Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sunday, September 2 ~ Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 14: 1, 7-14

One sabbath when he went to dine at the house of a ruler who belonged to the Pharisees, they were watching him. ... Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he marked how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by any one to a marriage feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest a more eminent man than you be invited by him; and he who invited you both will come and say to you, `Give place to this man,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, `Friend, go up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." He said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

Personal Reflection

My five-year-old daughter regularly tries to attract the attention of grocery store clerks and random strangers. She puts on her best display of silliness and tries to take center stage. When I try to explain that God does not like show-offs, she gives me a confused look. I can hear in her mind, 'But, Jesus wants us to be joyful and bring joy to others.' The lesson her young mind cannot quite grasp is that of this week's Sunday Gospel. We are supposed to demonstrate the source of our joy is Jesus Christ.

Humility does not come naturally to me. We live in a culture saturated with "look at me" phenomenons, including my daughter. It is more natural to want to draw attention to oneself to feel smarter, prettier, sexier, kinder, etc... But, the Lord demands that we take the last seat at the table. How can we do this in our self-centered world?

Do I unnecessarily draw attention to my abilities and accomplishments? Do I brag about myself or my children? When I do draw attention to myself, do I quickly redirect the glory to God? How can I do this better? The Lord wants us to share our joy, yes, but He wants us to do it with humility, remembering He is the source of all.

On the other hand, do I never remark about my family's blessings to avoid drawing attention to myself? Am I "humble" so that people will leave me alone? This is a false humility needing reform. Do I take advantage of opportunities to show how God has worked in my life? These moments can be evangelistic if we let them. How can I declare God's glory without bragging or belittling others?

Do I serve others? As mothers, this answer is inevitably yes, but do I do it with a spirit of humility? Do I change the diapers as part of my day or because it is lowering myself for the sake of my child(ren)? Do I scrub the floors because it is my job or because the Lord, too, washed the feet of his apostles? How can I grow in true humility through my daily duties?

Sunday, August 26, 2007 ~ Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 13: 22-30

He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. And some one said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them, "Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, `Lord, open to us.' He will answer you, `I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, `We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, `I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!' There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last."

Personal Reflection

We don't talk about Hell much anymore, but I believe it is a real place. My pastor on Sunday commented on how we usually say, when people die, that they are in a better place. We don't know that. Many of the saints assure us that the vast majority of us are going to Purgatory, because of God's endless mercy; but, in reality, it's not a nice place.

When my grandmother passed away in the spring, we told my daughter she was "on her way to see Jesus, and we don't know when she'll get there." My grandmother was a devout, holy woman in my opinion, but I don't know the depths of her soul. So, I felt confident saying she was "on her way to Heaven" although that allows for a stop in Purgatory of any length to cleanse her impurities before meeting the Lord face to face.

Do I live my life like it is very possible I could be going to Hell? This Gospel speaks of the narrow door of Heaven. Do I have a realistic view of the afterlife, or do I see it all through rose-colored glasses? How often do I reflect on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory? Do I think I have a basic understanding of each one? Do I pray for the grace of a happy death and a journey towards Heaven?

I was once taught that the most terrible punishment of Hell is to be separated from God, that the weeping and gnashing of teeth will just be our natural reaction to knowing we have cut ourselves completely from Him. While Scripture says there will be other consequences, as well, I think there is some truth to what I was taught. How do I feel about being separated from God? When we sin, we separate ourselves from Him. Do I weep and gnash my teeth (and head to Confession) or do I shrug off my sin without a second thought?

And, how do I describe the dead? It would be nice to imagine them all in Heaven, but in case they're not there yet, they need our prayers. Do I pray for the deceased in my family and the Holy Souls in Purgatory? Does my family pray for the dearly departed? How can I add this to our day if it is not already a part of it (many families add this prayer to their dinner grace or use it after their meals)?