Sunday, February 17, 2013

1st Sunday in Lent - No Pain, No Gain!

As we enter into the season of Lent, we are reminded of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert: 40 days of self-emptying, 40 days of self-examination, 40 days of reflection - on not only of our past life, but of our life to come.

In our frailty, our human-ness – we all fall down.  We all sin in “what we have done and what we have failed to do.”  But in our faith, - in our trust in the power and mercy of God – we return to the Lord and seek reconciliation with Him and with all our brothers and sisters.  For we believe in the Lord.  We trust in Jesus.  We seek salvation in God’s love through his Son, Jesus Christ, to whom he gave all power and honor and glory.

Jesus is our Lord, our Good Shepherd who “leads us into green pastures” and “beside still waters.”  It is through Him that we find salvation.  It is in Him that we see the perfection of God’s love.  It is with Him that we journey into the Kingdom of God and Life Eternal.  He is our Alpha and our Omega, our beginning and our end.  And it is in this that we declare that Jesus Christ is Lord!

We remember that at the Jordan, God spoke, saying, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.”  God’s claim of Jesus as His Son was a challenge to the spirits of evil.  Satan needed to tear down this Divine Declaration; to take away the credibility of Jesus and thereby show the fallibility of God: To prove that Jesus was powerless, dis-honorable and disgraced – un-worthy of the title, Son of God.

As we see in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus met each of these challenges and overcame the temptations of the devil.  He proved the he was the Power, the Honor and the Glory of God – worthy Son of the Father.

God’s promise to us of Life Eternal in His heavenly Kingdom is not without pain or suffering as we see in Jesus’ suffering.  As we each declare that Jesus is Our Lord and Savior, we also challenge the spirits of evil. 

Satan tests each of us - for the strength of our conviction - as believers in Jesus Christ.  It is only through the Love of God and our Trust in Jesus - that we meet these challenges – these temptations – that seek to turn us away from God’s ever present Love and Mercy.

·         When we meet hardship, pain and suffering in this life – do we seek to offer our suffering up to God: to find comfort in His Love?  Or do we turn our back on God; accusing Him of failing us, doubting His Love for us by allowing us to suffer and feel pain?

·         Are we tempted by the fleeting things of this world that seek to possess us and make us slaves or do we cast aside the distractions of this world to seek Peace in the Kingdom of Everlasting Life? 

·         Are we impatient for our reward by seeking power and glory in this world?  Or is God’s grace sufficient for us?  Is it His love we seek - to sustain us as we await the heavenly Kingdom or is it power and glory in this world that fills our desires? 

·         Do we yearn to “Lord it over others” or do we love others with the same love of God, - as we are loved; seeking to lift one another up as His precious children?

·         Is it God’s love that fills us and satisfies all our needs or is it the need for immediate gratification that brings us true happiness?

Unlike Jesus, who was given all honor, power and glory, – we are flawed and fragile beings - needing the Love of God to lift us up and hold us in His embrace: 
·         In the Father’s Love - we find Forgiveness and Mercy for our failings and sins
·         In His Son, Jesus, - we seek strength and courage to resist temptations
·         In His Spirit, - we are filled and sustained by His grace
So we might be saved: to Live with Him in Peace for ever and ever. ~ Amen

Deacon Don Ron

Saturday, February 9, 2013

"Here I am, Lord!"

I am always intrigued by the last line in today’s Gospel, “. . . they left everything and followed him.”  I am awed by the power of the Word of Jesus to inspire.  I find in it - hope and encouragement - that I too may, through the power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, find the courage to stand up each day and say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me!”

Do we have many examples in our lives that show this kind of courage and strength of belief - to follow the Lord, leaving everything behind?  I was fortunate at one time to meet a young priest who was such a person.

“Fr. James” is a member of a religious order that seeks vocations in others to the priesthood and religious life.  He is a living story of the power of God and an inspiration to those of us who may be ‘Doubting Thomas’ or from Missouri.

Fr. James grew up in Philadelphia, PA, the youngest son of a Baptist minister in a large close-knit religious family.  He, along with his brothers and sisters, and all his aunts, uncles and cousins, attended church each Sunday and were all very involved in the life of their faith community.  He studied the Bible and could quote scripture with the best of them.  He sang the praises of the Lord in their church choir and helped served the poor and needy in their neighborhood.  He was a solid member of the church and his father had hopes the James would follow him into ministry.

Because the Catholic school in their neighborhood was far superior to the public school, James attended both the Catholic elementary and high school taught by the religious Brothers.  In their teachings and lives dedicated to the Lord, James found comfort and inspiration.  He admired the Brothers, their simple lives and strong faith in Jesus. 

Upon graduation from high school James’ father expected him to attend a Baptist college to study for the ministry.  But James had other plans, which he kept from his family until graduation day.  At his graduation party James announced that he was entering the religious order of the Brothers who taught in his high school and hoped to become a Catholic priest.

It can be assumed that this news was greeted: first with stony silence and then chaos.  James was finally ordered out of his family home and told to never return.

Throughout his years in seminary all his letters home went unanswered and no one in his family made any attempt to contact him.  When it came time for James to be ordained to the priesthood he sent invitations to his father and mother and other family members.  Not one of them came or called or sent him a card and to this day, many years later, he has still not heard from his family.

While this appears to be a sad story without the expected happy ending of reconciliation and reunification – it is a happy story of the power of God through the Word made Flesh and the Spirit.  It is a story that inspires us to do as Jesus asks, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catchers of men.”

Fr. James is a tireless worker in the vineyard of the Lord: seeking others who will, like Isaiah, when the Lord asks, “Who shall I send? Who will go for us?”  Will stand up and say, “Here I am Lord! Send me!”

Deacon Don Ron