we ask Him for them or not. There are blessings we will never receive whether we ask for them or not. Then, there are those blessings that God will bestow upon us ONLY if we ask Him for them, thus demonstrating our faith that they will come to pass. How do I see each of these qualifiers in my life?

Finally, I am always touched by this story about the fish and the snake. It is a reminder to me that our God is not a vengeful God. He is merciful and loves us. A dear friend just reminded me that the Church is a hospital for sinners not a haven for the holy. Again, the closer we get to God, the clearer we can see our sins, and the more culpable we are for them. Do I really believe God is my loving Father? Do I ask Him as a child would ask his/her Daddy?

How do I pray? The act of praying alone will bring us closer to God, whether the prayer is answered our way or not. Isn't that amazing? It means that no matter what gibberish we spout in prayer (excepting blasphemy, perhaps), it will have positive results for our soul. Is my prayer life where it should be? How can I dedicate myself anew to prayer and pour my heart into the time I set aside for it on a daily basis?